pulp and pith … current affairs blog

Work experience is an investment

Posted on: June 5, 2009

Aspiring journalists are willing to work for free.

It helps us prove to future employers that we are committed to the profession and possessed of some newsgathering, writing and editing nous. It also gives us the chance to get stuck in. Working in a professional newsroom is like jumping in at the deep end, and that’s a great test of our abilities. We get to learn how things really work; we get to land stories and see them published; as well as getting feedback from editors, forging great contacts and trying out some of the things we’ve been told in lectures or read in blogs or books.

Work experience can markedly improve us wannabe journalists. People pick up important things that wouldn’t occur to them if they weren’t actually doing it. There are a huge number of people keen to get experience under their belt in the hope of snagging that dream media job or prestigious course place; and there are almost as many organisations out there poised to take advantage of them.

At the moment paid entry-level jobs are rarer than a Telegraph leader that doesn’t involve MP’s expenses. Unpaid internships and work experience placements, however, are relatively abundant on the Journalism.co.uk forums and Gorkana.

A good work experience placement is valuable, so please don’t bother doing one that isn’t worth your time. Know what you’re getting yourself into before you go. Don’t put up with frustration and disappointment.

For example, if you feel that churning out copy for a website isn’t advancing your skills that much, why not start blogging instead? It’ll all be under your own name, you’ll have far more control over what you write and you’ll get kudos for showing initiative.

Being allowed into the newsroom of a national newsroom is awesome, but if it’s all tea-making and paper-pushing, ask yourself: am I okay with being here, doing this? Some might argue that being there, poised to take advantage of any stray opportunity, is enough. Others would tell you to run for the hills.

What I’m trying to say is: work experience is an investment. Make sure you’re clear in your own mind what you want to get out of a placement, and that you understand what a paper, radio station, whatever, is offering you before you accept.

Don’t allow yourself to be exploited, and don’t get seduced by visions of an impressively crammed CV into doing things that in reality, aren’t going to mean much to a savvy potential employer. Do what you think is worth doing. Target the places and people you think you would love to learn from, and don’t stop pursuing them (without straying into rabid stalkerdom).

Some interesting posts:

Too Old To Become A Journalist

Work experience – the good, the bad and the ugly

HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk

Securing journalism work experience: how to do it

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2 Responses to "Work experience is an investment"

I’ve written about my frustrations with this on my blog – http://graduatescribbles.wordpress.com . This is an industry where you must have experience to get in – but no-one is willing to give you any!

I finished my journalism course just weeks ago and will get a 2:1. I have applied for some entry-level jobs but, even for these, the recognised minimum seems to be a year’s experience, so no luck. I have had a few placements of a week or so and one in particular (Arena) was awful – and there was no way of telling how bad it was going to be, so work experience can be so hit and miss it is a bit worrying.

I will (unfortunately) go back home, work part time just so I can afford to work for free and hope that a) one placement goes so well it turns into a job or b) I get enough experience to qualify for even entry level. As far as I can tell this is, without a massive stroke of luck, the only way to start.

For placements I will approach organisations of my choosing, rather than go to places that I know very little about from Gorkana.

Hi, great post, and I like the bit about blogging. I trained in 2006 and have been blogging ever since. It was only since last year that I decided to brand myself with my own blog PLENTY2SAY (Twisted Politics) and I am getting a healthy stack of readers. Journalism is a competitive industry, and I’ve always wrote on my blog that if you are struggling to find work, both paid and unpaid, you would do well in investing your time, (assuming you have it) in setting up your own website or blog ) As you say, the beauty is you are your own editor, but it also proves to a future employer that you are active and not just stale not doing anything.I actively look for campaigns as well on my blog.

Will be following you in future.

Pop over and take a peek at my blog on http://www.plenty2say.com.

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