Can university really set you up?


Jess Sutton TV-Bay Magazine
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When deciding what career you want to go into and which University to go to, there are so many questions that go through your head. I know when I first started considering University, my grades just weren't good enough. I knew which undergraduate course I wanted to do, but I still had a way to go.

Well, I decided to go back to College just so I could study BSc Television and Broadcasting at the University of Portsmouth. It was the best choice I have ever made. That was four years ago. I am now getting ready to complete my degree, dissertation handed in, the final projects coming to the end and Graduation in sight. However, there is one question that many people will be asking themselves at this time of the year and it may have been the first question they asked when they started their journey - "will it be worth it and will it make me employable or industry ready?'

On my whirlwind journey through my University course, I have learnt so much but not just about the Television industry. I have learnt so much about myself and what working in a team of others is really about. Let's face it the Television Industry is huge and near enough every moment of your career you're going to be working in a team. Knowing how to work in a team effectively is probably one of the key aspects you're going to need to know.

In my first year at University I was thrown in the deep end with 6 units, 2 of these are group work the rest are individual. However, if you can make a 10 minute programme with yourself presenting it, writing it, interviewing in VTs and filming then you deserve a clap. You need people to help you, otherwise the amount of stress it will cause could make you ill! So yes, from the very start, this course gets you to work in teams but it also teaches you that it is okay to ask others to help when it is needed. This particular unit got everyone presenting even if they did not want to pursue it as a career. However, it was so that everyone would know what it was like in front of the camera but also a way of building confidence.

It was also within my first year that I learnt that networking is vital within the media industry. If you know people in the industry already then it could mean a foot in the door. This is partly how I managed to get my first paid freelance job. Through my course, there was an opportunity to volunteer at the America's Cup alongside the media company delivering the coverage. I jumped at it straight away. In my time volunteering at the America's Cup I got talking to a few of the crew members which led to work at Bristol Balloon Fiesta, Bournemouth Air Show and Legends of Gaming. Since then I have also gained work experience with the BBC and have filmed a number of events with the University including a talk with astronaut Tim Peake.

I know that trying to juggle work experience, university and a paid part-time job is extremely stressful. I was lucky that the majority of the work experience that I gained was during the summer holidays but I was even luckier that it was paid experience as well. Throughout every experience the University lecturers were there to support me and were extremely understanding if it meant working around lectures At the end of the day experience is key to put our learning into practice in the "real world of television".
Teamwork was definitely challenging for many of us but by third year we all had learnt how to work in a team more effectively. By third year everyone had become close especially on a small course where everyone knows everyone and we are all close. This meant that sometimes friendships got in the way as people were too scared to say what they really thought just so they didn't ruin their friendship. In the industry you are work colleagues before you are friends and the work always come first. At the end of the day if you do not complete your work task to the highest possible standard then you are at risk too losing your job. But as a University student delivering work for a grade, there is no risk of getting "fired" which meant at times there was a lack of enthusiasm and commitment, which was very frustrating. This is where it is hard to judge if it is a real reflection of what it would be like to work in the industry. Although friendships can be a problem in team scenarios at University they can also be a great positive. You are able to work together and if someone isn't sure on something then they're not afraid to ask for help. It means that we all get to help each other grow and develop the skills we have obtained over the years.

In teams of 15 meant that we could produce a whole TV show ourselves which is part of one of our units. From start to finish, we came up with the ideas, we filmed the VTs, we wrote the scripts and we went LIVE. We even decided on our own roles, which is great as we can try each of them out. This year I have: produced, directed, project managed, been the auto cue operator, camera, vision mixed and even been part of the script writing team (never in a million years did I think I would write a script for a 45 minutes show). Each role brings a new challenge and a new way of thinking. Being able to try out each role gave me an idea on what I would like to work towards in the future. Personally my favourite role was Production Management. Now this role isn't for everyone as paperwork is not that exciting, but I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to paperwork and I like to ensure that everything is done properly and it is all in order.

Throughout my time at University there have been many high points and many low points. It is hard to move away for the first time, away from your parents and your friends. This creates mixed emotions and can cause a lot of stress. First year is all about setting you up for the important years that you are about to face. In my opinion, university sets people up, no matter what industry they want to go into. This course especially. It gave me the confidence to talk to people in group meetings and to actually put my opinion across instead of hiding in the shadows of other people. I learned about different industry equipment that you could see when in the "real" world. The lecturers have to make sure that they have the industry standard kit even though they know that it might not last longer than 3 or 4 years. The industry is forever changing with new technology being designed and brought into the workplace. From my experience the course that I am about to graduate from has done an excellent job in setting us up. I will always have a love for television and this course has just enhanced that love.


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Contributing Author Jess Sutton

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