I know… I am almost embarrased with the lack of posts on the blog recently. I hate to say that life has taken over and my favourite posts of all – the interviews – have been pretty much non-existant. I’ve given myself a big kick up the backside this week and wanted to get an interview up as soon as possible… and here we are!
I never, ever get tired of hearing how journalist get their jobs, and that’s because no one has the same story! When I see the answers the journalists give me, I’m always intrigued and eagerly read the answer to ‘how did you get your first job in journalism’. Because, that’s the hardest bit isn’t it? Yes it’s hard to get work experience, but at the end of the day you’re doing it for free. Getting a job is asking for a salary, responsibility and something full-time.
Janelle worked at Reveal magazine for four years, and has now become a freelance. And how did she get her job? Well read on to find out…
Why did you decide to get into journalism?
I loved reading books when I was younger and always excelled in English at school (I am terrible at maths – I always say, never ask four journalists to try and split a bill!). I really enjoyed the creative side of writing – whether it was fact or fiction, and am always interested to know more about different people, different lifestyles etc.
I would get really excited buying J17, Bliss or Sugar as a teenager. Once when I was on holiday, aged 18, I bought Company and saw they had printed a letter I sent in. Seeing my name in print sealed the deal for me and I knew it’s what I wanted to do!
Do you have any educational qualifications relating to this industry? I.e degree or NCTJ?
I did my degree in English Language and Literature at the University of London. I decided on London as I thought it would make life easier for getting work experience during my summer holidays (which was true..however, it’s an expensive city!) I didn’t do an NCTJ because I couldn’t really afford to be a student for another year and I felt that work experience would be more valuable. However, I have lots of journalism friends who have taken many different paths, some worked in PR first, or did admin jobs, some did degrees in history, some did post-grads and some didn’t. The one thing they have in common is a combination of making a good impression on work experience and being in the right place at the right time.
Did you complete many work experience placements, if so where and how helpful did you find them?
It feels like I did hundreds but I actually did around five or six. I started with my local newspaper, then did placements at Time Out, Star mag, Reveal mag, and YOU, the Sunday supplement. I must have sent emails and letters to hundreds of publications and those were the ones who responded and luckily, offered me a week or two in their offices. When I took my first job I was in charge of work experience placements and couldn’t believe how many people sent me emails addressed to the wrong person, the wrong magazine or attached CV’s that they hadn’t proof read. I always say to people to take the time to check the email address and the name that you’ve written down match up!
What was your first job in journalism and how did you get it?
After my work placement at Reveal I stayed friends with the Editorial Assistant and a year later, when I was just finishing my third year of uni, she was promoted to Showbiz Writer. They asked me to come in to cover her position and six months later they offered me the job! When I first went in, I still had a month of university to complete but managed to get round it by spending days in the office and nights in the library completing my course work. I knew that if I turned down the offer they might not ask me again and there would be plenty of people waiting to take the position.
How did you manage to start working for reveal and what role(s) did you have on the mag?
In my first job as Editorial Assistant there was a lot of admin such as filing and dealing with invoices but I was also given plenty of opportunity to have a go at writing features and helping the features team source case studies. I tried to make myself as indispensable as possible, getting celebrity quotes at red carpet events or offering myself up as Kylie’s bum double for a gold hot pants feature (yes, that really happened.) I was promoted to Junior Writer and then to Multimedia Journalist.
Why did you decide to go freelance?
After four and a half years at Reveal, I loved the office but really wanted a new challenge. Freelancing pushed me out of my comfort zone and meant working in different offices, meeting new people and learning new skills. Now I find being freelance gives me a great sense of freedom (I can sit and sunbathe while everyone else is at work!) but there’s also cons such as having to pull all-nighters if a newspaper wants something written up by 11am the following day. You also have to be disciplined with your time (I set my alarm for 7.45am without fail) and good at chasing payments!
What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
It’s no secret that right now is a difficult time for journalism, with More! closing down and other publications following suit it’s hard to say where the industry will go next. A lot of young journalists are over-worked and under paid and I hope in the next five years the industry allows a fairer wage for young people trying to get onto the ladder, as unpaid internships are starting to creep in where paid jobs used to be. Personally, I’d love to travel more as part of my job and write features that make people stop and think.
Thank you, Janelle!