How to write a good application form for an apprentice/ trainee job

So the advert for that traineeship/apprenticeship job is memorised in your head. You know when the deadline is. You’ve gone online, you’ve read through all the information, you’ve even looked over your CV a gazillion times and had an open debate with yourself about whether you are good enough. So what’s stopping you? That dreaded application form that’s what. It’s like a high school exam, plus a dissertation, plus an encyclopaedic recital of all you know.. And you’ve got to get it right otherwise this one and only opportunity will never be yours.

Well sit yourself down, find a comfy seat, plump up those cushions, take a deep breath, grab a cup of tea and focus on the task at hand. Before you embark on the form though, here are a few hints and tips as to what makes a good application form, and what makes somebody stand out from amongst the crowd.

Are your details correct?

Now this is a basic one, but you’d be surprised. In the rush to get all their experience, knowledge, wit and wisdom down on the form, people can mistype their email address or phone number. Triple check this. If we want to bring you in for an assessment day or interview and your email address and phone number don’t work, well we are not necessarily going to send a letter, turn up at your front door, or stalk you to your local bar on the off chance you’ll come in for a gin and tonic. So make sure they are correct. If you are in the interview process or going through to the next round or still in application stage and your details change then let us know. People lose phones, numbers change or that email address had to be changed as somehow didn’t ring true anymore. Don’t put yourself out of the running by something so simple as us not being able to get hold of you.

Think about what your email address says about you as well. At school or college it can be an in joke or a personal statement about your love for One Direction but when applying for jobs you need to be professional. No references to pop bands, boyfriends/girlfriends, violent references or even just simply You may be “super hot” and with an amazing “sexual prowess” but let that not be reflected in your email address when applying for a job.

Spelling and grammar

Nothing frustrates us more or makes us giggle than when you read a paragraph confidently written about an individuals attention to detail splattered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Spell check, get someone to read it and triple check. Also if you are talking about individuals be they famous or not or the person who is recruiting check their names are spelt correctly. It might seem inconsequential to spell Ann without an E but not

If you are dyslexic or need extra time or support, please declare it and make it known. Additional support by law needs to be provided. You really need to do this at the start of the process, it won’t be held against you.

Be yourself

So many people try and be something that they aren’t whilst doing an application form. It’s as if they take on this whole new identity, speak a whole new fancy business language and somehow try and posh it up a bit. Now I do get why people do this and it’s that need to impress, but how do you know what will impress the person reading? Isn’t it easier to just be yourself and talk passionately about what you want to do and what you’ve done? It’s as if some people have swallowed a dictionary, that might me being dumb but when faced with a fancy schmanzy big word I always think first of all I don’t understand it and secondly when I do understand it couldn’t they have just used “could” instead. Use plain English and speak eloquently but not waffling, re read your sentences and hone them down so you can honestly say “yes that makes perfect sense”.

Be proud of your achievements and don’t be apologetic about them, no matter what they are. I have read a lot of applications that start of with “I don’t have the right experience but..” Well hell to the no with that. All that does is ring around the readers head that you can’t do something.. No matter what potential you have. Don’t draw attention to things that you feel that you don’t have, instead highlight your qualities, achievements and how they would benefit the role. Always tie everything back in a positive way to what you are applying for. Don’t dumb it down, don’t apologise and don’t be ashamed. Your journey is your journey be proud of it.
On the flip side of things don’t big yourself up too much that it gets far fetched. We can read between the lines and realise you were an admin assistant not MD at a corporate bank aged 18. Unless you have Doogie Howser MD (google it) success at such a young age.

When you read applications particularly for TV jobs, we need to see your personality jump from the page, we need to read your creativity, your passion and a sense of who you are as a person. Don’t be afraid to do that. Now don’t go overboard and tell us how you lost your virginity or use slang but don’t be afraid to be yourself. There is only one you so own it!

