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 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 on revealing a Survivor 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.

Congratulations…you’ve made it to the Merge and half way through my 10 Tips for Getting Your First Job In TV. If you haven’t read Part 1 then you can access that blog post HERE. Otherwise read on for my final five tips…


Australian Survivor Season 1 Lee and Kristy competing in hand on an idol final immunity challenge
Image source: Australian Survivor / Endemol Shine Australia / Network 10

Get emailing and don’t stop: Once you’re armed with email addresses and you’ve got your CV ready to go, then you need to get typing. Your emails should be tailored to each person, avoid “To Whom It May Concern” where possible (it sounds super formal and impersonal) and never copy and paste a standard email template – nothing says you couldn’t care less like a generic email and, in such a competitive industry, it’s a good way to get your CV filed straight to the bin.

You should make reference to the TV shows made by their company or reference how you got their details ESPECIALLY if it was through a mutual friend/acquaintance (it’s a good idea to check that this person is happy for you to name drop first). Keep your email brief and to the point and make sure you include your contact details in your email signature (make it easy for them to get in touch). Keep it professional but don’t be too formal (TV is a fairly casual industry).

Above all, don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back – production managers are always busy and while you are agonising over the email you’ve just sent, for them it is just one of hundreds going through their inbox on any given day and as amazing as you probably are – getting back to you is probably not at the top of their priority list. Don’t take it personally. It’s definitely worth getting in touch again a month or so later…just because they didn’t get back to you then doesn’t mean they won’t ever get back to you. Timing is everything and if your email lands when they are desperate for runners and all their usual crew are booked up – you may just get a call and hear those words “YOU WIN REWARD” (but probably something less dramatic that indicates you’ve got the job). 


Kelly Wentworth playing hidden immunity idol at tribal council
Image Source: Survivor / CBS

Timing is everything: While you may not be in the know of what shows are crewing, you can use a bit of common sense to increase the chances of your email being acknowledged. I would suggest that you try and stick to sending emails between Tuesday and Thursday and during business hours. If you send it between 10am and 4pm you stand the best chance of it landing while they’re at their desk and that’s exactly what you want.

Mondays and Fridays are typically bad days for sending a CV. The first and last days of the week are usually hectic and once the work is done on Friday then usually people have the weekend on their mind (or getting a call sheet out for a Monday shoot!). Emails sent on the weekend and after hours run the risk of being lost – a lot of people have emails on their phones and while they may open it, they’re probably in the middle of something much more exciting to even finish reading it or give it a second thought. I guess sending a mistimed email is like being sent to Exile Island for a while…it’s a setback BUT at least you’re still in the game! 


Australian Survivor Season 3 alliance strategising
Image source: Australian Survivor / Endemol Shine Australia / Network 10

Create a database of contacts: If you’re playing the long game then you need to have a strategy. I have to admit I’m an organiser and I love an Excel spreadsheet so this comes naturally but I would highly recommend that if you’re starting out that you create a spreadsheet that lists all of your contacts – include their name, production company, role, phone number and email address (you may not have all the details but include what you do know – you can always add to it) and make a note of the date you contact them, how you’ve been in touch and the outcome – ie. Emailed 12/12 – responded to advise no opportunities at the moment but could be in the new year.

It may seem funny at first while you don’t have many contacts but you will find that the number will soon grow and when you’re sending hundreds of emails, it’s important that you keep track of it all. The last thing you want to do is get someone offside by hassling them too many times or missing an opportunity by forgetting to follow up at a later date. Just be aware that production contacts can be freelance too, so their work emails can change as they move to different companies…yep a good old fashioned drop your buffs situation. 


Australian Survivor Season 2 champagne alliance is formed
Image source: Australian Survivor / Endemol Shine Australia / Network 10

Take advantage of opportunities: When you’re sending out your emails – sometimes you won’t get a response. Be prepared for this and don’t let it get to you. Keep trying. Be persistent, just because things didn’t go to plan the first time doesn’t mean it won’t fall into place next time, after all…Boston Rob played four times before winning the game and he’s considered one of the best players of all time! Sometimes you’ll get a response that says that there aren’t any current opportunities but they’ll keep your details on file. This will happen a lot and it may seem insignificant but it’s a start and you need to make the most of this.

Thank the person for their response and let them know that you’ll be in touch again at a later date. If they’ve indicated in their email when they’re more likely to be crewing up then make note of it – if they passed on your CV to someone that’s great – if they have provided an alternative contact for you…that’s even better. The key is to follow up…not to the point where you’re borderline spamming but every 6-8 weeks is fine. Try to have a new reason to be contacting (Ie. You mentioned that you may be crewing up in March so just wanted to follow up).


Australian Survivor Season 1 Nick's torch is snuffed by Jonathan Lapaglia
Image source: Australian Survivor / Endemol Shine Australia / Network 10

Back yourself, stay passionate and keep at it: No one won Survivor by quitting. Trying to get into TV can be soul-destroying but persistence does pay off. It’s hard when you feel like you have so much to offer but no one will give you a chance to prove yourself. It’s important that you remember how much you want it – if you honestly feel like this is 100 per cent what you want to do with your life and that you wouldn’t be satisfied settling for any other career then you should keep trying. There were moments when I questioned what I was doing and whether I should just give up and take the easy option but I had to remind myself every day to trust my instincts and follow my passion.

Almost four years on since landing my first contract in TV – I’m exactly where I want to be. I’ve ticked off some of my all time dream shows and can honestly say I’m doing what I love. It isn’t an easy road but starting out really is the hardest part – with a bit of hustle, a lot of patience and a good attitude you can get there.

Remember, the game starts when you hit the beach, so hit the ground running and make the most of every opportunity because a career in TV is definitely worth playing for!

Australian Survivor Season 3 Champions celebrate a win
Image source: Australian Survivor / Endemol Shine Australia / Network 10

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Want to know what you can expect from your first year in TV? Check out my post 5 Awesome Entry-Level Jobs You Never Knew Existed In TV.

If you’re interested in hearing the stories behind the people that make the TV shows you love then check out the Beyond Reality Podcast. In this series, I chat to industry professionals about their careers in TV, how they got their start and what they did to get to where they are now. Follow the link or search for Beyond Reality on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.