This time last month I was driving home (technically ‘driving home for Christmas’, in fact) eager for the relaxation, fun and inevitable indulgences of the next 14 days to commence. At the very moment my exhausted, pre-Christmas work brain was beginning to wind down for the holidays, I was also attempting to mentally gear up for my new job at NBC Universal, starting in January.
Having never worked in media before, I was as excited about the prospect as I was nervous – it would be totally new, and pretty strange learning a completely new and different industry. However, three weeks after my first day I am starting to understand this (quite complex) business, and already love it.
Once you get to NBC Universal’s office in Central Saint Giles, it is pretty obvious you work within entertainment. From huge cut-outs of various film stars, to screens playing the latest big-release trailers, there’s no mistaking where you are. The other day I walked past a meeting simply titled: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Why not?
I have joined the International Talent Acquisition team as a Manager for our Theatrical business. The film division is great: there are loads of brilliant releases and interesting things happening this year so it’s been the perfect time to join. What with Pitch Perfect 2, Jurassic World, Fast & Furious 7 and Minions coming up, it’s all systems go. And while you get a bit of an insight at interview, you never really know how much you will get on with the people you’ll end up working with. Fortunately I’ve lucked out at NBCUniversal (and I’m not just saying this for brownie points), everyone’s been really welcoming, fun, and easy to work with.
Last week I spent the day at the CNBC Fleet Street studio. I have never seen a live studio in real life, and it was nowhere near what I expected. At CNBC you effectively have to walk through the studio to go to the loo, you bump into the TV reporters in the office (a gentle reminder to wear more make-up on CNBC visit days), and you can hear the news live from your desk. For someone who has just spent three years working on Slough trading estate, it’s pretty impressive.
Iam trying to think of something to write that will convince you that I am giving a balanced view of my new job and company . The best I can come up with is this; it’s easy to get lost. Today when I arrived for work I got all the way to my desk before realising I was on completely the wrong floor surrounded by a team I definitely didn’t know. They may or may not have been gently laughing at me.
If you hadn’t considered NBC Universal or the entertainment media industry before (as I hadn’t until recently) but get excited by the idea of working for a fast-moving and creative business with fascinating products and hugely talented people, I’d challenge you to consider it.
It’s around this time of year that journalists go into overdrive – trying to predict trends, forecasting big events and imagining new products that will take the world by storm. Even the political campaigns are starting now, a full 5 months ahead of the general election. And in our world of talent and recruitment, we’re trying to work out what our business will need from us in 2015 so we can get one step ahead.
Along with planning our workload for the year, I’m also a sucker for a New Year’s resolution. So in 2015 I’ll be walking 1000 miles and doing the 5:2 diet. However, I’ve noticed that people don’t often make team resolutions – sure, we talk about our plans and aspirations for the year, but we never really make resolutions. By resolution I mean adopting a change of activity, behaviour or mind-set, not just taking on new projects or pieces of work. So I thought I’d have a stab at a short list of some recruitment-related resolutions for my team that will help keep us doing a great job all year, something both we and our customers can hold ourselves accountable to:
Now these resolutions don’t seem tough or hard to tackle, they just seem to be common sense. But is it really that easy? As a manager, do I need to put these resolutions in my team’s individual objectives or just assume that we’ll all make them happen? It’s food for thought, but putting them down on paper seems like the right place to start. And now I’ve committed them to public viewing, we’ll have to stick to them .
So from the Talent Acquisition team at NBCUniversal, we wish you a very Happy New Year and look forward to whatever 2015 may bring. Keep checking out our new jobs at www.nbcuni-internationalcareers.com and following our latest updates on Twitter @NBCUglobaljobs.
UNIVERSAL PICTURES INTERNATIONAL OPENS BEIJING OFFICE
Something rather special happened on Monday 17th November.
At the Park Hyatt hotel in Beijing, Universal Pictures International officially opened its Beijing office.
The great and the good of Chinese cinema were invited, including exhibitors, distribution partners, consumer product licensees, promotional partners, film agency partners, advertising agencies and the like, as well as our own stars in the form of Jo Yan, MD for China, Jeff Shell, Chairman of NBCUniversal’s filmed entertainment group, and Comcast Chief Brian Roberts.
