Lessons Learned on the Job, Not in the Classroom

Lessons learned on the job not in the classroom

Guess what, those books you paid $800 for in college won’t really help in the real world. (Photo Courtesy: The Daily Republic)

College is the perfect transition between living under your parents’ roof and entering the real world.

It teaches you responsibility, how to interact with peers and most importantly how to do your own laundry (damn you red sock!). But it’s an extremely sobering moment when you realize, your first day on the job, that the text book you paid $120 for doesn’t actually have all the answers.

Working in entertainment is a unique work experience, only those that have lived it can truly explain it.

These are some of the important lessons that I wish someone taught me before I jumped in the deep end, of course I probably wouldn’t have listened…

1: Learn to Control Your Vices

When you work in television you quickly realize how different you are from the rest of your ‘normal’ friends.

At 5pm when most people are checking Facebook or planning dinner, you are just getting started. And don’t even think about getting a major holiday off in your first few years, you will be working when everyone else is carving the turkey.

The same is true in Radio or Music or Film, normal hours do not apply to you.

When you work an odd schedule you find yourself filling your time differently. Finish a recording session at 2am? Seems like a good time to go out to the bars.

On location at some ungodly hour to get just the right light, but finish your day at 9am? All your “normal” friends are going to work, why not entertain yourself in a different manner?

This is the pattern that gets people in trouble.

In television you always have a deadline looming, and the constant rush of breaking news is a natural endorphin for a true TV junkie. I used to get so ramped up for shows that at the end of my shift I felt like I could run a marathon. I’d continue that rush at a bar…all night. It didn’t matter if it was Tuesday night or Christmas night.

For most of us, it was just a short-lived ritual but I saw many people push the limits.

Lesson Learned:  Find an outlet. Your day will often hit its crescendo at some abnormal hour so consider a 24-hour gym membership or a hobby you can focus on to help bring you down from the rush.

Lessons Learned on the Job, Not in the Classroom #entertainmentjobs Click To Tweet

2: You’ll Learn More on Internships Than in the Classroom

Working in entertainment is hands on, no matter what job you are doing. Internships provide you with access to equipment and industry people that most classrooms can’t.

“Practical experience is just as important as education if not more,” says Sean Allen, Producer for New England Sports Network (NESN), “so I would recommend finding the best, most affordable school possible and doing as many internships as you can.”

For John Little, Former CNN  Intern Coordinator and Founder of The Winner’s Edge Consulting, the networking he was able to do at his internship eventually landed him a job.

“I logged 2-3 games a night, stayed until 4am, learned how to edit from the editors whose games I had logged, went back and re-edited those games after they were done, showed my work to anyone who would look and asked for their honest feedback.  I did whatever I could to make myself invaluable.  When the next position became open, I was hired.  5 months out of college I was working at CNN.”

Lesson Learned: Don’t just do an internship to fulfill a college requirement, get serious about it. Nobody made it big by sitting on the sidelines, get involved, ask questions and show your work ethic!

3: When you First Start Out Never Say  ‘NO’

Make no mistake, when you land your first job there is no task you are above. Work your tail off and you will get noticed.

As Bob Lorenz, lead Sportscaster for the YES Network put it, “If someone asks you to help pull a cable, pull it. Get coffee? Get it. Try working a studio camera? Try it. Help put together a rundown? Help. Run the network? Run it!  Because the more you do, the bigger edge you have over the guy or girl sitting next to you.”

Lesson learned try everything even if you've never run camera before

Even if you’ve never run camera before, if someone ask you to do it, get excited and leap at the chance!

My third year in television, I was the video editor for one of our signature shows, NFL Preview. It was 9:00 Saturday night and I was 95% complete when the hard drive on our edit system crashed and everything was lost. The show was airing in 14 hours and we had nothing. (FYI: TV is really bad when there are no pretty pictures)

My boss came to me and said, “I’m sorry but I’m going to need you…” I interrupted her and said “to get it all re-edited before 11am tomorrow,” she nodded her head and we moved on.

That moment showed my superiors that I could be depended on, no matter what the circumstance.

Lesson Learned: People will notice when you continually get the job done without complaining.

4: Asking Questions is NOT a Sign of Weakness

Every college program prepares students differently; some colleges focus on technical aspects while others focus on writing skills, storytelling and ethics. It doesn’t matter if you went to the best film school, you still don’t know everything there is to know about the film industry, so don’t get defensive about the things you don’t know.

I didn’t graduate college with much technical expertise so I started my first job very nervous about my lack of technical acumen.

Not only that, but I was way too competitive for my own good. I really believed asking someone a question would make them believe I was weak, or below them.

Instead I would watch someone with more experience and then try to copy the steps myself. Mimicking is not the same as learning. I wasn’t developing a true understanding of how things worked, so when real problems arose I couldn’t properly problem solve.

Lesson Learned: On the job training is essential, but only if you are open to it.

5: Listen

Learning to listen is a skill. Sounds silly, but no matter what job you go into in life you’ll be better at it if you learn to listen well.

As an entry level employee you will constantly be bombarded with instructions (it’s almost like being married).  How well you follow them will form the impressions of  your supervisors. If you don’t listen, mistakes will follow and then you’ll stop being asked to do things…and eventually be asked to stop coming to work.

“When I’m hiring someone for my crew I’m looking for a good listener, someone who follows instruction, conscientious, and smart” advises Glen Wilhelm, TV Director for the Seattle Sounders “and after all that someone who can think ahead and see what is coming next.”

Lesson Learned: Developing  listening skills is vitally important in every role. Rather than think about what you are going to say next, be present in that moment and really listen to what else has to say – you’ll be amazed how much you learn!

6: Develop Thick Skin

Pretty much every job in entertainment is intense because they are often facing deadlines. This isn’t a “have a meeting to discuss how we might do something next month type of industry” it’s a get it done right or get out of my way type of industry.

I know that sounds cold, but it’s the reality.

Tempers flare often. Mistakes lead to shouting. Deal with it.

“Getting yelled at is never fun and not something you expect at work,” says TV Director Brian Hegner, “unfortunately, there is so much stress involved with putting a production together that tempers flare and as a newbie everything will get directed to you. Don’t take it personally, learn from the mistake and move on.”

Everyone makes mistakes, but what truly matters is what you learn from them.

Everybody makes mistakes, what truly matters is what you learn from them #tvjobs Click To Tweet


  1. Be confident and thick skinned, but also be smart enough to ask questions and listen.
  2. Take on all challenges, you’ll make a great impression if you’re known as the person who is willing and able. 
  3. Internships are serious opportunities, don’t just go through the motions learn something important.

Have you ever been yelled at while on the job? What did you do? How did you handle it?

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. I have landed myself a job at a very new media service group n since i left college i havent been able to work anywhere in order for me to put my skills in practice, i feel i have forgotten most of the work that is concerned with audio and video production. pliz help


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