Ashley Golder

Pay it forward, but don’t forget to pay it back!

How I got in and got on, without forgetting who got me in and got me on…

We’ll skim over the incredibly catchy title and get down to the point… This article is all about remembering those who got us to where we are. For me this article is dedicated to Helen, for without her, I would never be where I am today.

It’s odd, I’m now at a place in my life where I can give opportunities to people who are looking for such an opportunity like I was when I started out. I was begging for a similar opportunity, something to do, anything!

I was 20, the job I was in wasn’t fulfilling me the way it used to anymore, despite being incredibly rewarding towards society – I needed more! But I didn’t know what that was, what it could be or even how to get it.

I took a walk with my Dad one day along the cliff top and vented these worries, I had no idea where I wanted to go. So he asked me… what do you want to do? If money were not an option, what would you like to do?

Well that was an odd concept because I needed money for (at the time) important things and not having money meant I would not be able to do those things. However, I entertained the idea and said I’d like to go into TV and start from the bottom as a runner and work my way up. In his typical selfless yet succinct way my Dad told me to not worry about the money and to go and do it, my parents would support me as long as I put everything I could into achieving this goal.

The next day I bought myself Spotlight Contacts 2009, an encyclopaedia of every industry contact you could imagine and a useful book for anyone trying to figure out the industry. I researched all the production companies in there to see who I’d like to work with or who may offer a job to someone with no experience in TV and the next few days saw 170 individual letters POSTED to these companies. I can tell you, even before the cost of stamps went up within the UK, that was a lot of money invested into the Royal Mail!

After a few months, those 170 letters saw 26 replies. Most of these were standard “we’ll keep your CV on file” – code for “we’ve thrown it in the bin” but one woman came through for me from the BBC.

Helen called me in to the now closed Television Centre in White City, London for a 5 minute chat over a coffee in between her interviewing for researchers.

Minute 1: “Your CV looks like a 12 year old made it”

Minute 2: “Here’s what it should look like”

Minute 3: “Here’s some other stuff you should do”

Minute 4: “Send it back to me once you’ve changed it and I’ll see what I can do”

Minute 5: “Thank you for coming in”.

5 minutes of her time is literally all I had, but from that, a week later, I had an interview which led to securing a job as a runner on the BBC’s flagship show: Strictly Come Dancing.

The point of this article is not to give you the start of my life story but to use that as a background for what happened next and the start of my philosophy for how the industry should work.

Before I had got the confirmation that I was to work for Strictly Come Dancing but after my interview, that evening I ordered some flowers and a card to be sent to Helen at the BBC.

Now, I didn’t have to. I was most likely a blip on her radar and she fitted me in between some other work she was doing and therefore not a massive amount of time out of her day. However, the point is she still did it. She gave up her time to someone with no experience and then followed her promise to help me out. It deserved a lot more than a £20 bouquet of flowers but that’s all I could afford at the time.

It is important to remember those who have helped you out, no matter how small or insignificant you may think that is. It should be your philosophy of common courtesy that if someone has given you a leg up, be it a running job for the week or a career for a couple of years, you should remember those who helped you get there. Without them, it would not have been possible. Without there generosity you may not be where you are today.

From my own personal experience now, I have helped those just like Helen helped me 5 years ago. Whereas I don’t expect people to buy me flowers, I do remember those who have been grateful for the opportunity and said thanks, and I also remember those who couldn’t care less. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know which group I’m more likely to offer the next opportunity to.

So just remember, it doesn’t take much to show your gratitude and thanks to someone who has gone out of their way, no matter how little, to help you. They didn’t have to. So send them an email, give them an update of how you’re doing and where you’ve come since that first opportunity. Buy them a drink or, if it’s more convenient, send them a Starbucks voucher so they can have a drink on you!

Our line of work is tough. It unfortunately is an industry of needing to know the right people. So, pay forward your good fortune but don’t forget to remember those who gave you your good fortune.