Have strong ideas

If the application is asking you for programme ideas, ideas about the company or even pitches, then this is your chance to shine. Be bold and have strong ideas. Don’t rehash what has been done before and don’t re tell the same format over and over again. When asking for programme ideas at the BBC I was often confronted with ideas that were currently or TV or slight twists on current formats (which could be fine but needs more analysis). Also when reading 300 forms and everyone wants Stephen Fry to present their idea, you long for a different name to be mentioned, anybody, somebody new as long as it’s not the same old same old.

If you are talking through an idea make sure it’s clear to everyone. Share it with friends and families and again hone it down until it’s really clear. It might sound brilliant in your head but on paper can read like a geology paper full of academia and not a lot of “why would someone watch that?”

Think about what’s missing from our screens or for non telly roles what that company needs. Try and be bold and different but always tie to back to the audience or the consumer. Why would they watch that programme or consume that product. What’s in it for them. I know at times in our life we can feel like our grasp of the world can be quite sheltered but when thinking about these ideas think beyond your close circle think beyond people you know, your area… You are part of the audience but you are not the audience.

Research your ideas, throw in stats, think why it would be important. Don’t be lazy or self indulgent with this. Pick up the papers, do your research about why something would be of interest. And also equally important why it would be interesting right now..

If you have access, know how something is made, or first hand experience of why this idea is important then throw that all into the mix.

Also think honestly about why you want to work for that company and that scheme. Talk passionately about that. We can tell when people are just doing it for the sake of it or it seemed a good idea at the time. That may be the truth but really think why do I want to be an apprentice? What is it going to do for me. Be realistic about the course and college work as well, mention that you are still eager to learn in the form and that you feel this is the perfect combination of working and studying. Well something like that anyway.

Be creative

Be really creative, share your ideas, be different. Talk about how things would look, how they could be made and why they need to be made.

When sending off applications though being creative can go too far, cupcakes, sending in a front door (that happened at channel 4) or a glamour shot selfie might get you noticed but it might get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. Do what the application tells you to do, no need to chain yourself to the front of the BBC dressed as Wonder Woman, well not at least until you know if you’ve got in.

I often hear from people who are apologetic for that photography course they did, the blog they write, the fact that they can shoot or edit, or whatever it might be. If it’s relevant and can help you get a job then throw it in there. “Oh yeah I speak Spanish” bloody brilliant I say!

Think of different platforms

Be conscious of the way that people consume media in 2014, the different platforms, the different trends. Let your ideas reflect this. Often in TV you might well be interviewed by people who may consume media in a more traditional way but it’s important that all avenues are looked at. Think about the audience, what kind of things you’d want to work on and how that content could reach the audience. Make sure it’s relevant too.

When you are thinking about this think about the audience, would that audience for your idea really watch TV in that way?

Celebrate your differences

Talk openly about your background, how you’ve got to where you are. Never be ashamed of it. A lot of applications will ask about diversity and unserved audiences. It’s not acceptable to say as some people have done and I quote “I’m white, middle class and haven’t really experienced diversity” to which I would respond “oh no you didn’t just say this!” Read the papers, look around you, speak to people for gods sake, get to realise there is life beyond your nose and the comfort of your circles. You’ll be a much better person for it. Look objectively at how people are represented in the media, how we can and should change that. The way I look at it is we can see a million different representations of a white male 40 year old middle class man on TV from holier than thou to murderer. But when a race, sexuality, gender, disability is represented in only one way we are often perpetuating stereotypes. Until there is diverse representation of all then there is much work to be done. Think of it that way.

Take your time

Like your mum would say “don’t leave it till the night before!” Take your time, write it out in word, or hand write it and then rewrite it until it’s perfect. Share it with friends and family and get feedback. No need to rush it out.

Also be mindful of the word count if it says 200 words, write 200 not 10 as it looks like you can’t be arsed. In the same way don’t write 1000 as it looks like you can’t follow rules.

Good luck with it all, you’ll be great. Just apply, you know you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t!


Is it really all about you?

