10 tips on getting into journalism from someone who knows

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I’ve got to a place where I actually feel qualified to write this.

With four huge UK brands under my belt (LOOK, Marie Claire, InStyle and now Metro), a range of roles that leap from assistant to content editor to reporter, and a blog that regularly reaps in over a million views a month, I finally feel confident in calling myself a journalist.

I’m serious though. Because you grow up believing the journalist stereotypes. ¬†That you’ll spend your time interviewing people, writing lengthy features, arriving first on the scene of something dark and dramatic, but actually, thanks to a huge change in the way we digest journalism, thanks to the internet and social media, it’s nothing like that.

Building galleries of 50 party dresses, scheduling tweets and writing lists about your childhood are part of the new ‘journalism’. The new daily duties which have redefined and broadened what we class as journalism. Because I do still class all of these things as journalism, there is still expertise and research involved. Just in a different format.

Here’s 10 tips that will help you break into today’s journalism…

1. Blog

You’d be an idiot not to. I heard recently that a leading publicist in the US refuses to work with anyone that doesn’t own their own domain name (that’s your equivalent of hannahgale.co.uk FYI) and I totally agree with him.

You need to start building your own brand. Creating your online identity. Not only is it a great way to create a portfolio and get experience without doing actual work experience, it’s fun.

Do it regularly, at least once a week. Do lists, do shareable content, be honest, be groundbreaking, get people talking about you.

I’ve been published on the Telegraph thanks to my blog, AND I landed my current role at Metro.co.uk thanks to it. Neither of those things came from my previous jobs or connections. Purely from writing content that went viral and caught people’s attention.

I’ve had both Michelle Keegan and Melanie Rickey tweet my links. One for something nostalgic and silly and one for challenging the journalism industry. It’s OK to reach out to different audiences and vary your posts.

2. Tweet

It’s the same as blogging when it comes to building your identity and making yourself known. Follow everyone you admire in the industry and everyone who works for the publications you’d love to work for.

I got work experience on the InStyle beauty desk from the assistant tweeting for a last minute intern, and I got my first role at LOOK from following IPC Media jobs.

It’s also a great way to follow up a job application. A few subtle retweets and replies to tweets help catch employers eyes. Work out who you’d be reporting to if you got the role, as they’ll probably be interviewing, and then, don’t be a stalker, be witty and helpful.

3. Don’t be above yourself

I’ve heard so many stories about interns who just helped themselves to samples from the beauty cupboard, or refused to do certain tasks because they thought they were above them.

Always be gracious, grateful and polite.

If you had an intern who was always smiling, asking for more work and offering frequent Starbucks runs, wouldn’t you want to keep them around?

4. Don’t remain unpaid

I’m lucky in the fact I’ve never worked for more than a few weeks unpaid in the same company. And I wouldn’t have wanted to.

If a company is happy to keep you on for months and months without paying you it says a lot about the company. And it won’t be one you’ll want to work for if they do eventually give you a salary.

Know your worth. Know that it’s OK to walk away from somewhere if they don’t treat you right.

You’d be better off working for a smaller, lesser known brand who WILL pay you and give you meaningful, hands-on jobs then you will working for a big global brand who’ll exploit you.

Forget which name sounds better in your Twitter bio and go for the ones that will actually give you genuine experience you can talk about in interviews later on.

5. Don’t be scared of working for titles that aren’t your dream job

I applied for and interviewed for a lot of jobs that weren’t my dream brands. I didn’t get any of them, but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have been much better for me than the lengthy period of dole money, working as an estate agent and boredness I endured.

A lot of people work for local papers or B2B publications before getting their break in regionals and glossy mags. A HR department will look much more fondly on a CV that shows you’ve already had work published than one that says I’ve got a journalism degree but as of yet have not put it into practice.

6. Experience

Yes, you shouldn’t be a sad underpaid intern forever, but you do need a few solid stints to build your contacts, get your face known in the industry, and have a few things, no matter how small, to stick on your CV.

7. Contacts

Remain in contact with everyone you come across. Fellow interns, lecturers, people you meet whilst on internships, everyone.

Don’t just follow them on Twitter, take their email addresses too, and keep in touch that way. Let them know you’re looking for work. Eventually they’ll know someone who needs someone, and that’s where you come in.

I’m utterly shit at replying to emails (and texts and Facebook messages and blog comments), so don’t be scared of having to send a few emails to get a response. Just, y’know, don’t sent them all in the same day.

8. Read

I’ve developed my style of writing from reading. Reading books, reading tweets and reading other people’s work online.

It’s built up my vocabulary, and it’s a great way to pick up new buzzwords and phrases that you like. Things that make you giggle, things that you think sound quirky, metaphors that make you just get something.

There’s no better way to develop your own writing than reading other people’s.

9. Don’t give up

When I gave up and decided I would become an estate agent, it was after a mere six weeks of nobody hiring me. It took a further six weeks of daily tears to make me realise I couldn’t possibly survive in another profession apart from the one I reaaaaally wanted.

Yes, it’s hard work and yes you’ll be teary and tired and want to give up, but don’t. Hard work does pay off, and as long as you’re constantly throwing yourself out there, you’ll get somewhere.

10. Develop a thick skin

Journalism can be more cut throat than other industries – aside from anything that involves the spotlight, probs. People will be horribe to you. People will hate some of the things you write, it might be an editor or it might be a particularly angsty Twitter user, people will always disagree with some of the things you do.

You have to develop an ability to shut work out, to treat it like a job and not let it get to you, to not let it become your entire life. To not let your piece of work being subbed-clear of everything you liked about it, or to let a comment on an article that calls you rude words, ruin your whole day.

I like to read back the good comments, have a bath and a cup of tea and get away from technology when it all gets too much. You have to learn how and when to take a step back. It makes you a good journalist.

Now go out there and be bloody amazing. Go on.


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