My five tips for journalism students

journalist, tips, advice, careers, Alex Veeneman, Kettle Mag
Written by Alex Veeneman

There are many things that journalism students ponder about as they prepare to return to university for another year, from planning schedules and content for student media (and elsewhere) to dates for pending work experience placements.

There is however the ultimate question – am I able to get a career in the industry that I’m studying?

Journalism is changing right before our eyes. Social media is evolving how we not just consume but create and disseminate media, while the print industry figures out its role in an age of fluctuating advertising, and the internet influences distribution and output of major broadcast brands.

But as it changes, the reason why you wanted to pursue work here has not. You want to help improve the civil discourse – you want to make a difference in people’s lives. You want to educate, to inform, to stimulate, and to engage the public, in order to help them be better informed.

A career in journalism is not out of reach.

Here are my tips to help you get there.

Stay up to date on trends

You are pursuing a career in journalism at an interesting time for the industry – a time where trends and the technology that surrounds it is changing. It is important therefore to stay informed with trends. Read journalism news sites and media sections (i.e. The Guardian’s media section, The Drum, Press Gazette) in addition to other news sites.

The more reading you put in, the more of a contribution you can make when it comes to course discussions or other work in your modules.

Get involved in student media

Whether you are studying journalism at the undergraduate level or not, getting involved in student media can help develop your career.

Indeed, many student newspapers across the UK have editors that aren’t studying journalism directly (they’re studying Politics, English Literature, History, Economics or another subject), but hope to pursue a career in journalism after they graduate or go on to get their NCTJ qualifications, either through an MA or another programme, either from the Press Association or elsewhere. The same rule also goes for student radio and for TV.

When the opportunities arise, don’t be afraid to sign up or learn more. You’ll have a beneficial experience, meet a lot of new people, and begin to build your portfolio and career.

Do some networking

Twitter and LinkedIn have become quintessential tools when it comes to networking in journalism. Follow journalists you admire on Twitter in addition to others in the industry, no matter if you’re looking to go into broadcasting, newspapers or online. Engage with them and ask questions, and learn what you can from them alongside what you’re learning at uni.

In addition, network with journalists on LinkedIn and build a professional following. It doesn’t cost anything, and the contacts you make now will benefit you as you progress through your degree and beyond.

There are also organisations you can get involved in within student media, from the Student Radio Association and NASTA (National Student Television Association) to the Student Publication Association (of which Kettle is a member publication). You can interact with others across the UK and exchange tips and ideas.

In addition, there are other organisations, including Sound Women (an organisation promoting women in radio) and the National Union of Journalists, which have student memberships. These would increase your opportunities to network.

Build your portfolio

There is more that you can do in building your portfolio with student media. You can also build your portfolio through work experience placements as well as for writing for web sites, including Kettle. It will help you build your CV and help you stand out in the crowd.

In addition, this also allows you to build a niche that you’re interested in and perhaps want to pursue further as you work towards your degree and begin your career.

Don’t be discouraged

This may be obvious, but to me, this is the most important tip of all. Don’t be discouraged.

Study hard, but don’t be discouraged if something happens during an exam or if you don’t get that placement – it’s not the end of the world. If something happens and you can’t get a job right away or you’re unable to afford a Master’s degree, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to have a successful career in journalism.

Keep working and keep trying. There is a route to your journalism career – even if it’s not the one you planned.

Journalism may be changing, but your prospects of a successful career in this industry have not. If you work hard and put in the time and effort, you will be rewarded.

What other tips would you add? Have your say in the comments section below.