How did I get into the BBC?

Many people are interested in how I got to where I am today, career wise, so it is about time I reveal all. Especially because it is now exactly one year that I have been holding down a job at the BBC – so it seems rather relevant to be writing this now (as I have been thinking about writing something on this for months!).

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I don’t even know where to start to be honest. Many people ask me, how on earth did I manage to get into the BBC so very quickly at a very young age. Fresh out of university at the age of 21 and I get my first ever paid job on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which was literally a dream come true – considering the Today programme was one of my dream programme’s to work for.

But, lets rewind back to university. I was an undergraduate at City University London from 2011 – 2014. Being on a media/journalism based course, we were encouraged to take on as many work experience placements in the media as we can. Now, back in 2013, I wrote a piece on ‘Is work experience worth it?’ and ‘How to find work experience placements and internships’ – so do have a read.

Half way through my first year, I luckily got accepted on a month work experience at BBC Radio 4. Since then, I made contacts and shadowed BBC Radio’s 1, 2 and 6 Music. Bearing in mind, my passion back then was radio.

I kept seeking for more work experience. I didn’t mind if it was unpaid – I just wanted to get as much experience as I can so that it can benefit me after I leave university. Month after month, I emailed radio stations and production companies asking for work experience. Long story short, that same year, I did work experience at Absolute Radio, Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio, Channel 4 and LBC. Not just that, I also got involved with the media team at uni. I took part in student radio and also became one of the editors of the university magazine.

During uni, I also had my own radio show at London’s youth station Roundhouse Radio, from the Roundhouse venue itself. The station matched me with a professional mentor to help me with my university to career transition (bearing in mind this was now my final year at uni) and luckily my mentor was from the Today programme – which I was honestly over the moon about. Big shout out to Steven (you know who you are, I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help!!).

Whilst being in the midst of writing my dissertation, I was also preparing for life after university. I was so terrified of being unemployed. I hear a lot of stories about people graduating and then failing to find a job. I was rather lucky to have a mentor, who did help me with my CV and covering letters and also recommended people I should speak to and most importantly reassured me that I have enough experience to get a job and not to worry.

One thing I mustn’t forget is getting my CV professionally done. Trust me, it is so worth it. I have never been so proud of my CV until I got it done by a rather amazing company so I do highly recommend it.

My mentor recommended I speak to someone at the Today programme so I sent my CV and a covering letter in an email. I got a reply back saying to come and have a chat with them and I was offered a two week trial period – which was basically shadowing someone for two weeks and then see where I go from there. I trained and after two weeks, I got myself a two month contract with the Today programme as a Broadcast Assistant, mainly handling Today’s website and social media. Of course, waking up at 4am every morning was incredibly difficult but I really didn’t mind, considering I was being made to wake up to work on a programme that I love.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 20.41.48After the Today programme, I went straight onto work for BBC News Online, for the Digital Video team (which I still do) and became a Broadcast Journalist (my current title). Then lots of other opportunities came up as I approached some of my favourite programmes including The Andrew Marr Show and Daily & Sunday Politics (current programmes I work for). As my background is within online, I look after their website and social media presence.

One of my highlights of working for the BBC is playing a huge role for BBC’s coverage of the 2015 General Election. During the campaign leading up to polling day, I covered a lot for BBC Politics (online) and worked closely with the Daily Politics debates. I was a Results Inputter on results night/day, inputting the results which went straight on-air.

At work, I have met the most amazing people/colleagues. I met rather big people including Prime Minister David Cameron and lots of others. Never thought things like that would happen to me.

This is not a 9-5 job. Some days I am up at 4am for a 6am start. Sometimes I start around 2pm and finish at midnight. Sometimes I am even working overnight. It is not easy and it is not structured, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world.

Without knowing the right people and getting as much experience as I could beforehand, I wouldn’t have been able to get those jobs. Contacts is key in this industry. You will get rejected. I was rejected many time before I got into the BBC but I persevered. I never gave up because this was my dream. This is my dream. I am determined to do more, experience more, learn more – so this is the beginning of an amazing journey. 
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My University Experience

I went to City University London to study a Foundation Degree (two years) and a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Industries.

