Finding your first job in journalism – Part 3
It’s no secret that journalism is one of the most difficult industries to break into – so we’re bringing you a 5 part series on how to land that elusive first job. The author of our guide is Laurence Cawley, a professional journalist who has worked in the regional and national media for the past 10 years. A dedicated shorthand practitioner, he is also the editor of http://www.shorthandworld.co.uk.
Part 3: Standing out during your placement
When you are offered work experience with a newspaper, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to ensure you get the best out of the placement and that you show your best sides to an organisation that is a potential employer. It is wise to:
Dress smartly and appropriately as you would for a formal job interview. You may be sent anywhere at any time and, even if you are on work experience, you are still an ambassador for the newspaper. If you end up shadowing an established reporter to court, you must wear a shirt and tie if you are male, or be smartly dressed if you are female. This sounds an obvious point but I’ve known work experience candidates turn up wearing jeans and tee-shirts and in one case a beanie hat.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about things you are unsure of and offer your help whenever possible. Help may include offering to get file cuttings from the library or even just making the coffee. The point is you want to come across as a keen learner who wants to pitch in.
Try to find stories both during the working day and outside of working hours. Most news-editors and editors would be highly impressed with a work experience reporter bringing in their own news stories. They may not get used, but they will get you noticed. If they do get used, however, they will be more than noticed – they will be appreciated and you will be held in increasingly high esteem.
Listen to everything that is said to you. When I first did work experience for an evening title in Yorkshire I was fresh out of Cambridge University and I was convinced I was one of the best writers in the country. I was wrong, and I did not have a clue how to write a news story. When this was pointed out by the news-editor I was taken aback at first but I quickly saw what she meant and tried my best to learn the craft from her and to learn fast. The golden rule really is to do whatever is asked and to heed advice . Be confident, by all means, but avoid coming across as arrogant like the plague. Remember, you are there to learn.
Always turn up on time. This sounds such an obvious point that you might be surprised it’s in this list. Believe me though, it wouldn’t be in the list if it wasn’t a mistake I’ve seen made again and again. Try to be a little early and leave a little after you are told you can depart. Newspaper reporters have to be punctual in their starting times because many newspapers are deadline driven and news-editors need to be able to bank on staff being where they are supposed to be in case they need something covering at very short notice.
Be affable and upbeat. I’ve seen many work experience candidates sit quietly in the corner looking moody. I know that in most cases this was a sign of nervousness in a newsroom. Whilst I can sympathise with that, I would much rather help a candidate who is making an effort to be a pleasant presence around a newsroom.
These brief pointers should help ensure you get the best out of your work experience placement and that the newspaper gets the best out of you. Somebody who is remembered as smart, friendly, helpful, eager to learn and always turns up on time will be in good stead for a job when their training is completed. They are also the most likely candidates to be offered further work experience in the future. Exceptional work experience placements can also lead to a newspaper paying thousands of pounds to get you trained up as a journalist with the offer of a job at the end of the training. Not all newspapers offer this, but many do. Either way, work experience is the most important first step in becoming a journalist. The second step, of course, is learning the craft through training.