Work experience in journalism- how to get it and make the most of it

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THIS post is for anyone thinking about a career in journalism. As we touched upon in how to work in journalism, work experience is essential.

How do you know if media is for you without stepping in a newsroom? Employers are much more likely to take you on if you have experience on your CV. Newsrooms are small and stressful these days – en editor wants to know you can jump in at the deep end.

So – how do you get work experience?

Quite simply, if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Journalism is about asking questions. So it stands to reason you’ve got to ask! It can be daunting to put yourself out there, but remember – 1) newsrooms get requests like this all the time 2) The worst thing they can say is no.

Don’t expect rejection, but prepare for it. The likelihood is that if you send off ten emails, you might hear back from one. And that’s the same in any profession, for any job application or cold call.

Think about the type of work experience you want.

Broadcast, magazines, newspapers – local or national. If you aren’t sure of the type of journalism you want to go into, it’s helpful to get experience in variety.

Don’t say you’re ‘thinking’ of ‘maybe’ doing journalism. We want people who really want to be there – newsrooms are small and everyone is pushed for time – and a person who demonstrates real passion is much more likely to get a placement than someone who comes across as flaky.

Tailor your letter to the person you’re addressing. Don’t address a female editor as ‘Sir’ (trust me, not impressed). Don’t copy and paste the same letter to several companies. You WILL accidentally leave the name of another company in the letter and the person who receives it will just hit delete.

Make things simple for them – keep your letter straight and to the point and suggest some dates you can do. That way they can just some back with a simple yes or no. An editor doesn’t have time to go through the diary and go back and forth with you over dates you can and can’t do.

Follow up with a call. It means they’ll have to give you a response then and there. It also shows a bit of tenacity (essential journalist trait). And in this world of technology where people don’t talk much on the phone anymore, it helps you stand out.

Here’s a brief template you could use:

Dear [name- yes find out the name of the person you need]

I am studying XXXX with a view to go into [type of journalism that organisation does].

I would love to carry out a work placement at [name of paper]. I really enjoyed your story on [insert story] and visit your website every day. I am available for a week’s placement between X and X or X and X. I appreciate how busy you are but if you could let me know on [insert number] or by email that would be great.

Turn UP

What’s the point in wasting an opportunity? You never know where it might lead. Approach work experience with professionalism. Make sure you know the dress code, show up on time, be enthusiastic…and be willing to make the tea!

Come in with ideas and if you want stuff to do, ASK. You’d be surprised how many kids come in and sit quietly waiting for something to be handed to them. Nothing in life works that way – a placement is what you make of it.

Say thank you

They’re much more likely to remember you and have you back again. OR write you a letter of recommendation/ give you a good reference for future news editors and employers

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