Work placements, work experience, internships…you name it there seems to be a hell of a lot of different terms for getting experience in journalism. But what do they all mean- do they just mean the same thing?
The terms can be interchangeable, for example I always used to think work experience was the same as internships but just an American way of saying it. Alas, whilst internships are the American version of work experience, the term in the UK does not mean the same.
I found after some discussion with fellow journalists and a little research online that there are some slight, if important, differences.
So here are some handy definitions to help clear up any misunderstandings and more importantly help you choose which type of experience to suit you.
Let’s start with the length. Work experience lasts at most for a couple of weeks, any more than four it is termed an “internship”. While internships are usually longer term, lasting from a couple of months to a full year.
Work experience is thought to be only for those at school, who are perhaps told to get “experience” in year ten or eleven.
However, with Journalism the traditional definition of work experience does not fit the bill. For aspiring magazine or newspaper journalists, work experience is a necessary step for those studying at University or those who have already finished their degree. Applicants tend to be older, as often magazines only accept those eighteen or over and are already at University. Aspiring journalists often undertake lots of work experience to break into the industry, hence why we tend to be older!
Internships on the other hand, are thought to be for those who have completed, or are on a placement year from their degree. In the UK internships organised by Universities are known as “sandwich” placements, usually found on businness, language and law courses. They are typically not found on journalism and media courses where Internships are usually found by the student themselves and are taken after a degree.
Internships can be paid, but in the media world are like gold dust at the moment. Rare and highly sought after. Undertaking some unpaid
work experience before hand would give you the upper hand to secure a paid internship.
If you are undertaking an (unpaid) internship you should at least be paid travel and perhaps lunch expenses as you are there for a longer period of time.
Some work experience placements do cover travel expenses, but always check beforehand with the company you are working with so you don’t get caught out!
What you’re likely to doing there
As you’re only at work experience for a short amount of time you are generally given less responsibility. Making tea, assisting your colleagues with tasks and overall getting a taste of what it is like to work in the professional environment of your choice. It’s a great way of making contacts and putting yourself forward for possible paid opportunities in the future.
In contrast at an internship as you are there for longer, you will (or should) be given more responsibility. Performing your own role and undertaking tasks independently there is a greater chance to learn new skills and to get something out of it. There is also a better chance of getting to know your employers and to make an impression, which if you’re lucky could result in a job at the end. Unfortunately, unlike in ye olden days where an internship resulted in a job, in these recessionista times there is no guarantee of such an outcome.
Work experience placements are the norm at magazines and newspapers, so if you are looking to make an impression try to stay as long as possible at one publication. Top magazines/newspapers often have many people on work experience coming in and out of their doors it is better if they can get to know you personally, as then they are more likely to remember you. Plus if you’re there longer you will be trusted with more responsiblity and be given tasks to show them what you’re really made of!
I’ve “interned” at a lot of magazines and found the ones that I have happened to stay at longer; I have gained and learnt more from. I have also known aspiring fashion journalists to intern at PR companies, ooh the dark side, where you do experience very much the same as you would do at a magazine (just you’re calling the mags, not the other way round!)
So which one’s for you? I would say the internship has come out on top from this comparison, as you have a better chance of gaining and learning something new from the experience. You can find small magazine or online websites offering internships but for top consumer magazines usually work experience is the usual way in as they have bookings of “workie’s” every week.
Coming soon… a comparison state side of their version of work experience, or should I say “Internships”. What do you think, do these definitions ring true for your experiences? Work experience or internships- or neither? Let us know your thoughts @Wannabehacks.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look