What Contributes to Starting a Media Career?

our success triangle concept. Introduction
Here at CreativesGo we’re fascinated by the careers of people who work in the media. We’re so interested in fact that we’ve interviewed over 50 people about the work they do in the media world. The idea behind those interviews is to offer an insight in to what it takes to make it as a creative. ‘Making it’ is though a subjective term and open to interpretation and what constitutes success or failure. ‘Making it’ could be thought of as a form of success, that is, a level has been reached where someone achieves something worthwhile, perhaps establishing themselves as an expert, a go-to person for a certain role or perhaps becoming a permanent employee within a media organisation. Of course there’s never really an ultimate point where success begins or ends and success can go positively upwards or even unhappily downwards. For now though we’ll look at the happier upwards route. Perhaps the lowest and most important ‘level’ is where the jump is made from working towards our success goal to the getting a foot in the door of whatever that goal is.

Before a person gets to that first critical level they’ve probably had to achieve a number of milestones which contribute to that success. After thinking about this for some time and having read our interviews closely, those milestones seem to be very similar for everyone but they’re reached in different ways. So what are they?

I think there are three contributing factors to success which for this article I’ll call the success triangle. Each side of the triangle contributes something important but on its own, success can’t be reached. Even with two sides together success is unlikely but when the three are joined together success is far more likely. The three sides are talent, hard work and luck. Let’s see how they make the difference to starting out and building a career.

Without talent the creative is nowhere. Whether they’re born with something or build up a talent over time, without skills to offer a client or employer there’s no way success is knocking on that door. Those who have the inbuilt abilities will benefit most as they’re starting from a strong position they can build on. Someone who wants to work with that skillset but initially lacks the talent has to learn far more to be level-pegging with the naturally-gifted person. It’s likely they’ll always be playing catch-up because the skilled person can exploit their ability to quickly move on. An example might be an artist who draws. Some people can do this easily and some have to work hard to better their skills. That time learning might take months or even years and that’s a lot of catch up on the person who could already do it. As we said though, talent alone is not enough so how does hard work help?

Hard Work
Work is the reality of having a career or a job. To get a foot in the career door is going to take hard work. It’s great to have talent but what are you going to do with it? If you can’t demonstrate what you can do in real-world situations then the talent is invisible. This means finding ways to exploit those skills that clients or employers will want to use for their own ends and pay the creative for their services. Having found their talent, the work begins by deciding how to demonstrate those skills. A tried and tested route is to put together a body of work, or folio to demonstrate skills. Another route is a journey through education to learn and gain qualifications. Sometimes a folio and education will both be required to get on, sometimes just great examples of ability. It depends very much on what the ultimate goal is. Some doors might only be opened by having qualifications and examples of talent. Some doors might not need the education but will look closely at the demonstrated skills. Those skills will always be best shown when real-world examples are used to demonstrate them.

"I think there are three contributing factors to success" So what do I mean by real-world examples? Lets say that someone wants to work as a football journalist. Media organisations tend to follow the latest trends for getting their journalism out to an audience so they might like podcasts or video to do that. The savvy creative will be looking at how those media companies work and put together their own podcasts or videos to demonstrate that they can work to the standards set by that media organisation. This is where the hard work is done. Putting in the effort to make that great work that you can't wait to show the world how good you are. If you imagine two people going for a job, both with equal talent but one has created a body of work showing how they’ve used their talent and one person hasn’t, the person with the demonstratable skills is likely to have the advantage.

What sets many successful people aside from those who don’t make it is the ability to be self-motivated. Those that recognise what they need to do and get on with it are more likely to achieve their goals than someone who needs to be told what to do. It doesn’t matter what’s to be achieved, be that education, starting a podcast or shooting new work, self-motivation is the one thing that gets things done.

In my experience it seems that luck plays a big part in making it. Using all that talent and working hard building up skills, folios, podcasts, videos, etc means nothing without the opportunities to show the right people what we can do. Luck can come in many forms. Some people are lucky that they’re born in to a family that allows them to spend time earning a trade without being paid because their costs are covered and expensive equipment is provided. For those who don’t have this kind of help, the financial implications are difficult to overcome. Sometimes luck comes from a chance encounter with an important person who makes decisions about the very field we’re looking to break in to and through that encounter help to open doors and move things along.

Some say we make our own luck and to a certain extent I very much agree with that. Putting ourselves in the right places, creating great work to show, networking, making contacts, raising our profile all contribute to the little bit of luck we might get given. There are plenty of talented people out there who have worked hard to try to make it but luck doesn’t come their way and their career dreams aren’t realised. It’s a sad fact that not everyone makes it and luck plays a part in success and failure. Luck is by far the most elusive element.

The Triangle of Success
Any two out of talent, hard work and luck is just not enough to crack that first career opening but when they’re joined together the good things are more likely to happen. For those that want it bad enough, they’re prepared to take the risk of exploiting their talents, forever learning and getting on with the work in the hope that they’ll get their chance. The success triangle certainly isn't a magic formula for getting that elusive foot in the door but these three qualities are powerful contributors. Why not have a read of our interviews and see for yourself how over 50 media professionals broke in to the working world here. If you have any thoughts of your own about what contributes to opening those doors why not add a comment below.

All images © 2021 Peter Hatter

Article Date - May 2021

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