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Turn up, help out

By Samuel J. Folder
The Saturday Age

Television presenter Carrie Bickmore tells Samuel J Folder how persistence and work experience paid off when she was trying to gain a foothold in a new field.

Before you were on Rove and The 7PM Project, you had a successful career as a radio newsreader. How did you get your break in radio?

When I was at university studying journalism, I would go into a radio station in Perth two or three mornings a week, to shadow the journos in the newsroom.

It was unpaid and 5am starts but it was invaluable experience. I started with a one-week internship and I kept going back. I'd been going in every week for maybe four months, when the newsreader started vomiting mid-read [and] the producer told me that I would have to go on air.

It was the scariest moment of my life. I read the rest of the bulletins for that day and the next because she was sick for the whole weekend. The next week, I was offered a full-time job.

You stepped up; is that the mindset you need to make it in the media?

A lot of people want to work in media, so you have to set yourself apart [and] be really committed.

Any time that I've really put in the hard yards and I've been persistent - but not annoying - it's usually paid off. When I went into the radio station at 5am, morning after morning, to do unpaid work experience, I knew that in the long run I would get paid well for it, so it was an investment in my future.

You have to be proactive and keep your options open.

Explain "persistent but not annoying".

When I went in to do work experience, I could see they were under the pump, so I wasn't asking [questions] every five minutes. I kept my head down and did what was asked of me and then, in my spare time, I was proactive and did whatever I could to help the journos in the newsroom, whether that meant cutting out newspaper articles, researching stories, sourcing audio or even writing news stories.

 I wouldn't ask if I could do it [myself] and I wouldn't be upset if my stories were ignored ... it showed that  I was committed and it taught me the discipline of working in a newsroom.

Before long, they were using my stories, so when a job came up, the news producer gave it to me because I had proved that I could work in the newsroom.

Any advice for working in TV?

You need a thick skin and a strong belief in yourself, without being arrogant. The industry is full of rejection and for every "I love Carrie" there's an "I hate Carrie". You might audition for something and think you are perfect for that job, only to have a producer or casting agent say, "No".

For a long time, I measured my worth by whether or not I was getting work and the feedback I got from people, as opposed to believing in myself.

There were many jobs that I went for and didn't get but now I'm glad I didn't get any of them because if I did, I might not be doing what I am now.

Chapter excerpts from Get Your Break! Television Presenters ($29.99). In the same series is Get Your Break! Recording Artists and Get Your Break! Fashion Designers, published by Red Hill Press, see getyourbreak.com.au.

Published: 07 May 2011


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