At university, I studied to be a journalist. I’m not quite sure how or why I wound up studying journalism, but I enjoyed every single minute of it. During my second year, I really started pushing the work experience aspect of things. My professors told me there would never be a better opportunity to try my hand at different professions – but I stayed focused on journalism.
I spent two years on and off completing work experience at some of the UK’s biggest newspaper titles – the best two years of my life. I’d set myself the target of getting a front page story at some point in time – that was the goal (I couldn’t really think of anything better/grander). Halfway through my second year of work experience, I smashed the goal – I got a front page story! I got another one soon after (although I opted for my by-line to be removed).
After getting two front page stories I couldn’t really see anywhere else for me to go as a journalist – even though I was still on work experience. As much as I loved it, I didn’t like the lack of money which so many of us graduated journalists lived on. It wasn’t for me. So, I packed my bags and left the world of journalism.
Application Process for Work Experience in Journalism
Before you start thinking about spending hours every day applying for hundreds of different jobs, I’m of the belief that everyone should complete work experience. The vast majority of companies will only take you on a work experience placement if you’re still in college or university. Instead of spending every night getting wasted, you should think seriously about how you’re going to find work experience opportunities during your studies. There will never be a better time.
Applying for work experience in the world of journalism doesn’t tend to follow a set procedure – it tends to be a case of plucking up the courage to email (or hound) editors and journalists to ask if there are any work experience vacancies available. Don’t go sending work experience requests to the news desk of your local paper – send them to a real person. Take a few minutes to find the email address for the editor or sub-editor of the publication. A good place to start is to find your favourite news sites and contact them. Lots of journalists will supply their articles with their email address too. Be warned that some publications offer work experience but there’s a long waiting list – it took me three years to get a placement at The Times (but it was well worth it!).
Application Process for Getting a Job
Getting a permanent job in the world of journalism is extremely difficult. If you built up a good portfolio of published work during your degree, you might be able to apply for any vacant reporter roles, providing you have the NCTJ qualification under your belt. If you have a sparse portfolio and you don’t have the NCTJ qualification, you’ll have to apply for graduate schemes. Most newspapers run these schemes, but places are extremely limited (ie, most top titles recruit one or two people on these schemes each year). Competition is fierce, to say the least – so ideally you should have an impressive portfolio behind you. The other way into the world of journalism is to become a freelancer upon graduation. This track can grant you the opportunity to get really great titles which can later be used to impress employers for a permanent job.
What I Learnt
Before I went to university I completed work experience in a garage. I knew immediately that working in a garage was not for me. The long days and constantly being covered in oil and grime really put me off. Contrast that with journalism where I had a whale of a time. Work experience is the best possible way to ‘try before you buy’. Before you go all out to secure a job in your desired industry, why not complete work experience there first to ensure it’s something you actually enjoy? I know people that have spent six months or more applying for jobs in a certain industry, only to find they absolutely hate it when they do find employment.
Job application forms and interviews all take time to complete. You need to be 100% sure you’re applying for the right job in the right industry. Whilst you’re in university it’s essential that you “try before you buy” with as many careers as possible, ensuring you end up doing something you genuinely enjoy.
Adam Grunwerg, founder and editor of the graduate careers advice and jobs website graduates.co.uk