Last year saw global box office revenues gross over US$35bn. An ever growing percentage of this revenue is coming from China. And according to most sources, China is now the second biggest box office in the world, behind the US.
And as US studios continue to develop their attempts to woo an ever-growing Chinese audience, NBCUniversal is looking at playing a major part in driving that growth, not just through the distribution of our own movies, including the likes of Jurassic World and the Minions movie, but also through the co-production and co-financing of locally produced content.
UNIVERSAL’S NEXT THEME PARK IN CHINA
We also recently announced the creation of our next theme park, to be based in the Tongzhou suburb of Beijing.
A joint venture between Universal Parks & Resorts and the Beijing Shouhan Cultural Tourism Investment consortium, this $3bn investment is expected to cover up to 1,000 acres, and will hopefully open around 2019. With many estimates indicating that Chinese theme park visitors will rival US numbers by 2020, the timing couldn’t be better!
RECRUITING IN CHINA
Given the growth of our operations in China, and the development of our strategy across the broader Asia Pacific region, we’re always on the lookout for the very best talent to ensure the success of these major projects.
From Sales and Marketing, to Business Development, to Finance and Distribution, our teams are being challenged in new and exciting ways every day. And working in places like Beijing and Shanghai offer our teams invaluable insight into the Chinese market and culture.
The next few years are going to be pivotal in NBCUniversal International’s presence in the region. To be a part of this incredible journey, and to fast track your career development in one of the fastest growing and dynamic markets in the world, keep a close eye on our International careers site for opportunities to join us.
Earlier this month we held an assessment day for our Future Leaders Programme, our flagship commercial graduate scheme running across the International Television businesses. From a staggering 1,200 applications, we guided our candidates through a range of assessments before a final twelve were selected and invited to the last stage, the assessment day.
After a fun evening of (sensibly restricted) drinks and an ever so slightly foreboding welcome from our SVP of HR David Walsh, the final twelve prepared themselves for a full day of assessment involving a group exercise, individual presentations and sit-down interviews with senior people from the TV business.
So far, so X Factor. But we’ve seen from the results that assessment in this environment is an effective way to identify core competencies and potential. Which is particularly difficult when everyone attending is qualified, talented and quite frankly, lovely. So … how do you prepare yourself to succeed at one of these assessment days?
Often at NBCUniversal International, this first round is managed by our recruiters. Our role is to find out more about your background and skill set, your motivations to join our business in a particular role, and to gauge whether you’d be an overall fit for the company.
We are also there to ask questions. Whether you’ve applied for the role or we’ve approached you, we view the interview process as a two-way street. It’s as much about you feeling comfortable with us as an employer, as NBCUniversal International wanting to bring you on board. We want to sell you the value of working with us.
Your interview is unlikely to look like this…
So, it can be a little disconcerting when (having deliberately left 20 minutes for this exact purpose) we ask, “So, what questions do you have?” and … nothing. Often people say that they have done extensive online research, or that they’ve worked in a similar business, so they feel very comfortable. Which is great, but there’s only so much you can gauge from the outside, and we admire inquisitive, curious types.
With that in mind, there are some questions that we feel a great candidate would want to know. Often these are:
You’d be surprised how often this isn’t asked! You spend a surprising amount of time at work, and thinking about work, and we want to make sure that you understand who we are and what we stand for. We will be honest – and glad that you have expressed the need to work in an environment that suits you, as well as a job that you’re qualified for.
We usually get as far as titles, but bear in mind you’re working with internal recruiters. Often, we know the manager and the team, and on occasion they might be someone we’ve been to the pub with! So feel free to ask.
Is there anything about my application that you’re concerned about at this stage?
You’re already at the interview stage, so don’t be afraid to ask about this. It shows a willingness to learn and improve yourself, which is great. And again, we’ll be honest, and try to help you think about ways to strengthen your application, for now and the future.
Particularly for strategic or senior roles, we’d hope that candidates will be inquisitive about the bigger picture. Of course, we won’t grab a flip chart and start outlining our entire strategy, but we can give you an idea of where we see the business going, and our challenges and opportunities going forward.
