Having just graduated University with a degree in Journalism, I can certainly say I have done my fair share of work experience/industry placement (or whatever you call countless hours of unpaid work.) I learned so much from the time I spent shadowing the professionals, sometimes even more-so than I did at university. Journalism is a very practical industry, and no amount of studying or examinations will prepare you for the real world like work experience will.
I thought I’d put together a collection of things aspiring journalists would do well to follow when setting out on their very own industry experience journeys.
All starts before you get there…
- Consume all media and news you can… All. The. Time. You want to make sure you are completely on-top of the latest local, national and global news before you even set foot in the door. Watch the news the night before, listen to the radio on the way there and be listening out in daily conversations for what the general population is currently talking about.
- Particularly if you are heading to a TV News station, think of a couple of story ideas you could pitch to the news director if he/she asks you. They very well may not, but its much better to be prepared. If you are going to a regional television station there is even a chance you may get to chase your story, shoot it and get it to air.
- Good personal hygiene is paramount. Shower with a nice body wash, use perfume and deodorant. You never know what situation you’re going to land yourself in, you don’t want to stink out the room or your mentor with your heinous body odour.
- Don’t skip breakfast! Eat a healthy and filling breakfast, you don’t know how long it’s going to be until you get the opportunity to stop for food, and it’s not a good look to be ducking out for a sandwich an hour after you arrive.
- Pre-make your lunch and bring it along. Journalists are always running against the clock and furiously working to deadlines. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get to stop for lunch and you don’t want to be that person making everyone stop just so you can stuff your face with a sausage roll.
- Dress to impress (appropriately) – The best outfit to wear is a skirt/pants, a nice top/blouse or shirt (that doesn’t show any cleavage) and a casual blazer. You should also prepare for all weather conditions. Wear layers so you can adjust to different temperatures, and if it’s winter make sure to pack a small umbrella in your bag.
- Pre-plan your parking and you route so you will NOT be late (in fact you should aim to be 10 minutes early). Most-often high profile news stations and outlets are located in the city which means street parking is either unavailable or very expensive. Check public transport options and/or find the closest and cheapest parking-lot that you can use.
Once you arrive…
- Shake hands with people you meet. Extend your hand when you are introduced to people, make eye contact and smile. It’s important to always be wary of you body language.
- Join in on conversations that you feel you can add something to. If you can put your two cents into a topic without sounding overly ‘smart-ass’ or self-important, then join in! You want people to be able to imagine themselves working along-side you one day. You want to be the perfect balance of confident, hard-working and personable.
- Ask questions of your mentor/s. This is an absolutely un-precedented insight you are getting into the real-life working day of a journo. If you don’t understand something that’s going on, just ask! They know you’re not a professional yet and its also very likely they stood where you are standing once upon a time. They will be happy to help (providing they have time)
- Know how to read the room. Acknowledge times where your mentor may be busy and leave them to it (while working on your own things). When you’re out on the road and a press conference or court hearing has just finished. This is generally the time where a journalist will often need to compile their notes, summarise proceedings and maybe file a voice report for the people back in the studio. You should be quiet and let them concentrate.
- Do exactly what your mentor does at all times. If they are writing notes in the court-house – you should too! If they’re scribbling down interview questions for their next talent – you should too! And if they’re writing a voice report to call-in to the studio – you should give it a crack! You may not be as polished or speedy as them but hey, you’re learning and by doing it in real-time sometimes situation-specific questions will arise that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
- DO NOT sit on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or text people. If there is absolutely nothing you can do (and you’ve even asked) then surf Twitter and local news sites for potential stories.
- Stay the full day. Don’t plan your dentist appointment for 5:15 if you know work experience finishes at 5. You don’t want to be rushing out of the door, or having the leave early. You want to give yourself time to appropriately farewell the team and thank them for their time and help.
So there you have it guys! If you can relate, or add to this list be sure to leave a comment! Also – please share this article with any aspiring student journo’s you may know! Hopefully it helps someone!