I’ve got a job! My ten top tips for getting a job in journalism

When they say a lot can happen in a week, they ain’t lying!  The past week has been a whirlwind.

A week ago I went for a job interview in Reading and the next day I was delighted to find out I had got the job.  Four days  and 11 room viewings later I had found a great room with nice housemates, walking distance to work and today my deposit is paid and I’m all set to move in a week on Monday.

I’ve been given details of my job – trainee reporter on the Bracknell Forest Standard and patch – Crowthorne.  I can’t wait to get stuck in to my patch and build my contacts book.  There’s another trainee reporter starting the same week too and he’ll be working on the Wokingham Times.  Any stories send them our way.

Here are my top tips for getting a job:

1) Apply for every role and be prepared to move to get a foot on the ladder – if the job is far from home then point out you are willing to relocate on your CV or cover letter.

2) Make your cover letter sparkle and your CV clean without mistakes.  The editor or news editor will be sifting through potentially hundreds of applications so you want to make yours stand out.  This is the first chance for them to read your writing so make sure it is concise, engaging and without mistakes.  Get someone else to proof read it as a spell check doesn’t pick up the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ or whether you’ve used ‘your’ or ‘you’re’ correctly.  For a cover letter, read the job description and then use the cover letter to explain how you fulfil each of the requirements.

3) Get your 100wpm and have a full, clean driving licence.  For one job that got more than 100 applications recently, the first way they narrowed down CVs was to cut out anyone without 100wpm.  Also, I would say it is essential to have a driving licence as so many newspapers have relocated to out of town offices that you need to be able to use the pool cars.  If you have a car, even better but not essential.

4) Use your blog and Twitter regularly.  If you want to work on a local paper, they will be interested in what input you, as a young journalist, can give to the newspaper’s future, which is increasingly through digital and online content.  Being proficient with Twitter and other forms of social media shows that you can bring something to their paper.  Your blog is an extension of your CV and you can use it to collate all your published work in one place and showcase your writing.  If you show you have the discipline to regularly write a blog and keep it up-to-date then you show you have the capacity to work independently on copy for their paper.  When I went for my job interview in Reading, I had handed my portfolio in to be marked, but I directed them to my blog, which has all my published work and more.  I think this worked even more in my favour.

5) Fill your job seeking time with as much work experience as possible.  My opening line for my cover letter was: I finished my course on a Thursday in December, and on the Monday I was sitting at the news desk of my local paper with a pad full of story ideas.  The Reading Post people liked the fact I showed I was actively seeking experience from the word go.  I know it is sometimes disheartening to be uncertain of what happens next but trust me, I feel so ready for my first job after four work placements one after the other, since the course.  In fact, I am grateful to have worked on four very different papers already as it has built up my confidence and has thrown me in at the deep end.  (I feel I could walk up to anyone with the number of vox pops I have done in two and a half months!)

6) If you get a call for a job interview, remember this is the first time to demonstrate your amiable telephone manner (an essential journalism skill.)  Make sure you get all the details correctly as you would as a good journo and if it’s somewhere out of your area, ask them to post you copies of the paper to read and study before your interview.

7) Read the paper.  Although some employers may be aware that you might have picked their paper because that’s where there’s a job, make sure you read the paper.  They might ask you what you think of the paper and they will want you to have a grasp of the news that they cover.  This completely varies.  For example, when I did work experience on the Western Morning News, there is a big interest in farming stories and breweries are common.  Whereas somewhere like The Argus in Brighton has a very mixed demographic and would cover everything from the gay community to Brighton and Hove Albion, as a promising football team.  Remember though that the most important thing is stories that affect the most people, especially if it affects their back pocket (money).

8) Story ideas will come from reading the paper, but I would definitely prepare a list of story ideas to take to interview.  Think outside the box.  Facebook and Twitter are great sources of stories if you search through Tweets.  I also check the small ads in the paper and council websites as starting points.  I would also arrive early to the interview and look around the area for story ideas.  The best way to find stories is to be out and about in the area.  You might spot an ad on a community noticeboard or something might be right in front of you.  On work experience on the Surrey Mirror I saw piles of strewn donations outside charity shops and wrote a story on that, and on the way to my interview last week I saw a police car and ambulance attend to a motorbike crash, so I took the details of that with me to interview.

9) Lose your inhibition and showcase yourself.  Give a confident handshake, smile and be yourself.  If you don’t get it, maybe it’s just not the right job for you.

10) Come prepared with questions and be prepared to be tested on your media law on the spot and even sit a reporting test.

Good luck!