I don’t remember the exact moment I decided that I wanted to become a reporter/ journalist but I do remember the moment I knew I wanted to pursue this as a career and to be a part of the creative industry. Hopefully, you’ve had this “moment” too, because I think without having this “moment” you’ll never be too sure if journalism is something for you. In my opinion and from what I have experienced since working in the media industry, being a report or a journalist is no walk in the park. You have to really believe in the words you’re writing and you have to have a love and interest in what you’re writing because if you don’t then it’ll be easy for the readers to figure that out pretty quickly too. To be a journalist you need to mean what you write for the best words to come out.
My two moments both came at the beginning of my “career journey” (how cheesy!). Both of which came from failure surprisingly.
1. I had just been knocked back from one of my top university choices to study history – I was 17-years-old and naturally devastated and hugely disappointed. But little did I know fate was doing me a big fat favour! Because of this “failure and rejection” I went on to accept a place at The University of the West of Scotland for a four-year degree in Broadcast media and journalism. It wasn’t my top choice but I was excited to be there nonetheless. Three years flew by, I met one of my very best friends here and learnt so much in terms of skills and knowledge but the “I want to try everything” in me decided to leave after three years with a BA degree with distinction (skipping out on my fourth year, which would’ve given me a BA degree with honours) once I was accepted to do a postgraduate in primary teaching at the University of Strathclyde.
2. My second “moment” came three months into this postgraduate when I simply knew in my gut that teaching wasn’t for me and something my skills just didn’t suit! I cannot discipline a child to save myself… after three months of (seriously) crying myself to sleep almost every single night and extreme anxiety, I was sitting in class one day when I realised it was time for me to admit defeat! This career path just wasn’t suited to me, I needed to be in the world of media! It was a lightbulb moment. That same day, for the first time in my life I essentially “gave up” on something. It was difficult to admit it to myself and hard to handle at first but looking back I couldn’t be happier that I listened to my gut and went with my heart. I’m sure if I had stuck it out I might have been very happy as a teacher, but I like to think fate helped move me back to where I was meant to be!
So you think you want to be a journalist or a reporter? You’ve had your “moment” of knowing? Whether you’ve just graduated or you’re wanting a change in career, I’m here to share a few of my top tips on how to get career going and how to get your foot in door for both editorial and broadcast journalism – as I have had the pleasure of working in both TV and the newspaper/magazine world. Most of my tips will be for people who have a degree or background in journalism or media but I will be writing lots more posts in the future for those who want to get into the media industry without a degree or a relevant degree.
Top tips to get into the news rooms
- Make use of your contacts – this point is probably one you’ll hear often and you might be pulling your hair out right now and screaming “I DON’T HAVE ANY CONTACTS” at the screen – we will come to that in the next point. Ok, so if you have contacts, be it university lecturers, guest lecturers, distant relatives or friends of friends – don’t be afraid to reach out to them. This is a skill you’ll need to have in the newsroom anyway, contacting/ pestering people for a comment or an exclusive, so practice it now! Contacts are so important and if I hadn’t plucked up the courage to ask a distant contact for a favour, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would say that whenever you have a new lecturer or maybe an old friendly lecturer from your degree, don’t be afraid to ask for some advice or work experience. They might not be able to give you any, but they might have their own contacts they can pass onto you.
- So you say you have no contacts in the industry? This is normal and many people don’t. The next tip is similar to the first, don’t be afraid to reach out to people in the industry. Even if you don’t know them! Create yourself a LinkedIn page and don’t be scared to look up senior members in the industry, private message them to say hello and introduce yourself, ask for tips and advice or job/ work experience opportunities. Being in the industry myself, I love when fellow journalists just starting off or looking for a change of career reach out to me. Especially if I don’t know them. It shows confidence and conversational skills and I am always happy to help wherever I can as I never forget that I was once in their shoes. This will be the same for many senior members of the industry.
- Take a look at the top companies you would like to work for and get applying for junior roles, even if the roles aren’t massively where you want to be, progression can sometimes be fairly quick in the media world, if you work hard and prove yourself. So don’t turn down applying to opportunities that don’t sound like exactly what you want right now.
- Look through the “Meet the Team” sections on company websites as some companies include contact details underneath staff members names. Sometimes a message to a personal email can be more effective than a LinkedIn message. If emails aren’t included, have a search around on google, email addresses tend to be like the following – email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com – I have found many email addresses by using this method and I still continue to find contacts this way!
- Don’t keep your ideas to yourself! “Pick up the phone and start dialling”, in the words of Leonardo Dicaprio in Wolf of Wall Street! Many of my past colleagues have gotten into the industry simply by picking up the phone and calling the company they wish to work at. Ask for a direct contact or if you can be put through to the right person. Tell them a bit about your experience and background and try to organise some work experience (the more you have on your resume the better). If you have a story idea, even better! All producers and editors are always interested in a good story idea, particularly if you have a personal contact that could lead to the story actually happening. You might have something that the company is after, use that to your benefit.
- Keep up to date with current trends and changes. If you really have a passion for journalism and media, you’ll likely already be doing this point. It really is key for all journalists to be on top of not only the news in general but ongoing modern day developments and trends. You’ll thank yourself later on when you’re in a big interview and you can wow your interviewer with your new innovative ideas or your knowledge of whats currently happening.
So there you have a few tips to get you started! I really do believe that with a steer in the right direction, some patience and determination, anyone can succeed. Like I said before, just give everything your best shot and let fate do the rest!
I hope this has been helpful to those wanting to get into the media or journalism industry and I hope I have given you the boost that you might have needed.
As mentioned above, I am always happy to answer any questions! Please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to get back to you as quickly as possible!