i'm no good at getting work placements
August 2, 2006 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm a journalism student in London who's taking the year out to do paid work and work placements. My problem? I have no idea how to get work placements.

What I'm looking for is something relatively long -- 3-6 months, ideally, which I would imagine would make people more likely to take me. My ideal placement would be on a local London paper, but I'd be more than happy with magazines, online media or whatever else.

My question is: how should I do this? I'm a decent writer (I think), but I've had little published, and I haven't done a proper work placement before (I basically had to take this year out to be able to fit one in). I'm not sure what to say when it comes to phoning up, writing a letter, and so on -- "hi, I'm a student with no track record, please let me come to your paper"? I've done two years of the course now, but I doubt that anyone out there in the 'real world' is going to be all that impressed by that.

So I'm turning to you for help. What's the best way to get in contact? How can I stand out from the crowd (it's a pretty big crowd in London)? Do I have a chance?
posted by reklaw to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I work as a journalist and got my first job from the place where I did a work placement. I'm not sure how competitive it is to get into a local paper, but my advice would be to try a business publication initially. Before getting into journalism I worked in IT, which made it a lot easier to convince an IT magazine to take me on for work experience.

Even if you haven't worked in any industry beforehand, think about what your hobbies and interests are - its a lot easier to write about something you know/ care about. Your knowledge about the local area could be a plus for a local paper, so it's definitely worth mentioning that when you write to them.

Another thing to bear in mind is that business publications have fewer applicants for work experience so are MUCH more likely to take you on. I sent my CV and a brief covering letter to 3 IT magazines, and then followed it up with a phone call. The third one took me on...

I worked for 6 weeks free of charge, but I don't think people should expect you to work for longer than that without being paid at least a small salary (although I've heard that quite a lot of nationals do that).

I don't think not having anything published is necessarily a barrier, if you approach the right publication. However, it may be worth setting up your own blog - about a topic you're interested in. People are more interested in seeing that you can write, rather than that you have been published.

Hope that helps. If you have any more questions, feel free to email me on ig_in_london AT googlemail.com [delete the _)

I also run a meetup group for journalists in London, which you may be interested in joining. You can find out more here: http://journo.meetup.com/63/
posted by ingridm at 1:51 PM on August 2, 2006

I'm a journalist too and I got my first work placement through somebody from my school who'd already done a work placement. The school also had a couple of arrangements with publishers. Can they help at all?

I'd second the business publications -- and also now is the time to strike, as people are going to be on holiday with their kids. Hit the phones.

Yes, you do have a chance. London is the best place to be. It took me a good few months but I got there.
posted by randomination at 3:46 PM on August 2, 2006

Oh my god this is one area of journalism I'm qualified to give advice about.

I did seven work placements over the course of my degree, one of which (finallllly) turned into paid work at a newspaper.

First up. Sure, it's competetive, but don't sell yourself short. You're a decent writer (you think) and you're keen enough to work for free. Believe me, that sets you ahead of quite a few journalism students I've known.

And don't underestimate the lure of free labour. Someone, somewhere will get back to you.

As far as who to call... I'd start with uni. Lecturers, or your student careers office. Do they have some sort of mentoring or work placement program? Industry contacts who wouldn't mind taking a student? Enlist their help.

You could also get in touch with big media outlets who have organised programs. Find out what you have to do to get in - and do it. The Guardian has an internship program. Chances are other big papers will too. Oh, and I know it's not print, but the BBC runs a work experience program too.

At smaller papers, just call editorial, introduce yourself, and ask about a work placement.
Call in the morning, not the afternoon, when people are on deadline.

Be prepared for a bit of a brief chat about who you are, why you want a placement and what you've got to offer. See excellent advice given to me here.

Or they might be too busy to chat - don't take that personally, just ask where to send your resume and clips to.

Send 'em off. Stuff you've done for uni would be fine if you don't have anything else. Just make sure it's decent quality. Add in a cover letter with a few lines about how keen you are.

Then be prepared to follow up. Keep follow up calls and emails it short. Let them know you know they're busy, but you're really keen.

Re advice about getting work experience at a business publication. Go for it. Better to be somewhere writing something and getting clips than holding out for that dream placement at the Times, y'know?

There's a motherlode of great advice about work experience at Google.

And there are, I think, a few journos on Metafilter, so I reckon more people will have tips for you.
posted by t0astie at 6:02 PM on August 2, 2006

What I did when I was looking for work experience in (magazine) journalism was to ring up the editorial assistants (usually it's the number listed in the Guardian Media Handbook), and whether they had any slots available for work experience. Tell them you're taking a journalism degree and where, and the chances are that will be enough for a couple of weeks. Smaller magazines will give you more work than the bigger ones - I did two weeks at Uncut, and a week at Smash Hits (RIP) and wrote nothing, then two weeks at Here's Health and wrote loads.

I would definitely second the recommendation for work experience at the BBC (which includes Radio Times, whose placement I also found extremely valuable), as it was my eventual way into the media. The BBC can only take you on unpaid for a month, so after that they either have to start paying you or let you go.
posted by featherboa at 2:38 AM on August 3, 2006

I am an american journalist and did my degree in england in brum.

How did I do it:

I called everyone! I called a lot! I read the mastheads of magazines that I was interested in and got the names of the managing editors and met them for appointments to talk about my work and how it would be good for them to hire me on for a couple of weeks/months.

Then I did broadcast journalism - same deal. Call Call Call Call!
posted by parmanparman at 12:19 PM on August 3, 2006

« Older How do I properly moisturize my beard?   |   Smoker's apartment. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.