Our latest session took place earlier this week (kindly hosted and supported by Lansons Communications). Our panel discussed something we often hear about as a barrier to young women getting into the media – the thorny issue of networking. It’s something that a lot of young women in particular find daunting, yet there’s no doubt that it is absolutely crucial in meeting the right people, finding opportunities and ultimately helping to advance your career.
We had a fantastic panel of experienced networkers, consisting of:
- Clare Parsons, co-founder and chairman of Lansons Communications
- Louisa Peacock, jobs editor and deputy editor of the Wonder Women section at the Daily Telegraph
- Heather Davies, head of content at Unusual Productions and joint head of digital at Sound Women
How important is networking?
We began by asking if any of our panellists had ever got a job through networking, and how they feel it has affected their careers.
Heather said that she’s probably got every job she has had in radio due to networking – but rather than feeling it’s ‘networking’, she’s just always made sure to follow up with the people she liked. Clare agreed, and added that she’s always been a social person who wanted to join things and be involved. As her career started before the days of Twitter and LinkedIn, she said it’s much easier these days for people to stay in touch and build their networks. She also feels that, compared to earlier in her career, people are much more willing to share and open themselves up to new opportunities – perhaps because of the more difficult business environment.
How to go about building a network
The panel all agreed that being at the centre of things, getting involved wherever you can, and being useful are great ways to make an impression with the people who count. It all helps grow your ‘memorability’, especially with people who might meet a lot of people like you in the course of their work.
Louisa also made the point that ‘networking’ isn’t necessarily all about making contacts outside of your organisation – making friends within your company is just as important and those people could be just as important in the future. It could open you up to opportunities you didn’t even know existed, and you never know where the person sitting next to you could end up.
‘Formal’ networking events
The conversation then turned to more formal networking events, and everyone agreed that these can be scary, regardless of how experienced you are!
Louisa felt that at formal events, it’s fine to be up front about mingling if you’ve been speaking to one person for too long. Clare added that there’s nothing wrong with mingling in a pair, and it can help build confidence. Clare’s top tips for formal situations were to only try to ‘break in to’ a group with odd numbers, as with a group of three, you then turn it into two pairs rather than leaving someone on their own.
Heather’s tricks for formal events include trying to get the guestlist if possible, and looking up people on Twitter beforehand. That way, even if you don’t know anyone else there, you have an idea of who you can go and talk to.
All the panellists agreed that it’s worth putting the time in to thinking how you can open conversations. You can ask whether the other person has been to that event or venue before, and if it’s a particular type of audience (for example, people who work in radio), know if there are any big news stories that everyone will be talking about. If you’re a PR, you always need to know what the big headlines are that day – no excuses! Once in conversation, remember to ask lots of questions about the other person – it will make them easier to remember and after all, everyone likes talking about themselves.
Heather also had a great tip about having a good story to tell – anything interesting or funny that has happened to you recently (her example was meeting Cliff Richard!) will help you to stick in people’s minds.
Louisa also made the point that you don’t need to try and speak to the whole room when at an event. It’s much more valuable to speak to 5 people in depth than 20 where you won’t remember any names.
The panel agreed that following up is half the battle with networking; all have experienced situations where someone hasn’t followed up with them after asking for something at an event. Clare allocates two hours the morning after an event to following up and said her favourite tool is sending a LinkedIn invite with a personal message. The panel felt this is much more effective than just handing out a business card, which is slightly impersonal and also easy to lose.
In general, the panel all agreed that finding the networking environments that suit you is really important. And remember that you can build your network in lots of ways – if you have lots of outside interests, that makes you a more interesting and memorable person whatever environment you’re in.
Thanks again to our panel and to Lansons for hosting. For anyone now inspired to try out their networking skills, Young Women in Media’s next event in January will be a (belated) Christmas social. Stay tuned for more details!
By Katie Glass, Fresh Networks
Our last Young Women in Media event was another great evening, with a stellar line-up of smart, funny women talking about personal PR and how to manage your image online.
With most employers now googling job applicants’ names as standard, nowadays looking after your online image should be a top priority. But what should you be thinking about and how can you stand out?
Emma Robertson, senior digital consultant at Lexis (@emmarobertson01) kicked things off by sharing a few case studies of how creative candidates had managed to use online tools to do things a bit differently. From annotated Youtube CVs, QR codes on the back of paper CVs and even paying for Google adverts to get someone’s attention, there are so many ways of presenting yourself online which are slightly more memorable than a Linkedin profile.
