There are key personality traits that are often found in people working in the media – especially those in outward facing roles in production, journalism, client contact and business-winning.
You don’t need to have all of them right now, many can be successfully developed as you become more experienced, but the list below is a guide to the parts of your personality you need to recognise and nurture. This top 10 traits list applies both when you are looking for a job as well as when you are in employment.
You need to be passionate about the media to work in the media. This is particularly important at entry level, as employers will see straight through you if you’re not really driven to build a career in the profession.
If it’s just the glamour of the job that appeals and you don’t seriously watch TV or listen to the radio, then think again. If you’re torn between becoming, say, a TV producer or a vet…Then go and become a vet.
Many people are academically brilliant but are incapable of showing outward enthusiasm for their chosen subjects. Real enthusiasm is infectious and can break down many barriers and open doors when it’s backed up with talent and skills.
Unless you are very lucky, you will need to be extremely determined to make it in the media industry. This doesn’t just apply to the start of your career but throughout it. It’s very easy to get stuck or silo-ed in jobs you many not want to stay in and it can be very difficult to move around. You need for instance incredible determination if you’ve built a career in factual television but want to move into drama or other non-factual areas, even though many of the skills are transferable. TV employers are often risk averse due to the considerable editorial and time pressures they are put under once a production starts up.
Generally it is assertive people who stand the best chance of getting into the media. Assertiveness doesn’t mean being overly pushy, but it does mean having the self-belief and confidence to ring people up in the search for work. If you prefer to sit back in a crisis then maybe this isn’t the industry for you. At the most basic level – an assertive runner may be someone who chooses the perfect time to ask the presenter if they want a cup of tea – before they have to pick up the phone and hunt you down.
Getting into the industry requires huge amounts for resilience. You need to be prepared for many, many “no’s” before getting your first “yes”. Rejection isn’t fun for anyone but it can be particularly difficult if you’ve spent many years in education or in another area of work being told how talented you are. If you’ve got what it takes and you’re doing the right things – don’t give up. Remember you’re just in a very competitive market with comparatively few jobs. A rejection isn’t personal…so don’t take it personally.
If you’ve got the resilience needed to get into the media in the first place you’ve probably got the resilience necessary to survive in the business. While most people in the industry are both extremely talented and nice with it – be aware when under the pressure of production a Jekyll and Hyde transformation can occur. Be prepared for shouting, screaming, general rudeness and bizarre behaviour – they all seem to be excused in the name of creativity!
6. People Person
Being a good people person is an essential quality in anyone working in the media, particularly in production. It is slightly less important in some post- production and graphic design roles – but at the very least you will still have to deal with clients. People who go down the production path are constantly dealing with different people from all walks of life and need to adapt to every situation into which they are thrown. You will be expected to build strong and positive relationships with everyone you meet; but no one likes a sycophant. The industry is about teamwork and getting the best from those around you.
Be prepared to pick up the phone and actually talk to strangers. In a world now dominated by electronic interfacing – social media, emails and texts – it’s easy to forget that the best form of human communication still takes place over the phone or better still face-to-face. The mobile phone was first designed for spoken not written conversation.
Be curious. Naturally curious people usually ask good questions and show genuine interest in the world around them. The media is all about reflecting or showing the world we live in an entertaining and informative way. This is especially true in journalism and factual production.
8. Problem Solving
The best people in the media are likely to be those that can think on their feet. Pressures on time and budget mean if there’s a problem or a challenge then you quickly need to find ways of solving it. In areas like the news in particular – with tight deadlines – quick thinking is absolutely essential. Think ahead and prepare in advance for potential problems stopping them before they even happen.
Creativity is the most used word in the media but probably the most difficult to define. Some people love to do tasks where there is a solution that’s either right or wrong – where science or logic can be applied. That is not how the media works. Whatever the discipline, there is no real right or wrong. There is a product put together by a team of people with a range of mutually compatible creative talents.
You need to work out whether you have a specific creative talent you want to use – this particularly applies to craft skills like picture-editing, camera work, graphic design and so forth – or whether you want broader creative control as a producer or director.
There are also of many interesting and satisfying jobs in the media working in roles that are not directly related to the production process. Consider these too.
This may seem at odds with some of the other personality traits listed above – but it isn’t. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, don’t think that you now know everything. Just because you were top of your year at university doesn’t give you a pass to be cocky or over-confident. Experienced professionals won’t appreciate your moaning about being asked to do undemanding jobs that are beneath you or telling them how to make a programme, design graphic content or cut a sequence.