INTERVIEW: Shelia Kane, BBC Scotland Work Experience Co-ordinator

Published in TSA.


Most people have an association with the BBC – be it listening to the radio to hear the breaking news or peeling your eyes reluctantly from the television during this integral part of dinner-time routine. It’s tuning in with Jackie Bird to welcome in the New Year and donating all your pocket money to Children in Need in November. The BBC’s contributions to our news culture make Scotland’s biggest events more enjoyable and simply unimaginable without them.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that the BBC receives an incomprehensible volume of work experience applications from hopefuls each year, all keen to break into media, journalism and production in a truly memorable way.
A typical work experience placement will last anywhere between 3 to 14 days, depending on the area you apply for. You will find yourself temporarily taking on the role of a standard BBC employee, meaning you will be involved in a variety of tasks, all shapes and sizes, and all extremely important to the smooth-running of each production.
Those fortunate enough to file ‘BBC’ under ‘Work Experience’ on their C.V. will potentially enjoy an endlessly rewarding career, granted that they continue to display hard word, enthusiasm and dedication for the area they want to specialize in. We spoke to Shelia Kane, the work placement co-ordinator for BBC Glasgow, about how to stand out during the application process and the tell-tale signs of an ‘all talk’ applicant…


Can you describe the ideal BBC employee?

Pro-active, enthusiastic, creative and passionate about what they do. Working for the BBC means you’ll be part of something genuinely special. We are looking for employees whose personal values match the BBC’s core values.

Which of your work experience programmes do you find is the most popular?

All our work experience schemes are extremely popular but probably News and Sport are the most sought-after areas.

How can applicants make their application stand out? What is the first thing you hope to see when reading a new application?

Passion! Also a demonstrative interest in what we do. We are looking for candidates who are involved with student newspapers, radio stations, and who are currently making their own short films, etc.

Similarly, how can applicants stand out during the intense interview phases? What sort of personality traits and attitudes are you looking for?

Our interviews are competency-based. This means that the interviewers will be looking for evidence of the key skills and behaviours (competencies) required in the role. You can provide this evidence by quoting examples of when, why and how you have shown these skills in the past. This indicates to the interviewers that you have the potential to apply them in a new job in the future.

TIPS

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare!
  • Remind yourself of the competencies required in the role
  • Create a list of your achievements. These might come from your work experience, home life, social life, or if you’re a recent graduate, your experiences in education
  • Consider how the achievements you listed might be related to the competencies and create links on your mind map. For example does your work on a volunteer project in South Africa provide good evidence of team-working?

Can you describe the ways in which a successful applicant will benefit by having a name like BBC on their C.V.?

The BBC is obviously a very well known brand and is renowned in the industry for having a high standard of training.

For people perhaps NOT in the middle of a degree who are aiming towards participating in the BBC work experience programme, what sort of things could they be doing now to show their motivation and dedication?

Depending on their particular interests, they should get involved with university newspapers, radio stations, local theatre groups, etc. Anyone interested in Sport, for example, should contact local football clubs to ask if they can cover their matches, blog match reports, etc. Anyone interested in film making should be making short films with friends and family on phones, tablets, etc.
However, it’s also very important to point out that the BBC are looking for a diverse workforce (and work experience candidates) and academic qualifications are not the first thing we look at. Indeed, we have apprenticeships etc where people with degrees, etc are not eligible to apply. What we are looking for are people who have gone the extra mile, ie blogging, making short films, etc.

For students beginning university, or those who are perhaps mid-way through, how much previous experience do they need outside of their degree to be seriously considered during the later stages of the application process?

Candidates don’t need much hands-on experience – that’s what our work experience scheme will give them. Again, it’s a question of passion and enthusiasm and demonstrating a strong interest to work in the media in the future.

What sort of tasks and activities can a work experience intern be expected to participate in around the office floor?

Every placement is different and tasks will vary depending on which area you are placed in. In Sport, for example, it may involve shadowing a reporter as they attend press conferences, interview managers, players, etc. If you’re working with a production team on, say a Children’s programme, it may involve research, fact checking, finding contributors for programmes, finding audiences, buying props, etc. In effect, you’ll be doing what other members of the team are doing.

Is there a likelihood after the work experience week that some candidates will be invited back or offered more permanent positions within the BBC?

We can’t guarantee paid work after a placement but we do have a very good track record of offering paid contract work to candidates who have really shone and shown potential while on placement.

What sort of talents and personality traits should a work experience intern demonstrate during their time to get noticed?

Again, passion and enthusiasm are right up there along with a cheerful attitude! Also a pro-active approach and a willingness to help (no matter how big or small the task), will get you noticed.

When applying for BBC Scotland placements, applicants must select one area of the BBC (for example: CBBC, entertainment, comedy etc.) to complete their placement in. What are some tell-tale signs which help you to distinguish those clearly passionate for their field from those who still seem quite unsure or unprepared?

That’s a difficult question as some people know that they definitely want to work in broadcasting but are still not sure what area they would best fit into. Work experience lets you try out different areas and see where your skills, etc fit best. Sometimes it’s as important to know what you don’t want to do, as what you do want to do.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone hoping to secure a work experience placement at BBC, what would it be?

Take time and care with your application. Treat it like a job application and don’t rush it. Two line answers will not get through!

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