Even if you’re a little bit scared of the internet, it is still worth thinking up original and relevant ways of presenting your CV in a good light. Whilst Emma said that the majority of the CV’s she sees are now Youtube CV’s, Beth Murray, account director at Lansons Communications (@bmbm) said that merely using a slightly different font can be a breath of fresh air for someone looking through hundreds of the things (although it’s probably advisable to stay away from Comic Sans!).
If you aren’t already, it’s worth keeping up-to-date with what’s hot online so that you can take advantage of it. For example, we found out that (relatively new platform) Pinterest could be quite a cool way to share your work and achievements in a more visual way. Take a look at Mashable and TechCrunch for the latest news in digital.
Get on Twitter
Our speakers sang the praises of Twitter as a great way to share your personality and to network with other people in your industry. Sarah Drinkwater, Community Manager at Google Places (@SarahDrinkwater) said that Twitter is a great way to get someone’s attention without being pushy.
Think Twitter is all about telling people what you had for breakfast? Whilst many of us are guilty about over-sharing, there is a lot more to it than just tweeting about whether you went for museli or Weetabix. Twitter is a great platform for getting yourself noticed by powerful people in your industry so it is worth engaging with them every so often – reply to their questions, retweet them occasionally and don’t feel guilty about playing to their egos every once in a while! Who knows, once someone has a sense of who you are, they might just agree to that cup of coffee, or spend slightly longer looking at your CV…
Another theme of the evening was the importance of having your own blog. Especially in media, if you don’t have a blog, employers may wonder whether you are really committed to the communications industry. Not only is it a great way to share original thoughts and commentary, it is also another means for getting you noticed. Make sure you are consistent with how you write your name everywhere on the internet – and read up on a bit of SEO – so that you have a greater chance of getting onto the first page of Google.
Thanks to our lovely speakers and everyone who came for a great evening. Keep an eye out on here and on Twitter for our next event about Networking, coming soon…
New organisation for women in audio, Sound Women, have joined up with the BBC Academy to provide a mentoring scheme for 30 women currently working in audio.
Mentors will receive the correct training before going ahead, and many of the brightest and best women in the business have already volunteered to become mentors. This is an exceptional opportunity to draw on their experience and knowledge.
To apply, visit the Sound Women website: soundwomen.co.uk
by Guest Blogger, Hannah Lawrence, Inspiring Interns.
The social mobility strategy unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg in April has consequently positioned the issue of internships at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Recent weeks have also seen a rift in the coalition Government as David Cameron and Nick Clegg clashed over the internship policy.
The Deputy Prime Minister believes the social mobility scheme will create fair access to jobs and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. A major part of the policy focuses on opening up internships to everyone, not just the “well-connected” giving young people access to all professions including the popular sectors such as; media, publishing, journalism and PR.
With ever increasing numbers of graduates entering a hugely competitive job market it has become crucial for university leavers to have meaningful work experience. Graduate internships provide practical experience, valuable opportunities and skills. It will both increase their understanding of an industry and boost employment chances.
Employers see internships as a great way to bring fresh talent and ideas into their company, with the majority taking on the candidate permanently after the three months because of the time and money they have invested. They see it as an extended interview so they do not have to commit to hiring someone permanently but can see if the intern fits with the company.
Once you have got an internship it is important to make the most of the opportunity. It is a great chance to develop connections in your chosen industry so ask questions, network and build a list of contacts.
I asked Tara Evans from This is Money about her internship experience and how she felt this resulted in her getting a permanent role within media.
She had this to say about her internships;
I completed a number of internships and work experience placements while I studied for my degree in Multi-Media Journalism at Bournemouth University. I worked at a vast array of publications, from local radio and newspapers to the Sunday Independent news desk – they helped me decide what type of medium I wanted to work in and build up contacts in the industry. The placements were a required part of my degree and without a doubt one of the key reasons I was able to secure employment at a national publication within three months of graduating.
She said this about her role at This is Money;
I started as an editorial assistant at the Financial Mail on Sunday working across This is Money and FMWF (Financial Mail Women’s Forum) websites. After six months I moved across to This is Money full time to work as editorial assistant/trainee journalist and in April last year I was promoted to web journalist on the This is Money team. I now cover a variety of personal finance topics including, credit, loans, debt, general insurance, money saving, travel, motoring, energy, digital and other consumer issues.
