BBC Work Experience - How To Get In

3 July 2008 - 8:28am

Every year, the BBC receives literally hundreds of thousands of applications for work experience, making it one of the most competitive work experience programmes in the world. Applicants range widely in age, background and ability, although most applicants are 25 or younger.

Almost every single placement will receive between hundreds and thousands of applications per month. BBC human resources have a team dedicated to the processing of work experience applications. For each place, a shortlist of approximately twenty names from the original hundreds is put forward to the department to which they have applied, along with the applications themselves. The department will then select the candidates they are most interested in taking on.

Because of the fierce competition, casual ‘have a go at TV’ applications rarely yield results.

The first step to applying is to identify what placements you are most suited to applying for. For example, if you have a passion for music but a degree in science, you should consider applying for science related posts, as your odds will be much better. It would be much easier to cross the boundary into music after you have been given your first job elsewhere in the industry. Search the BBC work experience web site and find a shortlist of the programmes and placements you are most suited to. Try to have at least half a dozen. Also, try not to limit yourself to the local office or central London- there are facilities nationwide and you can certainly find cheap accommodation for the duration of the placement.

Secondly, fill out the application forms. Good writing skills are a key competency for any BBC post. Average form-filling language is not sufficient- your applications must be very well written. Perfect spelling and grammar are a must. The human resources team will discard any averagely written applications before they reach the short-listing stage. Make sure you that you answer the questions objectively and sensibly. Make sure each application you write is specific for that placement- writing a general application and pasting it across many placements won’t be effective.

Make sure you specify:
• What you hope to get of the placement (be realistic and well informed with your expectation- you won’t be a presenter overnight).
• Why you are well suited to the placement.
• What your career aspirations might be. Once again, be modest and realistic – few people are ever made millionaires by TV.
• Make sure you specify any relevant work experience to date.

Once your applications are perfect, begin to submit them through the online system. Most placements are available month after month, although each month’s placement appears as a separate placement on the system. You should apply to all months going forward. It’s fine to use identical applications for each month. Doing this is a laborious process but extremely worthwhile. In total, you might apply for 6 different placements over 6 months, i.e. 36 applications. There is no limit to the number of applications you can submit.

A note about term times: As a large number of the applicants are students, there is a big drop in the number of applications for placements occurring during term times. Therefore, any applications for placements that occur during term times have a much higher chance of success.

The next stage is of course to wait and hope for the best.

The twenty-or-so shortlist will be provided by HR to the department to which you applied, and then they will begin telephoning people on the list. Calls from the BBC switchboard show up as ‘Withheld’. You will have to be able to take the call- if you miss it they will pick up the phone and dial the next name on the list.

Benefits of BBC Work Experience
The BBC has an eponymous brand that is recognised worldwide. It’s a good thing to have on any media CV. Furthermore, jobs at the BBC, though hard to come by, can offer unparalleled training opportunities. There is also scope to move between departments that would not be possible in a smaller company.

The principal disadvantage of BBC work experience is that it does not give you an idea of what working in private, profit making production company is like. By comparison, the BBC is relaxed and somewhat sedate, the hours predictable, and the job secure. Many people who start their careers at the BBC will move on- very few actually stay.

One key disadvantage of all BBC work experience placements is that they do not pay you, nor will they cover your expenses. If you are commuting to central London daily this can prove to be a significant drawback. The BBC has been criticised for providing a work experience programme that is only available to more affluent individuals. On the opposite side of the argument, work experience placements are not meant to fill a resource requirement for the BBC.

In Summary

*Apply for placements which you are most likely to get: e.g. working on science programmes if you have a science degree.
*Make sure your applications are as good as they can be. Objectivity, realistic expectations and flawless spelling and grammar are a must.
*Apply for placements inside term dates if you can- these are much easier to get.
*Make sure you are prepared to take the call when it comes. You won’t get a second chance, and they won’t leave a message.

Good luck, hope this helps!


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