You love writing, are curious about people and are hoping for that first break into the world of journalism. There are thousands of other keen graduates out there with great writing skills, vying to get into the industry so how do you go about securing your first job in this sector? Along with perseverance, here are our 5 top tips...
1. Write for free
Being prepared to write for free while you build up a portfolio is essential. It’s likely you’ll need to do this alongside another job so that you can pay the bills. Don’t see this as a negative though – if you’re doing another job this means you know about something which in turn may be something you can write about. Plus, it shows your commitment to writing - doing this in your spare time while holding down a job really conveys a sense of hard graft and desire.
Get involved with your student paper. This really is the best opportunity you will have. Also, target websites and blogs who look like they would benefit from extra content and ideas. Even if you don’t end up getting them published, this gives you the chance to hone the skill of pitching and learning to work with an editor - all vital ingredients to becoming a successful journalist.
2. Demonstrate dedication
As well as showcasing your academic ability, you need to communicate a clear dedication to journalism. All your clippings and showreels need to be preciously kept. Your blog needs to be well maintained, fresh and up to date. It’s paramount you undertake a dedicated journalism course – these are highly regarded by the industry. The Broadcast Journalism Training Council and the Periodicals Training Council both accredit courses. The NCTJ Diploma in Journalism offered by the National Council for the Training of Journalists is considered a must by most regional newspapers.
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3. Read everything
You may not appreciate the tabloid tattle of the latest celebrity affair or which footballer has recently become bankrupt but the fact of the matter is that these tabloids papers sell millions of copies every day. And they have a voice. You need to know what these voices are, what their tone is, what their angles, successes and negatives are. Compare and contrast with broadsheets, magazines, financial and hobby websites. Everything you can get your hands on. You need to understand the industry and you’ll need to be able to converse about these topics in any interview.
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4. Sharpen your shorthand
In press and particularly most newspapers, editors will insist that trainees have at least 100wpm shorthand. It is an important skill which ideally all journalists should possess. Often, a digital recorder is not allowed into an interview and therefore you’re reliant on your note taking. Any sort of misquote could potentially lead to lawyers being involved – something every editor will want to avoid. So, get ahead and improve your shorthand. It’s practical and shows your commitment. It may also put you slightly ahead of other job seekers who see shorthand as something that’s in the dark ages.
5. Grasp Grammar...
This won’t be a surprise but all editors will expect a high standard of English. Grammar, spelling and punctuation need to be perfect for any reporter’s stories to be taken seriously – and that applies to broadcasting as well as the press. An editor will not have time for a sloppy journalist.
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