Hannah Lawrence works for Inspiring Interns who actively match graduates and employers, eager to create opportunities for interns to earn permanent employment. They have placed over 850 interns at companies since they were established in January 09 with most of their vacancies based in London. They have a success rate of 65% of the interns they place being taken on permanently by the company they interned for and 93% of interns securing a full-time job within a month of doing an internship.
Yes, Young Women in Media has turned one and what a year we have had – with some really brilliant sessions, including sessions about radio, PR and journalism, we also had a session on how to get ahead in media, a film screening and had a lovely evening at the Telegraph.
It’s amazing that this time last year, there were 8 of us in the pub: now, there are over 150 of us and we are still growing (nice fact here – Hollie worked out we get on average about three new members a week – fact!)
Thank you to you all for being a part of the group because if you didn’t come we wouldn’t exist, and thank you to all the people who have helped organise the sessions with Hollie, Heather and myself.
So last week to celebrate we had a birthday party with a cake and everything. I know that there are some of you on our list who haven’t yet come to a session and it would be really great to see all of you at some point. Hayley Thorpe had never been to a session before but came along to our birthday and had this to say about it:
At first I was unsure if I would attend, but I am so glad I decided to go. The group has come a long way in just 12 months and I will definitely be looking at making many more of the Young Women In Media events. I met a variety of lovely women and even found someone to talk to about one of my passions, football! If like me, you are a woman working hard to break into the media industry, make sure you check out the next Young Women In Media session. They are a lovely and inspiring bunch of women.
Thank you all again for being a part of Young Women Working In Media and here is to another year of amazing sessions, new friends and cake.
We’ve had a great response already to our Public Relations session on 29th March. There are still a few places remaining, so be quick and email us if you want to come.
In the meantime, here’s a bit more information about our panel:
Lisa Towey, Universal Pictures
Lisa started her career in film at Kudos Productions as a production assistant. She moved into film publicity at Freud Communications, where she worked on high profile campaigns including Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones 2, and corporate clients BAFTA and PIXAR. She currently holds the position of Publicity Manager at Universal Pictures where she handles all theatrical releases.
Emma Banks, LV=
Emma has worked in PR for nearly 20 years in both agency and in-house roles. She has been in-house for the last ten years including roles at RSA, Direct Line and most recently at LV=, where she is currently head of PR. She has also worked at a number of PR agencies across the public and private sector and worked as a media trainer for the Labour Party.
Lesley Land, Outside Organisation
Lesley heads up Channel 5’s Publicity Division having joined Outside Organisation from Taylor Herring in 2010. With over 10 years experience in TV & Entertainment PR, Lesley has led major campaigns for every UK terrestrial broadcaster and a huge variety of digital TV channels. Landmark PR campaigns include Doctor Who, The Apprentice, The Ivor Novello Awards, Fame Academy, Disney Home Entertainment and the launch of Google Street View.
Drop us an email if you’d like to join us on the 29th and aren’t already signed up - look forward to seeing you there.
Gender politics? Check. Period clothing (in this case retro sixties)? Check. Class struggle, including a spunky working class character, preferably one fighting the poshy posh pants in power? Check. Ladies and gentleman, we have a Britflick. Not that that’s a bad thing
Based on a true story, Made in Dagenham follows a small female workforce meticulously sewing seat cushions in Ford’s Dagenham factory. It’s hard not to describe the working condition as a sweat shop, as due to the heat of the factory many of the matronly figures wander round in their bras, which gives early light relief. When negotiations for a pay-rise break down, reluctant-but-spunky leader Rita O’Grady begins a campaign for equal pay for the women workers, culminating in a crippling all-out strike. Media attention follows, and the Equal Pay Act is born.
That’s the proverbial nutshell. However, Made in Dagenham is much more than just proverbial. It’s an engaging story populated with brash, likeable – or enjoyably un-likeable – characters that you want to see through to the end.
Politics were a particular high point. Back-room deals, union strategies, and of course, brash refusal to bow to authority punctuate the Dagenham worker’s cause. Of particular note was Miranda Richarson’s portrayal of Barbara Castle, Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity and arguably the first female Prime Minister Britain never had.
