Tips to secure work experience in journalism

In an industry which is notoriously difficult to penetrate, it can be hard to know where to start and how to get that first foot in the door of the world of journalism.

In an industry which is notoriously difficult to penetrate, it can be hard to know where to start and how to get that first foot in the door of the world of journalism. One way of doing so is work experience—it looks great on your CV and helps you get a feel of the industry.

But even a short placement can be a challenge to obtain. Here we have some tips which will help you stand out from the crowd and get that all important experience.

Do your research

Go online or even to your local newsagent and take a look at the publications on offer. You may have a couple of magazines or newspapers you read religiously, and some you check out intermittently, but make yourself aware of what else is out there.

It may be your dream to do a stint at ELLE or The Guardian, but you’ll want to target as many publications as possible. It is even worth looking at Business to Business (B2B) magazines in a sector which may interest you, such as travel or finance. Find some that interest you or catch your attention and learn about them.

Get to know the publication by picking up a copy or check out their website, know what they’re about and who they target.

Get in touch

Once you’ve got a shortlist of publications you want to target, find a phone number for the editorial team and call them. Introduce yourself, tell them you’re interested in doing some work experience with them and would like to know who to send an enquiry email to.

The majority will give you a personal email, not a general one. Make sure you get the name of the person you’re contacting and address them accordingly. Calling the magazine before you email means that your application will get to the right person, and they’ll probably remember your call and look out for your email.

Email them straightaway

Once you’ve hung up the phone, get your email sent ASAP. If you can get your application in as soon after the conversation as possible, they will still have your chat in their head and are more likely to remember who you are.

Therefore, they’ll be more likely to act upon your enquiry and get back in touch with a speedy reply. Be sure to reference your call in the email.

Spruce up your CV

Make sure your CV highlights all your talents and achievements. Whatever writing experience you have, make sure this is the first thing they will read on your CV. Don’t just tell them that you’ve written for Kettle, tell them what skills that experience has given you.

Also, get yourself an online portfolio and include a link to this somewhere prominent on your CV.

Write a cracking opening letter

When sending your application, put your opening letter in the body of the email; it’s just one less attachment for them to worry about and means they’ll get the most important information about you immediately.

Everyone will structure their letters differently, but here’s a suggested formula:

Introduce yourself, your reason for emailing and a quick sentence about your situation. (i.e. at university or just graduated).

Tell them whyyou want to work at their publication specifically. Try to reference specific articles or campaigns which might have caught your attention.

Include a paragraph about your strengths and what you hope to achieve from work experience with them.

Finally, let them knowwhen you’re available. Try to be as flexible as possible.

Make sure you tailor each email to each publication, there’s nothing worse than sending out a generic email—they’ll spot it from a mile off. Make sure they know you are genuinely interested in what they do.

Follow up

Some magazines or papers will get back to you pretty quickly while others may take a bit more time. If you haven’t heard back within a week or so, make sure you give the publication a quick follow up call.

Just introduce yourself again, let them know you sent an email and are just following up. Not only may this speed up the process, but it will let the publication know you’re keen too.

It may seem a convoluted process, but doing your research and showing publications you’re committed will pay dividends. Don’t be afraid to back yourself and your skills and don’t be afraid to aim high.

Following the process above, I wrote to several national magazines with just a bit of student newspaper experience behind me. Some never responded, but I did secure placements at two national travel publications, a B2B magazine and a website.

Do your research, persevere and don’t be put off by rejection; then you will succeed.

What do you think? What have your experiences been like? Have your say in the comments section below.