2011 – 2014.

First year

The first year was rather scary because it was new. The transition from sixth form to university is such a big change and I found it rather overwhelming at first, especially because I still lived at home. Making friends was really difficult. During the first few months, I felt like university wasn’t for me and I was actually thinking about dropping out. I don’t drink, I don’t party and the whole university stereotype is basically drinking and partying and I felt like I did not fit in. After talking to a lot of people about thinking of dropping out, I decided to stick at it for a few months and see how it goes. I didn’t make a good set of friends until I was 5 months into the course and this is when I started to enjoy university. I started getting involved with the media team at university and did a bit of reporting for my student radio station.

With regards to the course itself, the first year was very practical and I enjoyed most of the practical modules. I got a lot of 2:1’s and 1st. Because university essays are rather different to school and college essays, I found that difficult and during the first year, my essay grades were not that great. I found referencing really difficult and I found the structure really difficult too. Also, I did not attend any seminars because during my first year, my social anxiety was rather awful and participating in class seemed terrifying. I got a bit more confident after completing my work placement at the BBC and when I went back to university after that, I really quite enjoyed it and felt really confident and was very excited for the next two years. I finished that year with a 2:1, which I was happy about.

Second Year

The second year was so much better. In fact, out of the three years, I felt like the second year I came out of my shell a bit more (which impacted my third year). My course was part music events management course and we got to manage and organize a music gig in the Roundhouse in Camden. I was into music a lot before but during my second year that kind of died down. I developed a passion for news, broadcasting and journalism so for that gig, I decided to join the broadcast team and challenge my filming and visual mixing skills, which I absolutely loved.

During my second year, I decided to write for the student magazine CityOnTopic. I wrote a few articles for the Politics section and it was rather lovely seeing my writing published in print.

My second year grades were absolutely amazing. I got a lot of 1st‘s and high 2:1’s as I did work very hard indeed. Again, I did enjoy the practical modules more than the academic ones. At the end of this year, I officially completed my foundation degree and achieved a high 2:1…and graduated!

Third Year

We had a choice whether we wanted to go onto the third year or not. I wanted a full degree so I decided to go ahead with the third year. This year was crucial and so much more difficult than the other two years. Starting third year was so overwhelming because I soon realized how much work I needed to do. In fact, it did make my anxiety rather worse but I realized I needed to work hard if I wanted to get a decent grade. I am such a perfectionist and study every single day for hours until I am happy with what I have studied.

We got to choose which modules we wanted to do focusing on our career paths – I chose the journalism route and did most of the journalistic modules, which I did enjoy very much so. Compared to other degrees, my course had to do two 6000-word dissertations. When I look back, that was quite scary but I actually quite enjoyed writing them both. My first dissertation was about ‘The Future and Management of British Newspapers’ and my second dissertation was about ‘How Citizen’s Perceive Press Coverage of Political Scandals’. There is a pattern. Both were about news and politics – something that I have a passion for. This is why I enjoyed writing them because I had a passion for the topic. In both of them, I got really good 2:1’s.

Basically, all my other essays were about news too. I got Firsts in all my third year essays, which I am so happy with. I love writing essays a lot, mainly because I love writing in general. I also did a full year Media Law & Ethics module and I honestly loved that module, despite it being so difficult, it was so worth it. In order to become a good journalist, you must know the law. I have no idea how many times I have written about defamation in my third year essays. Law certainly did have an influence on me during my final year. Coming out of university and going straight into working for BBC News – I realised how crucial Media Law was, so it was definitely worth studying it.

Because this was my last year, I applied to be a section Editor for the student magazine to increase my journalism skills. I got chosen to be the Health and Fitness Editor due to my passion for this area. I must say, I challenged myself a lot with this role and learnt so much about leadership and assertiveness as well as writing good articles.

Graduation was enjoyable and a very proud day for me and my family.