That person that pushed in front of you as you were boarding the train, well they just had no manners! You raise your eyebrows, maybe even tut and then for the rest of the journey sit there with bitchy resting face. You stew things over and contemplate what a rubbish day you are going to have, it’s as if the whole world is against you.

Your boss is in a bad mood or two of your colleagues are laughing and joking and you automatically think, “is this about me?” Your brain reacts in a way that makes you absorb what’s going on as a reflection of you. My boss is in a bad mood, I must have done something wrong, they are off to lunch they don’t like me, I texted two hours ago, they haven’t got back to me, I’m going to be dumped. We all do it. We create this negative cycle of drama and sometimes because we believe it we project it and sometimes it comes true.

We make things out to be one way without actually knowing the facts. Your boss may simply be in a bad mood about a range of things. If you haven’t done something or haven’t done something properly then the likelihood is that they would tell you so. They have just gone to lunch because they want to, it’s not about you and if it is let them! You’re better than that. Do what you have to do! Accept the situation for what it is, know what is it true and what isn’t. Sometimes and this sounds silly imagine you’ve got Judge Judy in front of you, what would she say.. She’d want evidence.

Now a lot of this stems from a feeling of quite simply feeling not good enough. We can manifest that in a multitude of ways. The over confident, out for themselves person in the office is probably the one who feels it’s more than others. Don’t be fooled by a loud voice and smoke and mirrors of bravado. It’s often a mechanism to say hey look at me I’m doing a great job! We look for excuses and make scenarios as to people who don’t like us and reasons for us not getting that promotion. It’s easy to devoid yourself of responsibility because then it’s always going to be someone else’s fault. Whilst not detracting from bad behaviour in the office and bullying we all have choices in our career and a responsibility to ourselves.

We also revert to our high school roles at times, class clown, bullied, bully, fat girl, prom queen, jock, and a whole lot more. These roles to a certain extent are repeated in the corporate world. Even when we’ve left that world a long time ago situations can automatically take us back to that Janet Jackson loving gay kid who was last to be picked for sports (yes that’s me). We have to remember we are not 14 and that ultimately people’s behaviour is about them not you. Take responsibility if you’ve messed up, mistakes happen, it won’t be so bad as you think! Also it can be hard for the prom queen who after years of adoration gets no attention. At least us freaks and geeks and bullied kids have the resilience to deal with that stuff! You see you can always look at things from a different angle.

So take a deep breath, commuting can be rubbish, people at work can be moody and difficult (I’m sure you can be too) but smile, take it in your stride. Everyone is fighting their own battles so be kind. I find sometimes just making someone a cup of tea or asking them how they are can really diffuse a situation. Don’t make someone else’s drama into your drama you might think you are being helpful and supportive but sometimes you might be fuelling fire. Let them make their own decisions. Offer an ear and some wise words but let them take their own path.

If you are finding yourself consumed by negative patterns talk to a trusted friend, seek help. Break your day into ways that will make it easier for you. Sometimes it can help to write things down. Often when we are feeling at our most anxious writing can help. It may not be immediately clear but it’s good to look back at journals. To see how far you’ve come but also to recognise triggers for your behaviour.

Ask yourself, “is it really about me?



How to stand out as a production assistant.

You’ve maybe been a runner, you are super organised, you love logistics, and you’ve got yourself a bunch of new stationary.. Classy stuff no “my little pony pencil case” however ironic… And you’ve got a job as a production assistant. Your calm manner, and abundance of examples got you through the interview, along with a broad smile and neatly ironed shirt, but now it’s time to prove yourself. On the surface the production team seemed lovely but you second guess yourself and wonder am I prepared for being at the cut and thrust of production.. Do I really have what it talks to be the kind of production assistant that everyone wants to work with, that knows where everyone is, who everyone is and that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing..? You’ll have heaps of support but here are a few tips to make yourself stand out as a production assistant.

