6 Ways To Land That Journalism Work Experience You Want

Journalism is a notoriously difficult field to get into. It’s a world where a great writing style or an impeccable knowledge of grammar won’t get you very far unless you have the contacts and the drive to get some work experience. It’s the common paradox whereby you need significant work experience to get a job in the field, but to get work experience you require previous work experience, which essentially leaves you frustratingly staring at the screen pondering the possibility of starting up your own successful newspaper by the time you leave university. Nevertheless, it’s not impossible to gain an advantage in journalism through your time at university. The tips below are some suggestions that might just put you that tiny bit ahead of your competitors come graduation.

1)     Write, write, write.

Although you won’t get far without work experience, the most crucial thing to be able to show when you’re trying to succeed in journalism is that you can, and do, write. This writing can be in many forms. Many people use a blog to showcase their writing, whether published or not. Some are themed – you may have a blog full of your witty social observation pieces, or a website that posts serious analyses of cat videos within the phenomena that is viral digital culture. No matter how niche your writing is, if it’s good, and if it can draw the reader in, it will be impressive to potential employers evaluating your strengths.

2)     Take advantage of student publications.


Aside from a blog, take advantage of the myriad of student publications around Durham and get writing. Aside from Palatinate, The Bubble, The Tab and, of course, Her Campus Durham, there are wider student publications like The Global Panorama that invite you to write in a variety of sections with minimal commitment.

3)     Flex your editorial skills.

Once you’ve gotten a feel for the kind of things you like to write, and have shopped around for your favourite student publications, have a go at applying for an editorial role. Editors are open to any subject discipline and as long as you can show passion, creativity and organisation, along with excellent writing skills, you’ve got a good chance of being added to the team. From there, you can work your way up or across sections to get a feel for what best suits you.

4)     Scope out local papers.

The Northern Echo often runs week-long student placements for those looking to start out in journalism. They’re one of the best placements on the market and offer the chance to work with the news team on numerous different jobs: in my own placement, I covered the Durham Book Festival and the University’s matriculation ceremonies all in the same week.

5)     Try your luck at a national paper.

Notoriously competitive but worth it for the reputation, national newspaper and magazine placements are the best way possible of marking yourself out from your competition. Getting a placement doesn’t mean you won’t succeed in journalism, of course, but it does give you a huge advantage. Try the big national papers, magazine publishers like Conde Nast and Hearst, and broadcasting companies like the BBC (who offer regional placements). You have a much higher chance of winning a placement at a company like this if you have the experience listed above.

6)     Take a course.

Many recruiters now require journalists to carry an NCTJ or equivalent qualification before they are employed. The qualifications are run in universities and colleges across the country and range in cost. The Press Association are also a good shout, with courses in Newcastle and London covering news and magazine journalism at almost half the price of university courses. You will learn skills in shorthand, media law and sub-editing amongst others, making a course one of the most worthwhile ways of gaining experience before you get a job in the media world.