Since 2007, Tom has worked as a Marketing Assistant, Web Traffic Officer, and created content for both radio and the web. He is currently working at the Financial Times as a Video and Online Producer, managing and creating content.
You graduated from the University of Westminster in 2007 with a BA (Hons) in Media Production. While at Uni, you set up and ran the student radio station, briefly worked with Electronic Arts in 2006, and found time to work for TalkSport Radio as an Assistant Producer. What was it like transitioning from being a student to taking the first steps in building your career?
Tom: It wasn’t as hard as it could have been, mainly down to working throughout my time at university. Working in the media industry is nothing like university, chiefly because you have to produce better quality work in a much smaller time frame. If you can manage to get part time work or an internship somewhere during university then it really helps the transition. That’s the other major hurdle - taking those first few steps is really hard. You need to try every avenue you can in order to get your foot in the door until you get lucky. At university you have a lot of free time to do this and if you’re successful then it will help the transition.
After graduating, you worked with Affinion International as a Marketing Assistant, before taking on a Web Traffic Officer post at CSC Media Group, who run several TV channels. What did you learn during those years?
Tom: Check everything! When you have finished something, double check it and when you are about to send it off STOP... and check it all again. Sure it’s boring as sin watching an infants’ cartoon for the third time but if something’s worth doing then it's worth doing right. You’re going to get more opportunities from people if they can trust you to work to a high standard on a consistent basis. Also be proactive - opportunities rarely fall into your lap. If someone is doing something that interests you then ask them if you can help out. I got to where I am today by harassing people at CSC to teach me things or by asking them how I can help them.
You've now been working as a Video and Online Producer at the Financial Times for nearly three years. What does a typical day look like for you, and was the learning curve steep when you first started in 2013?
Tom: A typical day usually involves juggling a couple of projects at once - for example, filming a quick editorial piece in the morning in the studio and then getting it edited and online within the hour. After that, I may have to get back to editing a much longer, more in-depth video which will take me a week or more. Then in the afternoon I may have a meeting about a new web project we are developing. On the other hand I’m lucky enough that I get to work abroad 6-10 times a year, for about a week each time, covering conferences or a long form video. Those days can be unpredictable. As with most jobs in the media industry it’s hard to pin down a “typical” day, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.
During my time at CSC Media I was lucky enough to learn a lot of different skills so the learning curve for my current role at the Financial Times was not too steep; at the moment I’m lucky enough to have a manager who let me grow into my current role. At any new job there will always be a learning curve, so it’s just important to give yourself time. It’s unrealistic for any employer to expect you to be perfect within the first month.
A part of your job involves working with social media - especially YouTube. In what ways do you think media students, graduates and jobseekers can perhaps best utilise online platforms in order to make themselves more appealing to potential employers?
Tom: I personally find Twitter a great place to keep up to date with the latest developments and interesting ideas in the media industry; you don’t have to be active all the time, it’s just useful to keep a toe in the water.
If you are going to be active on any social media platform I think the key is passion. Being active on one social media platform can be a hard slog, while multiple platforms can be a nightmare. Your passion is going to have to carry you the extra mile. Take a subject or idea you’re passionate about and use social media to get it out there. It shows employers that you are driven, hardworking, and know how to use social media.
Thinking back to your University days from 2004 to 2007, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else looking to build a career in television journalism?
Tom: It’s going to be harder than you ever imagined and the biggest factor in your success is going to be luck. You can work harder than anyone else, make as many connections as possible, call in any favours you have, work for free at as many places as possible, be a social media legend, get all the best equipment, but at some point you’re just going to have to be lucky. I don’t know anyone who works in the media industry who doesn’t have a “right place, right time” story in his or her career.
Even when you do manage to get a job in the industry you’re going to have to work hard for your next lucky break. This is the harsh reality of getting a job in the best industry in the world, so work your socks off and hopefully you will get lucky.
You can follow Tom on Twitter: @AllTomsTweets