WORKING in media can be challenging, but it’s a whole lot of fun too – and those who attended the R.AGE Talks Media career talk last Saturday can surely attest to that.
Organised as part of the Star Education Fair, the talk was presented by R.AGE and some of our friends in the industry – YouTube sensation Reuben Kang, Red FM deejay and TV host Jeremy Teo and The Star photojournalist Kevin Tan. Oh, and not forgetting our own R.AGE editor Ian Yee, moderating it all.
If you’re a secondary school graduate with a budding interest in the media industry, the candid and at times hilarious talk would’ve been perfect for you.
As attendee Amardev Singh, 18, put it: “The panel gave a lot of behind-the-scenes insight into the industry, and you don’t normally get that from your parents or other talks. I appreciated that the most.”
Although nothing beats first hand experience, don’t beat yourself up for missing the action, ‘cos we’ve got your back. Here are the main points from the talk.
1. Work on your soft skills
These are the things you can’t necessarily learn in college. As a journalist, for example, making an interviewee comfortable could help them open up when sharing their story. First and foremost, said Yee, you have to genuinely care about the people you interview and their stories.
“For online and YouTube videos, people want relatability,” Kang shared. “To do that, you have to be a people person. Ultimately, this line is really about how you present yourself.”
Nevertheless, soft skills aren’t the only skills you’ll require. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Never underestimate a degree
It’s true: in the media industry, employers often prioritise work experience over paper qualifications, according to the panel. But still, having a degree can give you a huge advantage.
Tan explained: “If you’re applying for your first photography or photojournalism job, for instance, what employers like us would need is for you to perform straight off the bat.
“We need to know that you have at least some qualifications to show that you know how to handle a camera, or set-up studio lighting. You hurt your chances if your employers feel you have to be taught everything from scratch.”
The same applies to Yee and Kang’s lines of work too, but for radio announcers, according to Teo, your skills aren’t exactly something you can train for in college.
“At auditions, we evaluate the applicant’s personality and whether he or she would fit in at the station,” he explained. “That said, having a degree shows you started and finished something. You’re reliable.”
3. Go the extra mile
According to Yee, the best thing to do is get a balance of both paper qualifications and practical training. This probably applies to all industries, but in media, it’s particularly important.
And that’s why Yee’s advice would be to take up a media-related course in university, and do as many internships as possible during your semester breaks.
“And don’t just intern at very good companies, but also try terrible ones,” added Kang. “That way, you’ll learn how not to do things, and work with different types of people along the way.”
4. Expand your horizons
Being a radio announcer or TV host, Teo reckons, is an extension of yourself and your own personality, broadcast to the masses. So to be good at what you do, you must seek life experiences.
“Your listeners will be able to tell whether you are genuinely interested in something you’re talking about,” he explained. “For example, you can’t talk about the World Cup on air if you’re not really interested in it. The fans ou there will pick up on it immediately.”
For those looking to break into the film and TV industry, Reuben’s advice on expanding one’s horizons would be to experiment as much as you can in university.
Whatever crazy, ambitious, ultra-experimental idea you have, being in university gives you a free pass to try it out.
“Once you start working and dealing with clients, you won’t get those chances,” he said.
5. The media is not all glam
As Reuben puts it, working in the media is a “noble-ish” profession. It’s all about sending out positive, responsible messages to the public – and that’s never easy. It’s not always as glamourous as people think.
“I always tell young journalists that a good story is 90% leg work and 10% writing,” said Yee. “You spend 90% of your time chasing leads, conducting interviews and doing research, and if you’ve done all that well enough, the story should just write itself.”