The interplay between Ford, pithy Castle and her condescending wiener male advisors is easily the funniest part of the film. Portrayed as a feminist figure of Hepburnian proportions, she obviously supports the cause for equal pay and you fully expect her to save the day. Yet her exchanges with the Prime Minister and Ford Motors gives insight into how being in power can force politicians to compromise their ideals. If you would like to make a topical jibe at this juncture please do so… now.
It also came as a relief that unlike the recent Cemetery Junction or The Boat that Rocked, we have a 1960s film that earns an emotional response through well-drawn characters and an engaging plot, rather than by manipulating its audience through a nostalgic sound track. Of course I’m going to feel bitter-sweet at a scene where ‘All the Young Dudes’ plays. That’s what 1960s Bowie does to a person, Stephen Merchant, and you’re not going to trick me!
As a 25-year-old woman, the film meant something to me in other ways. I cannot conceive of getting paid less than my male counterparts. In fact I rarely give a thought to the fact that having a second X chromosome should make me terribly different from those who only have one. Made in Dagenham – and particularly the closing interviews with the actual Dagenham workers (all now over 70) - serves as a reminder that this wasn’t always the case.
Made in Dagenham is in cinemas nationwide from Friday 1st October 2010.
If you can’t get in through the front door, don’t give up! Try the back door instead. – Annie Shaw, Financial Agony Aunt
Thanks to everyone who came along to last week’s Journalism event. With help from our star panellists Bidisha (The Guardian / Woman’s Hour), Carly Chynoweth (The Times) and Annie Shaw (Financial Agony Aunt) we covered everything from how to become a journalist, unpaid internships, the impact of Google-journalism, social media and the digital revolution. Selected notes from the evening are reproduced below, for your viewing pleasure.
All of our panellists had very different routes into journalism. One thing that they all had in common was that they’d worked their way up, and interestingly, none had taken a journalism course. Annie started as a secretary and worked her way through a range of roles (including subbing, which she loved) and told us about the joy of being in the same building as the newspaper’s press which used to be standard. Her top tip was to find a niche early on, and to write about things that mean something to you personally – in Annie’s case, personal finance. Once Annie found her niche, it was easy to become a recognised freelancer.
Carly Chynoweth, a specialist in jobs, money and management for The Times, agreed with this;
It’s important to be an all-rounder … but everyone should start thinking about develop their specialism early on – it’s really helpful for getting work! – Carly Chynoweth
She advised that budding journalists should consider doing a degree in something other than journalism (such as economics) and cultivate interests outside of journalism.
Australian-born Carly told the group that she didn’t always want to be a journalist, and was training to be a lawyer when she realised that she was more interested in the stories behind the crimes than their resolution! She left her course and started working in a call centre to pay the bills, and started sending in ideas to newspapers in her spare time, often conducting interviews in her lunch break. Her hard graft paid off with a place on a structured, paid internship.
Carly was keen to stress that if you value what you write, you should expect to get paid for it:
Don’t do something if it’s got no end point – make sure you’re not just being taken on as cheap labour. If you can’t make it work for you financially, then it’s not a career, it’s a hobby – Carly Chynoweth
Bidisha agreed with this, and suggested that you should practice your craft by writing about things that are freely available – such as museums and art galleries. She also encouraged the group to capitalise on things that interest them, particularly if they’re involved with a specific “scene”. Bidisha herself began writing as a teenager involved with the Riot Grrl scene, producing a fanzine about the movement. She sent copies of her work to the music press, which lead to some paid work and was offered a deal for her first novel at 16 – kick-starting her career early.
The panel were keen to stress that we are living in a very difficult time for newspapers and magazines who are going through the same massive financial difficulties as everyone else. Annie warned the group that this may make paying trainees an issue, as training budgets are often the first thing to be cut. However, she continued to say that as a desirable career, some see hardships such as unpaid work experience or internships as the barrier, sorting the wheat from the chaff. To be a journalist, you have to be quite a pushy person and you HAVE to really want it.
Bidisha’s advice for the tricky job climate is to be shrewd about your employment choices and to get a job in an industry that relates. As an example, she suggested that if you’re interested in Arts journalism, try getting a job in a gallery or theatre, or in an Arts PR company. You’ll quickly find yourself immersed in that world and will be able to speak with confidence about that industry. Bidisha continued by warning the group that they have to be prepared to play a really long game, but reassured them that in time they would know everyone in that industry, and things will improve.
