Durham might seem far removed from the cultural metropolises of New York and Los Angeles, where companies like HBO and NBCUniversal are headquartered, but recruiters from leading media companies such as these will be available to connect with students at Duke’s annual Media-Ville. Students interested in careers in the creative industries can stop by the Media-Ville table at Duke’s Fall Career Fair, which will be held Sept. 25 in Wilson Gym from noon to 2 p.m.
What students can expect
At the Media-Ville table, students will be able to sign up for five-minute Skype sessions with representatives from HBO, NBCUniversal, United Talent Agency and Discovery, Inc. Business casual dress is recommended and students are encouraged to be thoughtful about how to approach their brief conversations. Senior and prior Media-Ville participant Helen Healey advised that students come prepared to answer the prompt “tell me about yourself,” as recruiters may grant students complete autonomy to guide their conversations.
“I really researched the companies and tried to get a better understanding of what specifically they did,” Healey said. “I wanted to make sure that the person I was talking to was getting to know me in the five minutes I had and that I had specific questions on hand.”
Healey has been passionate about photography and the arts since high school. She started taking visual media studies courses as soon as she got to Duke, before she even knew she wanted to commit to the major. Yet she didn’t really understand what careers were available in the entertainment industry, and speaking to recruiters at some of her favorite companies helped her get a better sense of what opportunities are out there.
“When I saw that VICE was coming to Media-Ville last fall, I was so intimidated,” Healey said. “I thought I wasn’t cool enough to work for them, but I remember telling the recruiter my story. She told me that I sounded like such a good fit for VICE and I was so shocked. I’ve really struggled with trying to figure out what career path to explore and it was so reassuring to hear that from a recruiter.”
At the time of her Media-Ville experience last September, Healey was preparing to spend a semester in Los Angeles as part of the Duke in L.A. program. She also spoke to an NBCUniversal representative and she mentioned that the two are still in contact, a fact that she finds comforting as she looks towards graduating in May.
“Even though I didn’t end up getting any [internships] from the conversations I had, it was a nice — especially before L.A. — to build a network of people that I could email,” Healey said. “Some of them I did end up staying in touch with and, who knows, something might come out of it.”
Audrey Howard, Trinity ‘19, also spoke to the NBCUniversal representative, as well as to several other companies, and voiced that her conversations were very casual and light, which helped her feel more comfortable asking “the real questions.”
“Never ask a question that can be answered online,” Howard said. “I was mostly interested in entertainment law, so I asked what kind of role entertainment law played at each of the companies I spoke to, and every answer was different. I wanted to know what the culture was among lawyers at each company, what their main tasks were, what their teams looked like — the types of answers I could only find out from someone who works at the company.”
Although Howard shared that she did not go into Media-Ville specifically looking for a job, she thinks that the conversations she had may serve as an important “stepping stone” to reaching out to the same companies again, now equipped with a deeper understanding of the companies that she spoke to. Audrey graduated last year with a degree in Global Cultural Studies and is now pursuing a masters in management studies at The Fuqua School of Business.
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For some students, conversations at Media-Ville can lead to real career opportunities. Doug Cohen, Trinity ‘18, participated for the first time during his sophomore year. He Skyped with the head of PR at Tandem Sports, a sports and entertainment agency in Washington, D.C. After keeping in contact throughout the year, Doug was able to secure a summer internship at Tandem.
Considering the volume of students that recruiters from these companies engage with each day, he expressed the importance of standing out and following up, as well as the efficacy of a simple thank-you email. It is admittedly difficult to make a lasting impression in a mere five-minute window, so Cohen advised that students focus on their unique interests.
“For me, I was always interested in sports, so whenever I talked to entertainment companies I talked about what they did in the sports world and how that interested me,” Cohen said.
He also mentioned that he read an article about Tandem before speaking to a representative at Media-Ville, and his ability to speak specifically about the company likely bolstered his candidacy for a potential internship.
Cohen currently works at the William Morris Endeavor talent agency in Los Angeles, where he is an assistant in the unscripted television department. Following his Tandem internship, Cohen spent the summer before his senior year interning at WME in New York City. He shared that it was a Duke connection that enabled him to work at WME post-graduation and subsequently transfer to its L.A. office. He noted that students should make use of the Duke Entertainment, Media & Arts Network, as he believes it is the most invaluable resource available to creatively-minded students.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without DEMAN,” Cohen said. “This is true with most other jobs, but the entertainment industry is even more so about who you know. That is how you get your foot in the door.”
Going into entertainment from Duke
Avani Gupta, a graduate student pursuing a masters degree in interdisciplinary data science, shared that she didn’t realize that DEMAN existed prior to Media-Ville. While data science might not be the most typical entrypoint into the entertainment world, Gupta said that she knew she wasn’t interested in consulting and was looking for media-related opportunities when she came across the Media-Ville table at last year’s Fall Career Fair.
“I was excited to see that there is any sort of focus on the entertainment industry within Duke,” Gupta said.
She targeted HBO specifically and spoke to a university recruiter, Anastacia Padilla, about the timeline of recruitment for graduate students. She felt she received a “lay of the land that didn’t feel generic.” Gupta said she was excited to return to the HBO table this year and to talk to Padilla again, as this time she can learn more about which particular entry-level positions may be open to someone with her skillset as she approaches her graduation date in May.
Padilla will be virtually present at Media-Ville again this year, and she emphasized that students should make sure to highlight their “major skill sets and past contributions.” In an email correspondence, she wrote that recruiters are most interested to hear what special, specific thing a student has excelled in, whether that be a leadership role in an on-campus organization, a project the student has kick-started or simply a unique interest.
Looking beyond Media-Ville, Padilla expressed that recent college graduates seeking to be hired at a company like HBO should pay special care to their resumes.
“The job search is about being timely and thoughtful,” she wrote in an email. “Taking time to tailor your resume to the job role will do wonders for your application.”
Whether students want to gain some first-hand insight into working at a popular media company or receive answers to specific career questions, the Media-Ville table at the Fall Career Fair is the right place to be.