Work Experience

The DOs and DON’Ts of work experience.

When I was 19 and looking for magazine journalism experience, I contacted Laura Cartledge at etc. Magazine – (read my interview with her here). Laura has told me that almost every week she has a work experience placement at the Sussex-based magazine, and with this knowledge I realised she must have experienced some very productive, as well as some very unenthusiastic workies… Laura told me, when I met her back in 2010, that she had a five-week placement at this magazine, before she was offered the job as features writer. This is a prime example of how beneficial work experience can be!

Laura Cartledge

Laura Cartledge

Here’s what she had to say:

The list of things to bring along to a work experience placement isn’t long in fact I could get it down to three:

A notepad.

A pen.


Arguably the last is the most important.

We have a stationery cupboard but we can’t work your brain for you. It sounds so simple to say it but come with story ideas which fit the publications you will be working with. Read them. Work out the area they cover and the people they are aiming at.

Then think outside of the box.

Know a fascinating person? Belong to an interesting group? Have an unusual hobby?

Suggest writing about them.

The wonderful etc Magazine

The wonderful etc Magazine

The placement shouldn’t start on the Monday morning if you want it to go beyond the Friday afternoon. I have had articles published by workies who haven’t even stepped into the building yet. There is no doubt these are the people who are remembered.

In fact in the office I work in all three reporters are former workies. Both of the feature writers for etc Magazine are former workies, and on a world where job competition is fierce – it can be hard to tell CVs apart – work experience does just that.

I’ve said a million times that my five weeks of work experience got me my job. Not my three year degree. This is probably why I am so passionate about people making the most of the opportunity...

And get more than a little grumpy when people don’t.

I’ve had people bring books in to read… Rest assured there is going to be enough work to keep you busy but it is a classic case of “if you don’t ask you don’t get.”

So ask…

  • Ask if there is anything you can do.
  • Ask if you don’t understand a task.
  • And ask for advice – we know getting into journalism is not easy.

We know shorthand can be evil, and we will do our best to help if we can! Don’t underestimate the value of knowing people on the “inside.” Journalism is a surprisingly small network, it’s not necessarily a case of “everyone knows everyone” but there is a high chance someone in the room will. But be warned – this can be a disadvantage too! I’ve had people use me as a reference and apply for a job within the same company but give the wrong contact details for me thinking it won’t be followed up… (Which was a bit silly seeing as getting to the truth is what journalists do best).

Thank you Laura!

Follow Laura on Twitter to see what she is getting up to, here.

Work experience at etc Magazine:

Are you based in Sussex and interested in completing a work experience placement for the Observer series of newspaper and/or etc Magazine? Laura has managed the placements for almost three years now. They work on a first-come-first-served basis and ask applicants to complete two tasks. From there, they will decide whether or not to offer you a placement.

View and read etc magazine by clicking here.


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