The discussion then moved onto pay walls (The Times has recently gone behind an online pay wall in the hope of generating income). The panel were all in support of the theory behind pay walls, and hoped that they would work for the benefit of journalists. Bidisha reminded us that although The Guardian is the most read newspaper website in the UK, writers still only get a very small fee for their articles.
A question was raised about the impact of Google journalism on the profession. Bidisha’s take on this was that the newspapers have to find ways of diversifying out into new areas, such as live events, citing the example of The Guardian’s relationship with the Hay Festival. A comparison was drawn between the print industry and the music industry where things have become more about gigs, merchandising and brands. Bidisha further this point by saying,
..the album is dead. The programme is dead. We consume media in chunks now, and it’s easy to get sections of a programme without having to watch or listen to the whole thing. The media industry needs to re-think urgently – Bidisha
Bidisha then moved on to talk about social media. In her opinion, many people misuse Twitter, seeing it as a different version of Facebook. In fact, Bidisha argues, Twitter should be used professionally for headlines and teasers. She added,
just because you can get a blog (or Twitter Account) doesn’t mean you should. Ask yourself, “have I got something interesting to say?” before you get a blog – Bidisha
Annie has found Twitter to be a very useful tool for creating rapport with people and to give advice. In contrast, Carly doesn’t use it in that way at all as she prefers email. Bidisha warned the group to be very cautious of social networking as they bring about a level of unprofessionalism and it won’t lead to work. Annie countered that she has got to know a lot more PRs through Twitter, which is hugely useful for her role, but that she’s found Gorkana and LinkedIn more useful for getting work. All the panellists agreed that everyone should lock down their Facebook privacy settings, but should keep a professional LinkedIn profile public.
The conversation then moved back round to specialisms. Bidisha said that journalists just starting out must now think of ways to make themselves unique. To illustrate, Bidisha gave us an insight into how ideas are taken for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour;
we take maybe one idea in 60. You can get a million perspectives on someone’s latest book, but if what we’re really looking for is someone with a specialism and something interesting to say. If you submit as a specialist scientist you’ll get far more recognition – Bidisha
Think about non-sexy areas – it is fascinating if you make it fascinating. When I pitch as a freelance, my name now stands out as an expert in my area. It might not very glamorous but it is practical! – Carly Chynoweth
Continuing on the un-glamorous theme, Carly suggested that aspiring journalists consider roles working in production which involves setting out the visual structure of the newspaper or magazine – particular skills that are short are the digital production skills required for putting newspapers together for the iPad and other delivery platforms. Annie enthused that the most exciting job she ever had was working in production and would definitely recommend it as a way to get to know the industry intimately.
A question came from the floor about who inspired the panellists. Annie revealed that the person who got her in was a difficult man who used to buy coconut sweets for the office because he knew she didn’t like them. But he turned out to be quite a fan of hers after all!
Carly is particularly grateful to an editor who pushed her into areas that she wasn’t comfortable in – which included sending her to Bali on the first plane that was to land after the bomb in 2002. Carly revealed that this was probably the worst job she had ever done but taught her a lot and gave her great confidence as a journalist.
We finished the evening with some advice from the panellists about networking. Bidisha encouraged the group to get as involved as possible and to network in a subtle way. Make friends with people who you’d make friends with anyway and don’t be artificial.
People can smell desperation! – Bidisha
However, Carly recommended that we don’t undervalue “weak” contacts as someone you slightly know may be hugely useful in the future. She also said that we shouldn’t be afraid to overtly network, as that can be more honest.
Annie added that her contacts are very important to her, particularly for getting a comment or an interesting angle on the issue, and for finding out what the real problems are. And she advised,
never be rude to the people at the bottom because you were there once, and you never know where they’ll end up! – Annie Shaw
Thanks to Team Spirit PR for sponsoring the drinks, to Hollie Rendall for asking the questions (she did a fab job!), to Annie, Bidisha and Carly for their honesty, and to all our attendees who battled in through a torrential downpour! See you at the next event xx
Last week’s radio event was a great success. Over 20 people turned up to hear Sharon Hanley (BBC Radio 2 & 6 Music), Marsha Shandur (Xfm) and Linda Smith (RAB) talk about their experiences. Thank you to them for their honesty and for all the new attendees that came along.
A full write up will appear here soon, along with some (blurry) photos of the night and a short video that we took.
Plans are in full swing for the next event about Journalism which will be on Weds 25th August, upstairs at The Wheatsheaf on Rathbone Place in London.