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The Great Job Hunt

With around two months to go until all teaching is finished, all exams are over and all assignments (bar the dreaded final project) are handed in, my thoughts have turned firmly to finding a job. This is for several reasons: I would like some money, I would like to move out of my childhood home and into a houseshare with my lovely friend who is getting rather tired of waiting for me to join her in London, and (perhaps most importantly of all) I do not want to write another dissertation.

At Kingston, we have two options for the final three months of our degree. We can write hefty 12,000 word dissertations, or we can get jobs and spread those 12,000 words between 4 smaller assignments, including a portfolio of published work. I wrote a dissertation during my final year at Durham. I chose my topic with care, loved reading about it and thinking about it, but then came the moment when I had to write it. I screamed, I cried, I bit my nails until I had no nails left, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown when my well-meaning friend asked to see the finished product the night before it was due. I’m not sure that I’d survive writing a second, even longer dissertation in a shorter period of time.

So that means the pressure is on to find a job, and fast. I’m in the middle of a three-week Easter break, but I’ve spent most of that trawling through various websites, tweaking and re-tweaking my CV and trying to write original cover letters (and I hate writing cover letters almost as much as I hated writing my dissertation). It’s hard work, but it’ll all be worth it when I get that letter from The Times demanding that I write for them (I sent my application at least three days ago, it must be due any day now).

For those of you in the same position as me, here are some of my favourite websites for finding journalism job opportunities. But be warned, if you get any of the jobs that I’m going for, I will find you and I will hurt you!

Gorkana: http://www.gorkanajobs.co.uk/

Journalism.co.uk: http://www.journalism.co.uk/media-reporter-jobs/s64/

Internwise: http://www.internwise.co.uk/

Media Muppet: http://mediamuppet.com/

Media Nation: http://www.medianation.co.uk/content/indiesdetail/Broadcast/Indies/362

Hold the Front Page: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/

Think I’ve left a site out? Want to share your experience of job hunting? Please leave a comment below or contact me on julie.fisher@hotmail.co.uk.

 

Five Tips for Securing Work Experience

As I mentioned in this post, I’m on work experience at the moment. In light of this, and not wanting to write too many identical blog posts on what I’ve been doing, I’ve gone for another set of tips for today’s post – how to secure work experience. Wannabe Hacks gave some good advice here, but I wanted to add my fifty cents:

1) Be early. If you’re a student, the chances are you’ll be looking for work experience in academic holidays, and the chances are so will everyone else. Some nationals, such as the Guardian, also stress that they give priority to candidates on bursary schemes and competition winners at these times, so if you want to get in, you should get in early. Don’t send out e-mails a week before term ends and expect a response.

2) Be persistent. Editors receive hundreds of e-mails every week (sometimes hundreds every day), so unless they happen to have been looking when your message came in, it may get lost in their inbox. Phone first before sending your CV so that they’re expecting it, or try something more unusual like sending a letter so that your application stands out from the crowd. Following up when someone has said that they’ll look at your CV is also worth doing, but not so much that you cross the line into harassment.

3) Be open-minded. We all dream of working on a national newspaper or big glossy magazine, so its unsurprising that these publications get hundreds of work experience applications. It’s always worth applying to these places, but keeping an open mind and trying smaller publications can get you further. And small publications with small staff bodies will often give you more actual writing to do than nationals, where you can end up doing mostly research and fact checking.

4) Be informed. In a tidal wave of applications, the round robin will be the first to be deleted. Find out about each publication you apply to and explain why you want to work there and why they should want you to work there.A quick phone call to find out exactly who deals with work experience will also avoid your message landing in the wrong inbox.

5) Be accurate. There’s no point in writing the perfect cover letter and having it ruined by a glaring error in the first line. Check, double check, and have someone else check what you’ve checkd before you send anything. Apostrophes and the spelling of names are the most common errors.

If you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments!

Work Experience – Update 1

When I was doing my undergraduate degree, a holiday meant exactly that. A chance to relax, catch up with friends and ignore the large pile of holiday reading which I’d pretended was going to get done at the beginning of the previous term.

On this course, a holiday actually means an opportunity to do work experience. Not only is work experience essential if I want to get a job at the end of this (and I do, I really do), but it’s also compulsory for one of my modules. So although I did get a week off for Christmas, I’m spending the five remaining weeks of my Christmas break interning at Retail Gazette.

So far, it’s been good. I was thrown in at the deep end when the editor went on annual leave, putting me in charge of the site with two days of training under my belt. I had to prepare a news list every morning, and then write as many stories as I could manage in a day. It was stressful to say the least. But after a week and a half the site is still there, I haven’t been sued and other than the day when the biggest piece of news was the new Sainsbury’s back fat-smoothing bra, I managed to get the requisite four stories up every day.

As of today, the editor is back and it’s all change for me. I’m still writing news stories and suggesting stories for the news list, but I also have time to work on bigger things. At the moment, I’m planning a feature and have already had the proposal approved. I feel like a real journalist, and it feels great.

The Kingston Courier

There are many things which I have to do for this course, but one that’s been at the forefront of my mind recently has been writing articles for my NCTJ portfolio. This must include 10 articles, one of which has to be a news feature (that’ll be written as part of the Public Affairs module), and although it isn’t due until May we’ve been assured that before long it’ll be April and we’ll be running around like headless chickens wondering why we only have one article worth submitting.

