Monday, 6 April 2015

Tips for becoming a journalist from a trainee reporter

I realise I am extremely lucky to be able to say I'm currently in my dream job at the age of 22. It was first 'real job' - besides a brief stint as a waitress and time spent in retail - and I somehow managed to get my foot on the journalism ladder before I'd even graduated. 

In terms of my job, I still believe it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. In case you don't know... I started out on a six-week paid placement at the Nottingham Post in July. This was then extended for an extra month, and another month, then another six months, until in January I was offered a permanent position.

I was offered the initial placement after going for an interview to be a digital journalist at a new publication the paper was setting up. Despite technically being successful, the job fell through, but luckily I managed to secure the work experience.

I see numbers of work experience students coming through our doors daily, and I can remember the struggle and stress of realising university was soon ending and I needed a job. I could've stayed at Boots, but I knew that wasn't what I truly wanted to be doing.

So around this time last year, before I'd finished handing in my assignments, I started applying for jobs. When it comes to sending in your CV and covering letter, you need to tailor them to every job. It's time consuming, but it's definitely worth it. Make sure you show off your current skills and knowledge, and let the company know how you can benefit them.

In terms of where you should be looking for available positions. I'd recommend these websites:
Local World
Johnston Press
Journo Grads
Diary Directory
And remember - don't ever stop yourself from applying for a job because you don't think you're good enough or have enough experience. There is no harm in sending in an application.

I understand it's hard to get a job in journalism unless you have experience. My experience was my blog, plus a two-week placement at a magazine. But despite this, I understand the importance of getting yourself into an office environment. My first day at the Post wasn't that great at all as I had no idea what to expect due to my lack of experience. But luckily the editors were willing to work with me.

Secondly, whether you're a fresher, handing in your dissertation or are about to embark on a work placement, make sure you work hard. Journalism isn't a glamorous job - there are definitely perks - but it's mostly long hours and stress. The industry is extremely cut throat and filled to the brim with deadlines. And if you don't have passion, organisational skills or a good work ethic, you'll struggle.

Also it's worth working on your contact's list. After 10 months, mine is now nearly bursting at the seams but to start with it was awful having to ask the other reporters for their contacts. Writing a story is a lot easier when you know exactly who you should be speaking to and that by giving them a phone call they'll give you the comment you're after.

And finally, we're in the midst of the digital age so brushing up on your web skills is a must. They don't need to be extensive, but learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite and content management platforms and also teaching yourself SEO is beneficial. If you can, HTML is worth knowing too.

If you have any questions, or would like further advice then do contact me! Although I do realise I'm still very new to the industry and have a lot to learn.

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Do you want to be a journalist?