I decided to write this post as I will be on a work experience placement at a commercial radio station in a few weeks time. As a result, the below advice may be slightly radio-focused. That being said, a lot of what is written below also applies to newspaper placements, placements in TV, and work experience generally. Do get in touch in the comment section and let us know if you have any other tips or advice. After my placement, I will – of course – tell all to Wannabe Hacks…
Do your research.
Know the publication/radio station/production company you will working for inside out. Familiarise yourself with the regular columnists/presenters. Google the person who has offered you the placement. Where do they fit in to the company? If you have accepted a work experience placement at a radio station, do you know who the main players are? There is a handy file hidden away on radio station websites called the ‘Public File’ (usually in small print at the very bottom of the homepage) and this will list a lot of useful information about the station. It’s worth a look.
Ensure that you have the direct number of the person in your office who offered you the placement and, once you have started your placement, the direct number of anyone who has set you a deadline. Perhaps more importantly – ensure they have yours. Other handy numbers to have (if you are at a radio station) are the ex-directory phonenumbers for both the newsroom and the studio.
This also applies to after your placement. If you enjoyed the placement, made a good impression, and can see yourself working at the same place in the near future, follow up with an email thanking your employer for the opportunity and mention that you may be in touch about further placements. Keep your options open.
Know what is required of you – exactly.
If you don’t understand what has been asked of you – ask for some clarification. You will save yourself a lot of googling/fretting time. Plus – not all stations/publications operate in the same way, so something you have learnt at a previous placement may not be relevant here. Know your deadline. Set alarms on your phone leading up to that deadline. Don’t forget!
Try to read the ‘rhythm’ of the office.
If you have been left with nothing to do, try to find an opportune moment to ask someone what you should be getting on with. This opportune moment is not two minutes before the hourly news bulletin. Wait until someone is free to give you a task. In the meantime, try not to look as if you are doing nothing. Have a notepad with you and scribble down some ideas for your editor.
What to wear.
This is always a tough one to get right. On your first day, aim for slightly smarter than you assume you need to be. This means, for the girls, that you take a smart jacket with you and, if your bag is big enough, a smart pair of heels just in case you are sent out on a story where more formal attire would be more appropriate. Gents should have a tie in their bag for the same reason. If you are traveling to work by car, it makes sense to take some weather-specific options with you in the boot. Obviously this isn’t possible if you are arriving by tube, but it makes sense to check the weather forecast and see if wellies, trainers, or a winter coat will be required. An umbrella is a must – not only for you, but for any equipment you take with you. Past generations of Wannabe Hacks have some great advice on what to wear here for the boys and here for the girls.
If in doubt – leave it out!
You are on work experience and still learning the ropes. Make sure that someone checks anything you write before it goes on air.
Check your equipment.
Ensure any mics, audio recorders, or cameras you are given are in working order. Check the batteries and have spares.
And finally, don’t settle for making cups of tea.
Don’t refuse to make a cupppa, but try to intimate that you are a skilled and enthusiastic individual who really wants to take more away from the experience, especially if you are on a respected journalism course or have a wealth of newsroom experience on your CV already.
What happened on your first work experience placement? Do you have any tips or advice? Get in touch and share with us your work experience stories in the comments section below or in a tweet to us @wannabehacks.
Image on the homepage courtesy of H is for Home.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look