Know your excel and love your spreadsheets

Love a spreadsheet, love excel, be the type of person who makes lists and documents everything. That might sound uptight, but everything is accountable on a production so get to grips with excel. Now don’t be ruled by a spreadsheet as at times there will be a need for flexibility but there is no use having everything in your head, for no one to find. Share the spreadsheets with your production co-ordinator and manager, show initiative for making things more accountable, easier to find and ultimately help to make their job easier. There is a fine line here, don’t become so obsessed with spreadsheets that you are documenting the teams toilet breaks or you’ve created an excel formula to determine who’s the most attractive on the production, keep it real and keep it useful.

Always think of a way to save money – love the budget

You’ll get pressure from producers and assistant producers about the budget. Your production manager might have just nipped to the shop for a cheese and ham roll when the AP arrives at your desk saying that they need money now for a shoot, and it has to happen now. Ultimately this will be your production manager’s decision but you might get pressurised to give answers. If possible delay until your production manager is back, but if that’s not an option then think of ways to save money. Think about what’s practical and what’s doable and always come up with creative solutions.

Even for travel and hotels you may get a producer who claims to only travel first class or will only stay in a certain type of place. Explain where the crew are staying, and what you have the budget, sometimes this can be quite self explanatory if there aren’t any other hotels around, but do quote policy in a helpful way not to agitate them. If in doubt then refer up for those kind of decisions. You should always be keeping your production manager in the loop about these kinds of conversations. Do this directly after the conversation as you don’t want to be accused of agreeing something that you didn’t.

Have the kind of mind that’s constantly thinking how can we save money on this programme, still have wonderful output but where can we find savings. Start to have those great negotiation skills to get things cheaper, ask if there would be discounts, have a savvy attitude for a bargain.

Get to know the team and how they think

Immerse yourself in the team, get to know how your production manager works and what they expect of you. Keep them informed of where you are with work. You don’t need to be there every five minutes seeking approval, like a child who’s just done their maths homework but do keep them updated.

Get to know the editorial team, their style, how they work, their schedule and what makes them tick. Don’t be a stalker or be overly familiar as that could freak them out, but show an interest. This can really help make your job easier.

Love booking travel

Learn to love booking travel, where the best place for that hire car is, what train they’ll need to get to start filming at 9am. Which hotel is going to be most convenient for filming. Also learn from mistakes know the history, oh if they get that train then there will be three changes and they’ll have all the camera equipment with them and that’s going to annoy them. Or that hotel last time someone complained about noise as its above a club.. Was that just that person or will it just be safer to book them somewhere else. All these things which at first might seem insignificant can really make you shine.

Don’t be a teacher – offer creative solutions

You have responsibility, you are working with the production manager to ensure the programme comes in on time and to budget. That’s important and great experience for you. It doesn’t make you GOD though and it doesn’t mean you can police the production telling people what they should or shouldn’t be doing, “I said only one sandwich Theresa!” By adopting that attitude so early on in your career its a sure way to piss off the editorial team and for you to be seen as inflexible. Offer creative solutions, listen to the concerns of the editorial team and be realistic, actually they might need another days filming or a later train ticket. Make decisions based on the evidence and if in doubt refer up.

Refer up and respect your production manager

Respect your production manager, they are the heart of any production. Often it can be seen as a stressful and thankless task. They hold all the reins and are often there to support the editorial team not only professionally but sometimes emotionally too. Know what they have to do and support it. Make their life easier. Keep them in the loop and work with them, not against them. Sometimes production assistants with delusions of grandeur have felt that they can do a better job, and they have made decisions or promises without knowing the bigger picture or the rationale behind the original decision. Yes, you want to impress the producer and you want them to see you as being a star, but don’t do that to the detriment of your production manager.. Respect them and they will respect you. Oh and when you see them stressed out make them a cup of tea and do get them a vanilla slice.

Remain calm..

