Journalism is a fast paced world. Emails are flying about left, right and centre. Some get missed, some get deleted, some just go straight to junk. That is why when it comes to getting work experience in journalism, we must not forget the impact that a letter can have.
Now, I’ve done my fair share of work experience. I’ve been everywhere from national newspapers to independent magazines to broadcast newsrooms. All but two have something in common for me. I got them by writing a letter.
A letter is unique in a variety of different ways and it shows a lot more commitment than just sending the same email to a variety of different people. I know that if I received several emails a day requesting work experience, my delete button would be worn out quite quickly.
That’s the thing about emails; young journalists are far too reliant on them. When I was at the BBC Points West, the head of work experience said she got several hundred emails a week and that there was no possible chance for her to read them all.
Last week, I mentioned Daan Louter, who set up a website to get noticed by the Guardian. But sometimes it isn’t about being technical, but going back and using tools that may have faded away over time.
A letter does so much more than just provide the same information as an email. It shows a level of commitment and allows you to really think hard about what you say.
First, you have to get make sure it reaches the right person. This might seem obvious and something you would do with an email. But the email address a publications asks you to send details to could be rarely checked, or even ignored.
If you send someone a letter, they are going to open it. You might see this as tricking the recipient but when a subject line of ‘work experience’ simply doesn’t work, it does show you are thinking outside the box.
Letters also mean you really think about what to say. So many people just take the same email and change the name at the top. This doesn’t work. Every word needs to be tailored to that publication and that opportunity. Changing the name simply isn’t enough.
I’ve always found that if I’m paying for that stamp I put in a little more effort during the writing process. This isn’t just any old email that is free and instant. A few of my own pounds are going into wanting this opportunity.
From personal experience, I’ve found that a letter really does stand out. People will not only open it, but read it through as well. If you’ve taken the time to post it, they’ll take the time to read it.
Next time you find yourself stuck for work experience, with emails getting you nowhere, try a letter. It might just be the difference between you and the other hundred inquiries.
Photo courtesy of Kirsty Andrews
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