This is a question that people are often cautious in asking. There’s no need to be – we do support flexible working as a business, and it’s useful for us to know what you’re needs are in this area.
A really good question, as it shows you’re performance-orientated, and that you want to understand our expectations.
For a few seconds I was stunned – nobody had ever asked this. But it was a brilliant question – that candidate came away with a lecture on our current situation, how we stack up against the competition, international growth, an in-depth discussion on China, talk about our epic Christmas party, thoughts on Downton Abbey season 5 (in fact I don’t remember if we discussed that but we discussed pretty much everything else!) and much more. By asking one simple question, he learned more than anyone else in the process. And that stood him in good stead.
The moral of the story is – don’t be afraid to ask. There are very few stupid questions, and we are here to help. Just don’t ask us what’s going to happen next on Made in Chelsea. On that, we know as much as you do…
A snapshot of the hard work (and some play) that goes into putting together one of the classiest exhibition stands at the MIPCOM market in Cannes.
Every October major players from the entertainment industry all over the world head to Cannes to buy, sell and explore the latest content. As the event continues to grow it is not just big traditional players in the TV world that make the trip; the presence of digital buyers like Amazon and Netflix continues to climb.
Here are some facts and figures to give you an idea of the scale of the event:
And it feels like it! It’s hard to believe how many people descend on this surprisingly small French town in October each year (a lot of them also head to the slightly smaller MIP in April), and what really surprised me is the fact that no-one is actually there for the conference. Doing business is way more important than attending the lectures – in fact, nobody I know actually went to see any of the keynote speakers (James Murdoch and Simon Cowell no less). People came here to buy and sell TV content, and that’s what they did.
The sheer volume of content on display was gobsmacking. There were hundreds of stands from all over the world packed into the Palais des Festivals. Some of the bigger companies had hired their own tents (read marquees) and others had huge balconies for entertaining their guests (including NBCU). Some of the smallest companies had one or two representatives, whereas the bigger ones took a hundred or so delegates with them. It was surprising to see just how much is being produced globally, and that there is genuinely is a market for all this diverse content. The ideas for TV programmes never seem to dry up – just when you think you’ve heard the wackiest premise for a reality TV show ever, Celebrity Pole Dancing comes along and trumps it.
So why were NBCUniveral Recruiters there?
Good question. Looking at the above, I did feel slightly fraudulent visiting MIPCOM. I wasn’t buying anything. And I wasn’t really selling anything. Although I guess you could say I was there to sell NBCUniversal to potential candidates. Because whenever and wherever a large group of industry executives congregate, Recruiters will be sure to follow. It’s only natural that internal recruitment teams like ours, and also recruitment agencies specialising in the entertainment industry, would flock to one of the biggest television conferences in the world. Nowhere else do you find the entire industry – including key decision makers and content creators – trapped in one place for three days, and in the mood to talk.
With over 2,000 exhibiting companies it is also a perfect opportunity to pick up on industry trends and suss out what is happening within our competitors. Running from meeting to meeting, we spoke to some exciting people, swapped industry information and generally pitched NBCUniversal International as a great place to build a career.
So despite the madness, it appears that lots of work actually gets done. It’s not a jolly (as many people in the office believe) and actually the long hours of meetings are harder work than a normal day in the office. Having entertained candidates over breakfast and lunch in lovely bistros and invited them for coffee in some of the nicest hotels in the South of France, I’m just not sure why no-one believes me…
Generation Y, or Millenials, don’t just expect a good starting salary. Even a generous holiday allowance and company pension aren’t enough. I’m not sure when it changed, but at some point during the noughties, graduates also began expecting compensation for travel, the ability to work from home, a company mobile phone, a funky Christmas party and more besides. Maybe as companies started trying to differentiate themselves in the war for talent, they realised the more benefits they offer, the more they stand out.
During my first job for a small firm in 2004, the owner of the company decided to take us all shopping with a personal allowance to buy smart clothes for work. It still sticks in my memory of what constitutes a great perk. Surely perks like this must be a driver of employee engagement as well? Other perks I’ve been treated to are a limo ride, the latest mobile phones and the ability to buy more holiday allowance.
