Before employment gaining experience in a production environment is very advantageous. For me this came after some of the DMP exercises which I both discussed and showed examples of in the previous chapter.
Even if this is free work you have to start somewhere. What working in a production environment will teach is giving you an overview of some of the most common tasks, working to deadlines and dealing with client feedback. These things are very important and being able to experience them before landing your first job is very useful.
Think of this like being a football player or an actor. You could be the best in the world at either of these two things but if you have no experience then Real Madrid or the next big Hollywood blockbuster won't come knocking on your door. Employers can relate to work experience and seeing that you contributed to a project is a good sign for them. Expecting a big studio to snap you up with no prior experience is ambitious thinking and usually doesn't happen unless you're exceptional or very lucky. Something to be said here is that some of my best work has been from small independent projects free of charge.
In regard to reel development these projects are very useful. They offer big shots with a lot of control and freedom on your part. This is contrary to a large studio where you may receive big shots but will have to answer to many people in the pipeline. Therefore when it really comes down to it how much of the shot can you say is actually your thinking/ thought process.
Below I have attached examples of the first production experience I had.