Whilst I was searching for jobs, I found myself emailing anyone and everyone who could give me an insight into the world of journalism – how did you get your job? Do you have any jobs? Do you know how I can get a job? One of these ‘help me’ emails was directed to Shelley Baker, the community feature writer and news journalist for the RH and TN uncovered brand of magazines. I rang up the company to find who was the best person to contact on the editorial side and she gave me Shelley’s email address so I emailed her, explaining my situation of being a NCTJ qualified, English graduate… without a job!
To my surprise I got a really encouraging email back from Shelley, explaining how she was in my position a year ago. She told me how she got her job and gave me some good advice! More importantly she got me out of my ‘I’m never going to get a job’ mood. Funnily enough, after talking to the director and Shelley, this is now the publication I freelance for!
After receiving the encouraging words, I thought I would ask her to share them to the other aspiring journalists looking for a job… so read on…
When did you first know you wanted to get into journalism?
Hardest question ever! I don’t really think I ever actively decided to become a journalist, I just always enjoyed writing (and reading!) even back at primary school, and sort of just went with it really. Most kids dreaded writing up long winded accounts of what they did over their holidays or having to write news stories, but I was one of the few who really loved it, and went to into every little detail about my summer holidays. I must have bored my poor teachers silly!
I suppose I took writing a bit more seriously at secondary school, (again I was one of those who relished a long English lesson essay! Yep, I admit it!) and was lucky enough to get encouragement off my teachers to keep writing. It was also a stand-in joke between me and my friends after watching ‘Bridget Jones’ that I should ‘grow up’ to be an ‘award winning journalist’ like Bridget. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am only 23!
What degree did you do and how do you think this has helped you?
I did a Magazine Journalism and Feature Writing degree, the only course of it’s kind, at Southampton Solent University. To be perfectly honest, while I really enjoyed my degree – I learnt magazine design, photography, how to make it as a freelance and created my own magazine for my Final Major Project, to mention just a few of the varied modules, I feel I probably should have done a PAID in-house apprenticeship instead! I’ve been really fortunate enough to land on my feet professionally, where my employers have looked at me personally rather than the letters after my name or the degree that I have, which is great, but I’ll be paying my £30,000 student debts off for what seems like FOREVER..! And for what?
I think my top tip to anybody unsure of how to get into the industry would be to find themselves an apprenticeship as not only do you get paid for doing it but also get the skills and experience you require – something so many graduates are lacking!
Could you tell us about some of your work experience placements?
Like so many Uni students, I popped off to the local paper and sat a bit too eagerly in the Newsroom. I spent a week doing voxpops, research and going out and about to events – it was all very fun but I knew I was more of a feature writer than snappy news reporter (blame those waffley English essays!)
All was not lost though as I met the paper’s online co-ordinator for their teen site who I wrote for as a fashion contributor, during my last year at uni. It was one of the best experiences as I also found myself co-ordinating and styling (and sourcing!) outfits for fashion shows (both Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter) with over 25 models aged between 5- 18 years old in Southampton’s West Quay shopping centre. It was crazy, tiring, but so much fun!
What is your current role and how did you go about getting your job?
I’m currently working as a feature writer for the RH and TN Uncovered series of local magazines, distributed to over 100,000 homes each month. I got my job simply by asking for it! I noticed after receiving it through the door each month that for a local magazine, it was lacking in good community news stories, so I dropped the owners an email and within 24 hours, I had a meeting with them lined up! I think while luck was on my side, you need to not be afraid of going after what you want. After all, is one more no really going to kill you?
Do you do freelance work? If so, what?
I do! As well as being a regular contributor for online sites such as Vintage Brighton (www.vintagebrighton.com) and Love Sussex Weddings, I’m also a social media manager for celebrity hair favourite Annabelle’s Wigs – a varied job that I love! We’ve attended some amazing press parties in London and I’ve also met some lovely celebrity customers too!
What would your advice be to aspiring journalists who are having trouble finding a job in journalism and the media?
In a sentence?
Don’t give up! Get in touch with local magazines and tell them what you can offer! Also, utilise your skills – writers have so many! Think about offering your copy-writing services to local businesses, for online, social media and PR use to strengthen and vary your writing style. Also, blog for you to practise and hone in those skills.