Harriet Small has been a journalist for four years and is currently a MA Magazine Journalism student at Kingston University. She began her career work at Daily Monitor in Uganda where she was a features writer and after two years began working as assistant publications editor for a bridal magazine and in flight airline magazine. Back in London she has done work experience at the Guardian, Best magazine, and soon will be at Shortlist and the Haymarket group as well as freelancing.
The old age philosophy, ‘experience is the best teacher’ is applicable to every sphere of journalism, but so is the competition for opportunities that are sparse. So we ask the question “how can I get work experience that pays off”.
Here are some top tips from journalists and students.
Laura Cox a Newspaper Journalism student at City University says, “Don’t send a round robbin type email to everyone in the company. They all look at it and assume that someone else will reply and nobody will.”
Mary Adeniyi, a MA Magazine Journalism Student at Kingston University says, “Apply well in advance as places go fast. Tailor your cover letter appropriately. It does not help sending the same cover letter to Look and Vogue because they are very different.”
Victoria White, Editor of Company Magazine says,” There are no tricks, you just need to persevere. Have a good well written email and something that will make you stand out.”
Kevin Maguire, Associate Editor at the Daily Mirror says, “I wrote 60 job applications after leaving university but didn’t hear back from any of them. You need luck to break into journalism and determination to be able to take the knockbacks.”
Paul Mason, Economics Editor, Newsnight says, “Manage your contacts. Everybody you meet could be a contact, file them and make notes about them and guard them jealously. Network relentlessly and get a business card find out where people you need to know hang out and get your face known as well as associating with a mix of journalist.”
Kerry Potter, contributing Editor at Elle magazine and former features Editor at Q magazine has some great advice, “In your email, make sure you emphasize how helpful you would be to the team, rather than saying something about how it is your dream to work there. Make sure you know the magazine and the subject it covers very well if you get asked to go for an interview.”
My top tips
- Ask reporters who are already in the industry if you can shadow them especially with bigger publications. Most will say yes or recommend someone.
- Do apply for schemes and programmes that come up, you never know what may come out of it.
- Don’t despise the days of small beginnings. Smaller newspapers and magazines are a great place to learn and develop your skills.
- Always follow-up if you don’t hear anything, either with a phone call or email. It shows your keen and you know where you stand.
- Have something to show even if you have never done any work experience. Come up with ideas at least.
- Follow the right people on twitter. Be in the know of who is who and what they do.
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