This feature was written by freelance writer Natasha Preskey
Becoming a journalist isn’t like training to be a doctor. Your response to this might be “Woo, no five year degree for me!” but all this really means is there’s no simple way of getting a job, and no guaranteed route to success. But that’s kind of exciting, right? We spoke to three young journalists about how they landed their first job in the industry. This week, we speak to Amy Gastman, Editorial Assistant at Waitrose Food magazine, who got into the industry via work experience…
How did work experience lead you to a job in journalism?
I’ve always wanted to work in media, but with it being so multifaceted I wasn’t sure what direction to take. Waitrose Food is a magazine that’s been on my coffee table for as long as I can remember so when the opportunity arose to join the team for a week I was thrilled.
It didn’t take much longer than a couple of days for me to realise this was my dream job. It just so happened that a few weeks after I left, the girl who previously held my position resigned. Luckily I was fresh on the brain and the editor remembered my keen attitude and willingness to help so he asked me if I wanted to come in and interview for the role – the rest is history!
How did you secure your placement at Waitrose Food?
I got work experience at Waitrose via Twitter! I tweeted John Brown Media asking if they did placements. I then rang them and left voicemails until they got back to me! More and more companies are using social media as a key communication platform so it’s good to be creative when trying to get work experience – a simple email isn’t always the best way.
What were you doing during your work experience?
I was given a whole host of varied tasks. General jobs included; updating the list of recipes included in the magazine, tidying cupboards, and organising book shelves. The slightly more exciting tasks included; coming up with ideas for upcoming issues, a bit of writing, and recipe research.
What did you learn from interning?
You can never be too helpful, and that a bit of initiative goes a very long way.
How did you make yourself stand out during the placement?
I made sure I was myself and that I was inquisitive. Now that I’m in charge of work experience, I find a lot of people I have in are quiet and reserved, often as a result of nerves – I made sure I was confident and curious. Asking thoughtful questions always leaves a good impression.
What are the advantages of getting a job in journalism this way?
It meant that I got to learn a lot about the industry while in the actual job. A lot of people do a master’s in journalism or another NCTJ accredited course, but I’ve been able to learn about media and earn a living.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow the same route into the industry?
Perseverance is key. I cannot stress enough the need to be determined and committed. You can’t be afraid of bugging people because the only way to get yourself noticed is to continually pester someone until they give you an answer. When I first started applying for placements I was petrified of picking up the phone and actually asking to speak to whoever was in charge of work experience.
It took several no’s and a whole lot of ignoring for me to finally build up the courage to be a bit more gung-ho. It was only when I decided that I was the only one in control of my success, (i.e not allowing myself to be ignored) that opportunities started to arise. Working in journalism requires a certain level of self-belief and assertion.