If you’re thinking about a career in journalism but want to know more about it, work experience could be your solution.
As well as learning more about a journalism career, work experience will be a valuable, often vital, part of your CV when you come to apply for jobs.
It’s seen as important in the world of journalism, even if you’re going for a trainee job, because it shows the hirer you’ve had experience on the job and know a bit about what to expect.
This said, editors understand traditional shadowing and work placements are not always possible. And with more and more people realising the need for the media to reflect our diverse society, no one should feel like journalism is a dead end for them because they can’t get traditional work experience.
There are different ways to get valuable work experience and we’ve rounded them up.
Traditional work experience
We’ll start with the one you may already know about: spending a week or so at a newspaper, magazine, radio station or TV show. This is a fantastic way to gain more of an understanding about what the job might involve and what your future career could look like (and decide if you actually enjoy it!).
It’s also a great chance to gain some new skills and make some contacts, so make sure you write everything down. Add people on LinkedIn after your work experience if you can – you never know when you might want to get in touch again.
Finally, if you can get your work published or help on a piece of work that’s put out into the open, jump on the chance. You can add it to your portfolio when you apply for jobs later.
Getting this sort of work experience is all about writing to the places that you would like to try out. Find email addresses for editors and producers online and send your CV along with why you’d like work experience and your availability to come in. Avoid doing work experience for longer than two weeks unless the business will pay you and remember you’ll need to be able to get to the offices of your chosen place.
Maybe you want to do the above type of work experience but cannot travel to the locations you need to. This is where funding may be an option.
Talk to your school about needing some financial help to complete work experience and explain to them why the experience will be so valuable to you. You may also be able to get money back for your travel and lunch from the company you would be doing work experience with – this is something to ask them before accepting any work experience.
Remote work experience
If traditional work experience is not possible, remote work experience can bring a lot of benefits. It may not be as commonplace but it’s really worth writing to anywhere you’re interested in, explaining to them that it’s not possible for you to travel in but that doing work experience is really important to you.
With the internet, phones and the blessed video call, it is possible to work when you’re not in the same location as others. And while you may not get the feel of a newsroom or recording studio, you will demonstrate skills you can’t get from traditional work experience – autonomy and independence.
Paid freelance work
Shock horror, there’s a chance you could even be paid to get some journalism experience.
If you’re in school and just starting out, you could do worse than start pitching article ideas to editors. If you’ve got an idea for an article that you think would work well in a specific newspaper, magazine or online publication, send the editor your idea. It’s important to think about whether your article would actually work in the publication – would you expect to read it there? If not, then you probably shouldn’t pitch it!
It’s important to realise that editors receive a lot of pitches every day from journalists of all experience levels. So whatever comes of this, it’s worth sticking it out. You never know what can happen once you start connecting with editors and getting your name out there.
Don’t underestimate how important student journalism is. If you already have a newspaper or magazine at your school, this could be your ticket to getting that first bit of journalism experience on your CV.
If your school doesn’t have any kind of magazine or paper, could you consider setting one up? If this really isn’t an option and you’re headed to university, join in with student media when you get there, whether that be the newspaper, radio, or TV station.
Student journalism can be a microcosm of what it’s really like to work in journalism. You can learn so much as well as gain invaluable skills and meet like-minded people who perhaps want to follow the same career as you.
Guess what’s totally free and something you can do from the comfort of your bed if you want to? Starting a blog!
Many people out there have blogs so spend some time thinking about your niche. What are you interested in? Is it politics, history, or food? Then, if you can, narrow it even further. US politics, the Tudors, and chocolate. A blog can be about anything you like but passion is the key. If you’re not interested in what you’re writing, your audience probably won’t be either.
You can set up a blog for free on a tool like WordPress.
Bet you weren’t expecting this one! Social media can be an incredible tool to showcase your potential as a journalist, but you do have to put some thought into it. As funny as cat videos are, they’re not very likely to show off your journalism flair.
A bit like with a blog, start by thinking about how you want to focus your social media. It doesn’t have to be as niche as chocolate or the Tudors but consider what you care most about and start using your social media to share your thoughts around these issues. Then inject some personality into your social media. Don’t be afraid to share personal news, thoughts or experiences, as well as your professional posts.
If you can spend time building a presence on social media it’s a fantastic way to show potential employers that you make the effort to keep up to date with current events and engage in topical debates.