With less than a month to go until my student bubble bursts, I've recently been dedicating
time to job-hunting. Be under no illusion; this is possibly one of the most demoralising experiences
ever. In case you've been living under a rock, the job market is not pretty. Had I graduated three
years ago, this might not have been such a problem. However, pre-university I got lost in Paraguay,
caught a horrific tropical disease, felt decidedly iffy for about a year and dropped out of university
to become a chalet girl before giving education another stab. Older and wiser, I am now in my final
year at the University of Leeds studying English Literature and Spanish and, like a lot of other people,
I am keen to become a journalist.
OK, so I've not (yet) been head-hunted by The Times but I do have a couple of pieces of advice to
impart to those interested in a career in journalism: start a blog (and keep it updated, abandoned
blogs are so gloomy), get involved in your local or student paper, fathom out and embrace Twitter,
be persistent and, most importantly of all, get cracking early.
Until my year abroad in Spain I hadn't really considered a career in journalism - frankly, I hadn't
considered having a career at all but apparently they're rather vital, so I jumped on the bandwagon. Whilst
living and working in an eerily boring Andalusian village during my "year abroad", I had to find new ways of entertaining myself. I wrote a blog about my day-to-day life as an English teacher and local novelty. What started as something to while away the hours became something that I really enjoyed writing, so with that
under my belt, I started to apply for internships at magazines.
Thanks to my blog I was able to prove my interest in writing during my interview for an internship at
www.hellomagazine.com's headquarters in Madrid. I was their online marketing and editorial intern
for the summer, which meant I was responsible for social media, Google Analytics and monitoring
our competitors' sites, as well as helping the team to write daily news stories and sourcing and
editing photos. I learnt a lot about Kate Middleton's wardrobe (and had a recurring dream that we
were best friends), the Scandinavian royals (they get everywhere) as well as more than I ever thought my
brain could handle with regard to techno-internet stuff.
After my sunny Spanish summer, I headed back to university and offered myself as a food blogger
for the university's student paper. If there is one thing I've learnt so far from my journo quest, it
is that blogging is a pretty big deal. The beauty of blogging is that you really can bang on about
whatever you fancy. I chose food because I like to eat, cook and feed. Provided that you keep it
updated and it's not drivel, it's a real asset on your CV, as a potential employer is then just a click
away from your writing.
If you're keen to get into journalism after graduating, getting a few by-lines to your name whilst
at university will undoubtedly help your case as well. Student papers and magazines are a good
place to start. Don't be put off by the hordes of people who turn up to meetings at the start of the
year and volunteer themselves for every story going. Their enthusiasm soon dwindles and a core
group will remain. Providing that you can be relied on to come up with fresh material and work to
deadlines, you should find yourself inundated with opportunities to write.
I have decided to do the NCTJ's Diploma course to get a formal journalism qualification. I have heard
that it is still possible to get into journalism without one of these fancy and rather costly pieces of paper, but I have also heard that your chances are higher if you're fully trained in media law and shorthand et cetera.
So with the NCTJ in the pipeline, I'm looking for work experience for this summer. I haven't exactly
exhausted the search but I've made a start. One channel that I've been using is Twitter.
Once you've got to grips with hashtags and who's following who, Twitter can be a really useful
tool in your search for contacts plus it's an effective way of touting yourself and your writing
around. However, once you've obtained contact details, don't for one minute expect said contact
to respond! I've spent days and a fair amount of dollar buying and researching magazines so that
I can rave about their mag in a cover letter only to not hear so much as a peep back from them….
charming. But I'm pretty sure this is the nature of the industry and current economic climate (that's
what I tell myself anyway)… watch this space!