The key to being a good production assistant is to remain calm, love a crisis.. Don’t get whipped up in the drama, rather see through it and see obvious practical solutions. The team are on location and the contributor is no where to be found or they’ve got two days filming on the Yorkshire moors in July and it hasn’t stopped raining all week.. Think about practical ways to help and calm them down. Be supportive and assist them but ultimately remain calm and aim for solutions. At times you might want to curse them all out and bemoan their stupidity, do that later in the pub with your non telly friends, that might be a natural response but tutting and I told you so won’t win you any favours.

Know that you are at the heart of production.

People are often blinded by the perceived glamour of being a researcher, or a producer, it’s the exciting bit or so they think. Remember though as a production assistant you are integral to a production. You are at the heart of it and you see the production from start to finish. Your role is key to the programme. You might not think that some days but know that it is. Going through the ranks of production management will give you amazing skills, sort out your time management and efficiency and ultimately put you in a pool where there are longer contracts and more jobs..


Just not cool enough to work in TV?

You are sat at home with a cup of tea, casually dunking your biscuit carefully enough not to lose half of it in your cup. As you lounge in your zebra print onesie watching some cheesy movie you think to yourself I’d love a job in TV but something metaphorically slaps you in the face and says “you’re just not cool enough!”

You think I’m not thin enough, not good looking enough, not smart or witty enough.. I just can’t do the banter! You develop a picture in your head of what it’s like to work in TV without actually knowing the truth. I’ve met lots of people over the years that are keen to break into TV and I hear constantly a barrage of reasons why they won’t think they’d get in. Very rarely do people say I don’t have the work ethic, or I don’t think I’d have the ideas or I can’t shoot and edit, often they know that they can do all of that and all of that well. There is another barrier that is stopping them moving forward it’s this invisible barrier of cool. What even does cool mean? We are surrounded by images and ideas of cool from a young age and there is always that person in school who we emulated or secretly wanted to know how they were so cool. Those were the people that life seemed so easy and effortless but scratch beneath the surface things are never really quite what we believe them when it comes to other people. Our reality of their lives are often very different from their own day to day reality.

We’ve often been in situations where we know how to respond to a question and can do perfectly eloquently and intelligently but we allow someone else to answer. We have a fear of looking stupid, of not being right, of being a bit of an outsider. Why draw too much attention on yourself? I’ve been there numerous times and then kicked myself later as some over confident buffoon has spouted nonsense for twenty minutes, but in such a manner of authority that you actually believe it to be true. We can all be easily intimidated by other people and our lack of confidence in situations, environments new to us. We play down our strengths to somewhat fit in, or talk less about what we are passionate about if it doesn’t fit in with what other people are interested in. Sometimes that’s just good manners but other times we are deliberately sabotaging our chance to shine.

Try and switch your mind to your qualities and skills think about what you’ve done, what you want to do and what makes you different in a really positive way. We can build up a pattern in our minds about other people being better than us, about employers favouring people different from us, but is that actually true? Statistically you might say that was the case, but they haven’t met you.. So don’t talk yourself out of going for it! At the end of a busy shoot people remember who worked really hard, who got things done, who the contributors and crew thought were invaluable not who has the best handbag or the glossiest hair. Focus on your skills!

Check yourself when you have those thoughts, remember everyone is different, each to their own. Don’t resort to bitchy resting face or judgement, even when that is what you are being faced with. Stick to your own path and who cares, to me coolness is simply somebody comfortable in their own skin. How that individual chooses to manifest their security than that can be in a million different ways.

Even after many years of working I have many moments of feeling not cool, like an outsider, from humming All about the Base whilst everyone is talking about some hipster gig in East London. To cracking jokes at the wrong time, and feeling like I’m wearing the wrong clothes. It happens but I know I’m good at my job, I know who I am and hell yeah I will wear a yellow cardie and dress a bit like Blaine from Glee.. Why not eh?

Find your own path, remember you can bloody do it and most importantly just be you! It’s so so tiresome and time consuming trying to be everyone else. We weren’t meant to blend in, we were meant to be individuals and to shine!