GoThinkBig hosted our first journalism and broadcasting masterclass yesterday. We had four experts from Bauer Media in to chat to a group of aspiring journalists about getting into journalism.
The discussion ranged from tips on blogging to making the most of work experience placements. We’re hoping to run more masterclasses like this in the future so make sure you keep an eye on the opportunity pages if you want to be part of the next one.
But, for now, here’s ten things we learnt from the session:
1. Cover letters are more important than CVs, according to Ian Freer, assistant editor of Empire. But they’re also really hard to write. Ian said: “They’re difficult because you want to be entertaining and interesting but not wacky and weird.” He said you should try to be unique and rather than the focus being on yourself, focus on the publication, why you love it, why you want to work there and what you can offer them.
2. But CVs are pretty important too. They should be one page detailing your experience and your qualifications and should definitely never have a picture on – or that’s what Ian reckons anyway. He said: “No picture. No matter how good looking you are.” Maybe he heard about our debate in the office last year?
3. It is what you know. You can’t just blag your way through a career in journalism. “You have to know your stuff,” Alex Baker, presenter at Kerrang! Radio said. So go and learn your stuff, know the areas you want to write or talk about, know how to use the tools you need. And then impress people with all your new found skills and knowledge.
4. It’s also about who you know. Networking is crucial to succeeding in journalism, you need to impress people if you want to advance in your career. Alex once very nearly had to race down Birmingham New Street wearing nothing but a nappy in order to help out his mentor when someone failed to show up for a competition. Fortunately he was saved by the original competitor turning up at the last minute but he still really impressed a senior member of his team by being willing to make a fool of himself.
5. It’s nice to be important, but it’s way more important to be nice. Ally Oliver, assistant editor at Closer: “It’s amazing how many people we get in who are quiet and surly. Or, when you ask them to do a menial job they shrug their shoulders.” Don’t be that person. That person isn’t going to go very far in journalism.
6. Building your skills up is crucial and will give you the edge when applying for jobs. Learn to interview well, be prepared to go door-knocking if you need to, learn shorthand (Ally said it’s still really useful when interviewing, even in the age of the digital recorder). Build skills in all areas of the industry – don’t be a one trick pony.
7. But, passion is even more important. Adam Gold, a digital publisher at Bauer Media, said he would rather employ someone who was passionate about a job as skills can always be taught later. So if you really want that job, make it really obvious in your application and when you’re interviewed – it’s what employers want to see.
8. Being young doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. You’ve probably grown up with the internet, you’ve probably used Bebo, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and every other social network, or at the very least you probably know about them. As Ally said “You’ve got a huge advantage over me because you know how to use the internet properly!” So make sure you use it to your advantage and offer to help people in the office who might be struggling with it.
9. Be useful when you’re on work experience – even if it’s just making the tea. Making the tea when you’re on work experience is such a cliché now. But do you know why it’s a cliché? Because everyone does it. And in fact, Ally reckons it’s a great opportunity to get to know people in the office and have a chat with them.
10. You should really find a mentor. And here’s a whole article about why and how to go about it.