After three tough years, a lot of struggle – being in and out of hospital for my eating disorder, in the end, I achieved a very high 2:1, which I am so happy with.

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Going to university was the best decision of my life to be honest. It gave me so much confidence in myself and I developed a lot of skills for my career. Here I am now at the BBC. Dream job? Thank you university.

Is Work Experience Worth It?

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People often have a rather cynical view of work experience and in this economy, we are seeing a lot of youth unemployment. Many of that is down to no experience or a lack of motivation to go out and find a job and yes, I know the government has a part to play in this and they are offering a lot of training opportunities for young people who do not go to university. However, unfortunately, if we do go to university, a degree is simply not enough. In any sector now, you need to have some kind of experience outside of education and many of them are unpaid.

In 2012, I completed eight unpaid work experience placements and now, with me being in my final year of university, I have a lot of experience under my belt for after graduation. One of the reasons why I excelled at getting those placements is because luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was simply aiming for that, which does makes things easier.

There is nothing wrong about not knowing what you want to do but that is what work experience is for. Finding out what you are good at and where you want to go. When people think of work experience, they think of a job that you want to do in the future but that is not necessarily the case at all. If you don’t know what you want to do, I suggest you think long and hard about what you like, what you don’t like, what you are good at, what you are not good at and find a sector that you think you may want go into and research that.

I have had ambitions ever since I was young to work in the media, specifically in the music industry. I got my first work experience placement at a music studio in Year 10 and I really enjoyed it. Since then, I wanted to be a music journalist because I loved new music and I was obsessed with certain bands – I thought I really wanted my future to be based around the music industry. A few years down the line, I could not have been more wrong and that is down to work experience.

When I eventually got my first undergraduate work placement during my first year at university, I did something that was nothing to do with music. I worked at BBC Radio 4 for one month and then I did a lot more unpaid radio and TV work placements.

By meshing all of those work placements together, I am now confident enough to tell you exactly what I want to do as a career because I had a lot of different experience to come to a decision about what I really want to do. Sometimes, you may think a certain job is so amazing yet you have not had a chance to work there but when you eventually do, it may not be what you were expecting and vice versa – a job that you really think won’t be to your taste but when you do it, it may perhaps be your dream job. So, do not knock it, until you have tried it.

What I am trying to put across is that, do not be put off by unpaid experience because all my placements made me gain so many skills and industry based knowledge. It did a lot to improve my confidence and self-esteem. I also got to see how the world of work will be like, so it has prepared me for the real thing. Most importantly, I made amazing contacts (who I hassle now and then for a job). Now, I will not have to do what many students do after I complete my degree – go out and look for unpaid work experience, which to me is a waste of time after graduation. I do not want to be unemployed after I leave university.

Also, what I want to stress is that, people think work experience is just making tea. Well, I do not know about other industries, but certainly when I was on work experience, they basically threw me in at the deep end straight away and I had to do big tasks. They treated me like I was an actual member of the team and people relied on me to finish a task promptly. I did not even have to make a single cup of tea to be honest with you. So, it may be unpaid but it may not be what you are expecting it to be like and you get so much out of it for the future.

So, in a nutshell, what I did was, whilst being at university, I did as much unpaid work experience as I can to make myself ready for employment freshly out from university in 2014. That is what employers look for, experience as well as qualification but to me, experience overshadows everything.

I am in my third year now and along with two dissertation to do, I am also starting to think about if I want to do a postgraduate degree or apply to paid graduate schemes or even proper jobs and applying to graduate schemes and jobs feels right because I feel qualified and ready, or rather I will do after I graduate and perhaps after working in the industry for a couple years, I may want to get back into education to do my Masters.

To me, work experience is so important. In fact, it is a must if you want to get a good job. Work experience can also be life-changing, because for me, it was and to answer the question of this article, yes, work experience is so worth it.

How To Find Work Experience Placements/Internships

ImageThey say experience matters over qualifications but I think both of them go hand in hand depending on what career field you are aiming for. My field is within the media and in this industry, you need experience more so than qualifications.

