Okay, I’m just gonna throw it out there, the journalism industry is a really tough nut to crack. Heck, I still haven’t cracked it despite four years of studying and countless internships and freelance work (though I’m determined that 2017 will be the year that I do!). It’s an industry that so many people (especially young women) aspire to work in – the lure of exciting press opportunities and events, and the dream of working behind the beautifully adorned pages of magazines you’ve read since your teen years is definitely appealing – but in reality it’s hard freaking work.
It’s competitive. With so many young people trying to break into the industry, you’re constantly competing for your chance to shine. It’s also ruthless. You’re expected to work super long hours for very little, or even no, pay on your way to the top. And it’s seriously demanding; you need to be completely determined to succeed. But despite all of this it really is everything you imagine it to be. It’s exciting, fast-paced, thrilling and ultimately fun. You get to do so many wonderful things, meet and work alongside so many amazing people. No day is the same and, as technology is ever-evolving, the media industries are too, and you’re right at the forefront.
I have absolutely loved my experience of the journalism industry so far; it’s been so motivating and inspiring. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world and I’m completely sure that I’ve chosen the right career path for me.
So many of you have been so supportive of my journey, and I thought I’d share my experience and some advice on journo internships. I know so many of you lovely readers have the same dream, so I really hope this post helps and inspires you in some way!
Ever since I was tiny I’ve always wanted to write. I think this was fuelled from my love of reading – I would read absolutely anything I could get my hands on – and alongside a new book, having a new magazine to read was the absolute best. I loved the designs, how the pages looked, and how they were filled with words. I read everything from Girl Talk to Mizz (OMG WHO REMEMBERS MIZZ?), and when the time came to choose my career path I opted for journalism. I worked so hard, surpassed the A Level grades needed to get into Cardiff University, and in 2012 I moved to the capital to pursue my dream.
I think the first thing I noticed whilst at university was that everyone was seriously determined to make it, as I was too. My course mates all worked on extra-curricular media projects – whether they were working for student media or securing work placements elsewhere – everybody was doing something, and it really spurred me on. It was actually so encouraging to be around such hardworking classmates and in my first year I applied for work experience at my local newspaper; a one week placement which turned into an ongoing internship, where I would go into the office every Friday to write, interview and head out to find willing vox-pop victims participants.
I loved it. I live in a tiny town so there was never any majorly hard-hitting news – the closure of the town post office probably being the biggest story we covered whilst I was there – but after a few weeks I became Lifestyle Editor and my own weekly fashion and beauty supplement to write. It was so exciting to see my name in print and I really learned so much; the editor was absolutely fantastic. I continued to write and produce content for the paper up until my third year of university when my studies really took over, by which time I had been accepted onto Cardiff University’s Masters in Magazine Journalism course.
I had wanted to take the MA course since my second year of university and did everything I could to be accepted, working extremely hard on my studies while doing extra work experience where possible and blogging my butt off too. The course itself was incredible. I met and worked alongside so many fantastic people. I pitched, designed and edited a new interiors magazine from scratch; I learned how to really write, how to edit and design magazines, a wealth of digital and video skills and the whole logistics that come behind a magazine brand. But what I learned most was how determined I was to succeed in the industry.
We had to undertake a two-week placement as part of our studies and I was really lucky to be accepted as an editorial intern at Perfect Wedding and also as a beauty intern at Grazia. I had wanted to intern at these two titles since forever, so having the opportunity to do so was amazing, though it was at Grazia that I really got a feel for the magazine industry and everything it entailed. It was my first “big” internship and one that I value so much. It reaffirmed what I already knew – that this was my passion.
I completed my MA in September, after a seriously stressful summer writing a business plan and designing and creating a new Welsh travel magazine as part of my thesis, and I’ve since had the opportunity to intern at the beauty desks of two of the UK’s leading titles. In October I spent two-weeks at Stylist, which was so much fun as it’s so creative and so forward-thinking, and on recommendation from Stylist’s beauty editor I went on to intern at Elle. This was a real “pinch me” moment. I couldn’t believe I had the opportunity to intern at one of the world’s leading titles! I really cannot put into words how incredible the opportunities I’ve had so far have been, and how much they’ve taught me about the industry.
It’s also worth noting that alongside magazine journalism internships, I’ve also been lucky enough to work in TV after completing a week’s work experience when I was 17 for a local television company. From there I have freelanced for the past five summers with this company, and am currently freelancing as a runner for BBC Wales, and as a video assistant for Superdrug. It’s amazing how the two mediums blend so easily, and video is so up and coming so it’s definitely something to pursue, and something that I would ultimately love to work in.
1. It develops your skills (and you as a person): Honestly, I’ve learned so much through internships, both in terms of digital, video and editorial skills, and about myself. Working grueling hours, essentially at the bottom of the line, for no pay really makes you realise whether pursuing your dream is worth it. For me, I was lucky as it confirmed that the journalism industry was one I was desperate to work in. It also gave me lots of confidence as you’re constantly meeting new people, and finding yourself in new experiences and situations.
2. It’s all about “who you know”: Networking is absolutely everything in this industry. The more internships and work experience you do – whether that’s writing for your local paper or working for a well-known publisher or company – the more people you meet and the more chance you have of securing something in the future.
3. You get a real feel for the industry: I just love how exciting this industry is and being a part of it all, even just as an intern, is incredibly motivating.
4. It leads to more opportunities: From Grazia I was recommended to Stylist, from Stylist I was recommended to Elle, from Elle I secured my first lot of journalism work. Likewise, when it comes to television, I’ve worked with a vast array of people, all of whom have known the people I’ve worked with before. It’s a pretty small industry to be honest, especially in niche sectors, so you never know where one door may lead.
5. It’s fun: Yep, interning is ultimately really fun and I can honestly say I’ve really enjoyed my experiences as an intern, even if my living situations were completely horrendous.
WHERE TO START
1. Make sure your CV is on point: I can’t stress this enough. Make sure its up-to-date with the relevant information. Make sure there is an email address or phone number for people to contact you, and try to keep it to one page. You’ll need to be concise in your writing but squeeze as much on there as possible. List your skills, your experience and your education – and no BS, as you will be caught out.
2. Keep your options open: So your dream internship fell through, but one you weren’t so keen to get involved in has been successful. This may be the best thing that happens to you, so keep your options open. You have to have a little faith that everything happens for a reason.
3. Apply to anything – you are definitely good enough: I found I was quite nervous to apply for jobs at first, but if you don’t ask you don’t get! The worst somebody can say is no, and you can always ask for feedback on where you went wrong in your application, or if there are any other opportunities available. Have confidence in your ability, show willingness and you’ll get far.
4. Work hard: This is an obvious one, but when you do land your internship work your little socks off to impress. You never know when a job opportunity could open up in the future!
I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, because working for free, with nowhere in London to stay, and without any friends or family close by was, at times, awful. I was very lucky that I had my parents’ help when it came to funding, and I also relied on money gained from my part-time retail job. It is really hard out there, but I really believe (in my experience anyway) that the internships I did have been completely worth it. If nothing else I’ve had some amazing opportunities – some I never thought I’d get – and I’ve met amazing people, and learned so many things along the way.
If you have any questions please comment below,
or tweet me @jessieann48 for a quicker response!
(You can also e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lots of love. xoxo