Starting out in television when you don’t have any industry contacts can feel a bit like the TV show Survivor…except you’re trying to work your way into an alliance before you’ve even landed on the island.

Getting your first job in TV isn’t easy but unlike the above scenario – it isn’t impossible. It’s going to take preparation, perseverance, social game, building alliances and possibly going without some of the finer things in life for you to get that elusive first role. You need to be HUNGRY for it, and, in the nicest possible way, you’re going to need to hustle. That is the harsh reality of making it in reality TV.

There’s no sure-fire way to win Survivor and there’s no guaranteed way to hook that first job. Sometimes it really just comes down to a little bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time BUT there are things you can do to give you the best possible chance at making your dream a reality. I’ve taken some inspiration from the granddaddy of reality TV, Survivor and put together my 2 cents worth of advice to help you outwit, outplay and outlast the rest so you can make it in TV…


Australian Survivor Season 2 Jericho and Michelle compete in a fire making challenge
Image courtesy of Australian Survivor / Endemol Shine Australia / Network 10

Be prepared: Knowing how to use flint is a basic skill that even Jeff Probst says you should master before taking on a game like Survivor – it doesn’t guarantee you’ll win but it does mean that you’re a step ahead when you land on that beach. So why not give yourself the best chance at success?

What do I mean by that??? Do your research! You should watch television, identify what shows you want to work on and find out what production companies make them. Check their website to see if they list a contact email to send a CV (many don’t do this) – if they only list a phone number, then call through to the reception and ask for the best contact and their email address. Most companies will supply a generic crewing email but if you can get a name, at least that means you can personalise your email and hopefully make a better first impression than someone who didn’t put the effort in.


Jeff Probst revealing a reward
Image courtesy of Survivor / CBS

Talk about it: If it’s your dream to work in TV…don’t keep it to yourself! Make sure your friends and family know what you want to do because while you may not know anyone in TV, someone you know might. You never know whose ‘friend of a friend’s cousin’ works in TV and could give you the lead you need to get your first job.


Survivor Tocantins JT and Stephen shaking hands
Image source: Survivor / CBS

Use your social networks: You have 1000 friends on Facebook – you know what they ate for breakfast and how hilarious they find dog videos but in reality you probably wouldn’t talk to 80 per cent of these people. You need to change that. Reaching out on Facebook to someone that a) works in a similar industry to TV – think marketing, advertising and creative industries, and b) won’t blank you, is another way to potentially get a lead when you’re at a dead end. A good test is to think to yourself – “Would I respond if I got a message from this person out of the blue?”…if the answer is no, then they’re probably not a good option and they probably should’ve been culled from your Facebook a long time ago.

The point is, that if you’ve made good relationships with people in the past and you’re upfront with them in your message then usually people are more than happy to help you if they can. Whatever you do, don’t beat around the bush if you haven’t spoken in five years – you’re less likely to get a response if you’re just “seeing how they are” plus, if they do respond and then you follow up by asking for a favour it makes the initial contact seem disingenuous. It can be awkward to make that first contact but with the right approach and a bit of luck it can be worth it. This is actually how I got my start!


Australian Survivor S2 Luke hiding in his spy shack
Image source: Australian Survivor / Endemol Shine Australia / Network 10

Gather information: Linkedin is amazing for helping you find contacts in television – especially in Australia where credits are rarely rolled at the end of any TV show (unlike in the UK). It’s a good idea to have a Linkedin account, even if you are limited with your experience. When you are just starting out (and don’t have any industry contacts) then connect with your friends – you may find that they are connected with someone in TV and didn’t even realise.

The best thing about Linkedin though, is that you can search for the name of a production company – if you filter it by location and current employment, it will come up with a list of all Linkedin members who work there. Production managers and production coordinators are the best contacts for a runner role. Once you have their names, then you should be able to work out their email address if you already have a generic company email address (usually is a safe bet). In my opinion, email is the best approach when making first contact – wait until you’ve met or better still have worked for a person before connecting.


Survivor Heroes vs Villans final 3 Parvati Russell and Sandra
Image source: Survivor / CBS

Create a CV that gets you an interview: When you’re starting out – you should aim for you CV to grab attention and stand out from the rest. If you’ve got any kind of design skills, create a CV that represents you – something that shows you take pride in yourself and your work. That being said, it should still be professional – don’t go too crazy or create something that’s hard to read and above all, make sure that you have proofed it – spelling and grammar mistakes just look lazy (especially if you list ‘attention to detail’ as one of your strong points!!!

Just because you don’t have television experience doesn’t mean you can’t make a solid resume (you’re NOT a goat and people definitely won’t be dragging you into the industry), so think of all the qualities and experience you have that would be valued in an entry level role – people and communication skills, money-handling experience, drivers license, working with children check etc. Keep it to one page (max 2) – any more than that is unnecessary and probably won’t even be looked at.

For the final five tips for landing your first job in TV, check out Why Starting Out In TV is Like Playing Survivor: 10 Tips For Getting Your First Job in TV Part 2 HERE…

Australian Survivor S3 Champions vs Contenders Tribal Council

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