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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pestering People


Our editorial intern, Alex Ward is back with his first blog post. This is a great insight into how to potentially get your foot in the door in the publishing/media industry. 

As promised in the introductory blog, I’m going to give you some tips about getting work experience.

First of all, a bit about what I’ve done. As an aspiring journalist I’ve been applying all over the place to try and get that ever coveted experience at a newspaper. The hope is that my CV will be that much more impressive when it comes to employment. The thing is with no contacts and no way in, I’ve had to develop my own (rather blunt) method of getting my foot in the door. It seems to work – in the past twelve months I’ve added two local newspapers and a national one to the ol’ cv, with another national to come in September.

So what, I hear you ask, is my secret? At this point I’m being a bit self-indulgent – there is no secret, it comes down to making a general nuisance of myself.

Everybody will be familiar with the ‘contact us’ and ‘careers’ links on employer websites. I find that these are, generally, the gateway to an email inbox that is, in my opinion, a metaphorical paper shredder. My covering letter and CV are destined to sit around unread.

The solution to this is a good old fashioned chat. Fully utilizing (scrolling down) the ‘contact us’ section, my move is to call up the general switchboard of the newspaper I want and ask for somebody who manages work experience. In this manner, I have become very familiar with different companies’ hold tones. The Mail on Sunday has a particularly jazzy one.

Once through to a particular individual, I make my case. At a thousand words a minute, I’m fully aware that I’m probably wasting somebody’s time, so I make it quick. The response can be varied. I received an extremely brisk and patronizing response from one lady in particular who told me to go to my local paper. My riposte was equally as swift, noting that I had already completed two placements at local papers and was looking for something else. Her tone immediately changes. ‘Send us your CV,’ she says.

Within two days I had an offer of a placement, with the initially condescending woman, praising the commitment I had to my career.

I’ve learnt from my experiences that you cannot beat talking to somebody. It is a lot harder to decline somebody over the phone, than it is to press delete, or send back an automated email response thanking somebody for their interest.

Contacts are great. If you have them, it’s silly not to use them. If you don’t have them, it really isn’t a big issue. Start at the bottom, local newspapers a week at a time and, using my method you can move on to bigger things. If you genuinely have a passion for what you want to do, then making that call isn’t going to scare you too much.

The worst they can say is no.

Like what you've read? Why not follow Alex on Twitter for more of (hopefully insightful) tweets.