The easiest way to get cuttings is to write for the Kingston Courier, our very own hyperlocal news website (the efforts of last year’s students have led to them being shortlisted for an NCTJ award, so it’s faintly terrifying that it’s now been entrusted to us). Even this isn’t easy though, as alongside the obvious problem of fitting research and writing in around the rest of our work (and we have plenty), we’ve been confronted with an inconvenient truth: everyone hates journalists. Or at least distrusts them. As soon as you say you are one in researching a story you see the smiles start to slip, and hear the voices falter. Last week I was passed around multiple departments, kept on hold indefinitely, questioned as to how I had the audacity to call someone on their lunch break and hung up on, all in the same call. And this was in an attempt to write a good news story!

The fact that this treatment made me more determined to write the story in question is probably the biggest indicator I’ve yet had that I’ve chosen the right career path. Negative impact on my blood pressure aside, I’m definitely enjoying the experience.

(You can read my article on the business implications of the recent Oceana stabbing here and a more cheerful piece on the Richmond Park WomenOnly Run here.)

 

The Two Week Mark

It’s been three weeks since I started at Kingston, but two weeks of normal lectures, so I feel that an update is in order. I have classes Monday-Thursday, and with travelling time included I generally spend about ten hours every day out of the house. It’s a bit of a change from my lazy undergraduate life, that’s for sure!

This semester, I have six modules. After Journalism Practices, which I’ve already written about, there’s:

Law

This is a three hour block on Monday afternoon, in which we learn how not to get sued, what to do if we do get sued, and how many times our lecturer has been sued. There’s a lot of precise language, and it’s important that we get the definitions just right, so we have a lot to learn before our first exam in November.

Hands On Journalism

The most practical of the six modules, this takes place on Tuesday afternoons, and also in every moment of our free time as we have to run a hyper local website, the Kingston Courier. This semester I’m the Business Editor, so I’m spending a lot of time looking for local businesses stories, whilst also trying to write the court and council stories which the NCTJ wants in our portfolios.

Journalists and Government

Another module with lots of information and definitions to learn, although the scary thing about this is that my father, a local government accountant, now wants to talk to me about his job. We’re starting on local government, which is pretty dry (although exactly what we need to understand those aforementioned court and council stories), but things should get a little more exciting when we move onto central government next semester.

Multimedia News Writing

This another practical module, in which we learn to write.  So far, this has involved being handed a press release or some fake sources and then being told to turn them into a story. This has taught me that many of the writing habits I’ve picked up over the years are wrong, particularly some of the words I like to use (whilst is out for one). I’m enjoying it a lot though, because it’s a chance to write, but without the pressure that there is on the Kingston Courier.

Shorthand

My favourite module, because although a lot of people complain about it, I’m still finding it easy at this point. This is mostly because I spent a month before starting university learning it in preparation, but I like to think that all that time spent getting to grips with the Russian alphabet has helped too. Shorthand means a new alphabet, new words, and a new way of writing altogether. It’s still fun at the moment, but we haven’t properly started speed building at the moment, so we shall see what happens.

Journalism Practices (or how to do a module in a week)

Last week, I wrote about being thrown in at the deep end. The reason for this was Journalism Practices, a module which I’d finished after only four days at Kingston. Finished in terms of teaching anyway, I still have a case study to write and some on-line discussion to engage in before I can be properly assessed, but in terms of contact time, those four days were all we got.

It felt more like an induction week than a module too, consisting as they did of a series of taster sessions for the different modules which we will study for the rest of the year as well as giving us a brief introduction to the media industry and the problems which will face us when we come to enter it. We also spent a couple of hours each day preparing a presentation and seminar on a journalism-related topic, which we all delivered on Thursday. My group chose the Leveson Inquiry and its potential impact on regulation, and despite a minor technological hiccup (thank you YouTube, it’s not like we really wanted that video to load anyway) I think that it went well. The well-deserved class binding session in the pub afterwards certainly went well, somehow beer tastes better after a hard working week. And so the alcohol dependency begins…

One thing that did strike me about this module was how little reading I had to do for it. Having always measured my academic effort in the number of books and journalism articles which I managed to read, this was slightly disconcerting. This is a professional practices course though, and many of the assignments reflect that – though reading is definitely still required, as my unopened copy of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists would no doubt like to remind me.

If we did all of our modules like this, our lecturer told us, our course would last only seven weeks. Wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment, she asked. But given that Journalism Practices is specifically designed to fit within a week, as well as the fact that we’ve already been told that this course will move at the speed of light and take over our entire lives, I fear that it would be an experiment doomed to failure.

In at the Deep End

As of today I’m halfway through my first week at Kingston and I think it’s fair to describe it as intense.

For one thing, that halfway mark also means that I’m halfway through a module, one which requires me to do a group presentation on Thursday. I hate presentations with a passion, so this should be interesting.

Terrifying summative assignments aside, the past two days have been fun. We’ve had a crash course in the future of the journalism industry (with three very different views of where that future looks brightest), a lesson in editing copy, and a fairly scary assignment: finding our own story.

Yes, that’s right, yesterday afternoon we had two hours to get out onto the streets and find a story for either the university’s newspaper or its local news website. My partner and I explored a few different options, including sitting in on the beginning of two boring court cases, but ended up choosing a story about accessibility for disabled students within the university. We pitched it to two of our journalism lecturers, who said that it would be a good story if we kept it focused, and went away feeling that bit more like real journalists. Because at the end of the day, that’s what this course is all about – that and seeing how long we can survive on the bare minimum of sleep!