Perks are funny things though. The ones that are worth the most money often seem to be the least interesting to us. What is the one thing that’s had people most excited this year at NBCU? Free ice-cream every Thursday throughout the summer. And boy, when those little tubs have run out, there is hell to pay if anyone missed out.
Funnily enough, because most of us still adhere to the age old taboo of not discussing what we earn, the perks are the only bit we really talk to each other about. I for one have done my fair share of boasting when I’ve told everyone I know about NBCU’s summer hours policy (Friday afternoons off don’t you know). But the best bit about working here has to be the screenings of the latest films and television shows, and free DVDs. We even treated our employees to a showing of Lucy at the IMAX last month. And everyone looks forward to the opportunity to win tickets to Premières, most recently Boxtrolls.
So I guess what I’m saying is I don’t know exactly when or why perks happened, but let’s be grateful that they did. For more information about the culture and perks at NBCUniversal International, check out our careers site.
Returning to work after my Mat Leave was a scary prospect but I am surprised to say that it has been exhilarating so far!
It’s been a month since I swapped my baby bag for my Louis V Neverfull (which is now always full: BlackBerry, wipes, business cards, baby biscuit crumbs, dummies) and, while it is hard to say goodbye to my daughter in the mornings, it’s equally as thrilling to have a largely uninterrupted coffee, and talk to grown-ups on a regular basis.
NBCU have been great – I’m now working flexible hours, and doing a day from home which both make the inevitable juggling act much easier. So far, the balance is working and the team have been very supportive, to the point that my lovely colleagues have allowed me to bore them with the obligatory iPhone photo collection!
I hope that this flexibility and willingness to support working mothers is true across the board, and the statistics certainly seem to be positive: a study by the Office for National Statistics found that the number of women with dependent children in work, has leapt my almost a fifth since the mid-1990’s.
So, one month in, and I’m already creating a recruitment toolkit and masterminding training for some hiring managers. I’ve also met some really interesting candidates, getting back into interviewing at a run. Company drinks at The Ivy were a great re-introduction to the company’s social scene. I entered a staff competition to win a trip to Universal Orlando, trying out or brand new internal social network, and am going to a staff screening of The Purge. So far the only big downside has been avoiding the free Thursday ice-cream (mission to lose baby weight severely tested by the salted caramel!)
My tips for coming going back into work:
I can genuinely say that, although I had a great time on maternity leave, I’m immensely happy to be back at work and hope to be a great role model for the Mini-Me as she grows (or at least nab a few Barbie DVDs to bring home from work!)
Working Mum, signing off x
About a year ago, Joe Cooke, a current Future Leaders Programme participant, successfully passed the interview process and assessment centre to begin his FLP adventure in January 2014. Here he tells us more about his experience so far.
“What really stood out was the exposure to senior leaders from the beginning of the programme. You are in a privileged position with unparalleled access to senior staff. Every executive contacted is happy to take the time to speak with you – these include SVPs and Presidents of the business. In this major career step, having open access to senior management and their experiences is invaluable.”
One of the most challenging projects Joe has worked on was at the end of his first month, where he reviewed the strategy and global trends for the formats business. “There was an immense amount of information to cover as well as trying to get to grips with data systems. The key was to see through all the noise and grapple with the core, underlying issues”.
As a big fan of the latest TV productions, Joe believes that “the best thing about NBCUniversal is the access to content – both Film and Television. We have a 64 seat 3D Cinema on site with a screen club allowing all employees to watch Universal content the week it airs. And also receive free DVDs of all new physical releases.” His next project will be to review NBCUniversal’s presence on YouTube and how the business can enhance and develop this area. Joe’s journey at NBCUniversal will continue with rotations in different departments and will hopefully culminate in him being taken into a Manager role at the end of the programme next year.
Does the Future Leaders Programme sound like something you, or someone you know, might be interested in exploring? If so, please visit http://nbcuflp.com because applications for FLP 2015 are now open.
Earlier this year LinkedIn announced it had hit 300 million users worldwide. LinkedIn has changed the recruitment landscape for us, and there’s nothing better than finding someone online, and then seeing them succeeding in our business.
So, are you using LinkedIn to its full potential? To help you understand what we look for, here are a few Top Tips for building and maximising your profile.