I have been on many work placements and internships and people often ask me how I actually secure them, as I went from one placement to the next very quickly. In 2012, it seemed like I never stopped working and chasing those dream placements. I have completed work placements at BBC Radio 4, Absolute Radio, Channel 4, Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio and Global Radio – LBC 97.3 as well as work shadowing placements at BBC’s Radio 1, 2 and 6 Music. I completed all those placements in the space of 9 months and to many people and to myself, that is pretty impressive. So, how did I get all those placements and what tips can I give you to secure one yourself? Keep reading to find out!

How I Secured My Work Placements

I have always wanted to work for the BBC ever since I was little. That is like the dream. I wanted to work at BBC Radio (any station) for my Year 10 work experience but that was proving to be rather difficult. You could say that I was not that creative then and also not that confident. However, it was a dream that I was determined to achieve so I kept on applying and applying via the BBC Careers website and got a lot of rejections but I still never gave up.

When I was 18, I got into university to study a media related course and within 4 months of being on that course, I got my first ever BBC work experience placement at Radio 4 for one month, which quite literally changed my life. I guess you could say that being on an undergraduate course at university helps you to secure those placements because it shows that you are studying the field and therefore employers are more likely to hire you for a week or two. Luckily for me, there was a module solely on work placements and we were encouraged to find a work placement and then evaluate it in an essay form after we completed the placement. I did mine on Radio 4.

ImageThis is a picture I took of the old BBC Broadcasting House where Radio 4/Radio 3 broadcasts from as well as the BBC Radio Theatre.

ImageA picture I took of the Channel 4 building in Horseferry Road, London during my placement. This was during the London Olympics/Paralympics hence the Paralympics ‘4’.

ImageI did some interviews and reporting for LBC News with this LBC microphone.

Throughout my time at Broadcasting House (Radio 4) I made a lot of amazing contacts. I was determined to get into Radio 1 and so someone kindly gave me their Radio 1 contact. Through that, I got to work shadow Fearne Cotton’s show on Radio 1 for two days which was absolutely surreal. I then made more contacts and got work shadowing placements at Radio 2 and 6 Music. I got my LBC placement through a contact too, but I applied for Absolute Radio and Channel 4, and made sure my application form stood out and had a unique twist to it and I got them!

So, my main tips to get a work placement are…

Never Give Up!

You will get rejected. That is a part of life. The main thing is to never give up. If you truly want something in life, you should never give up because speaking from experience, if you keep trying, one day it will happen. So keep applying!

Make Your Application Stand Out

Making your application stand out is often always said but how do you make it stand out exactly?. Well, for me, I decided to add a unique touch to mine. For example, in my Channel 4 application, I said that in my culture, the media industry is looked down upon and there is not many Muslim/Asian people working in the media and I said that I wanted to change that. If I was part of the C4 HR department, I would be pretty impressed by that sentence because I said that I wanted to make a difference and I guess they liked that and offered me a chance to work there. So try to add something in the application that shows how you will benefit from the placement.

University? 

This is obviously optional and university is not for everyone but for me, I really do think that university helped me get those work placements, or at least the first one. If you are at university,  go to your careers departement and ask them for help on CV’s, application forms etc… If you are not at university, try to do something else as a hobby that can show your interest in the field you are applying for. For example, if you want to work for a magazine, start a blog and state that you love writing and your blog could be the proof.

Clean Up Your CV

Your CV is the most important thing. Clean it up. Update it and keep it simple. Tailor it to the position you are applying for. Get it checked by someone.

Contacts, Contacts, Contacts! 

NETWORK. Make contacts. That is the main thing that got me most of my placements. I made a lot of contacts and they recommended me people I could talk to. Email them showing your interest in their company, do your research and ask to meet for a quick chat. Keep in touch with them. You must make contacts because you never know, in a few years down the line, they could give you your dream job.

On top of all that, I think passion and determination is what you need  to secure work placements that actually will benefit you and help you in your journey to your career development.