The media and publishing sectors are hard to get into as a fresh graduate. This is because your work is likely to be in the public eye from your first day. Understandably, employers are nervous about unleashing an untested recruit with their brand name. So the more work experience you have in your portfolio, the more likely you are to get in.
Work experience is a perfect way to showcase your talents, make contacts and show your enthusiasm. The media sector is varied and incorporates TV, PR, theatre, radio, and book, magazine and web publishing - and in all of these areas, work experience is valued highly.
One of the best places to start getting experience is probably somewhere on campus. Many student unions have a website, newspaper, radio or television station. These are a good place to build up a portfolio of work and most welcome new members with open arms.
Even if they don’t have enough space for you to add any content when you join, then they will almost certainly need support staff, proofreaders, producers and such. Experience across a range of different roles will help when you apply for more senior roles as it demonstrates an understanding of the whole process.
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Internships, placements and work shadowing
If you're looking for media work experience, you’ll have to do a lot of hunting around. Take the initiative and approach companies that interest you, even if they don't offer a formal work experience scheme.
- Work shadowing is a good introduction to many areas of the media. Here you spend time with an experienced professional, learning about what they do.
- If you can spare one day a week, a clever move would be to offer your services as an industrial placement. This will give you a long-term look at an organisation, and help you to build contacts and experience.
- Work experience weeks are a good way to get a short but intense feel for how a particular role works. These are a good way to find out more about a job you think you’d like.
- Longer internships will give you more hands-on experience. Many employers will treat these in the same way as full-time employment, so when they are asking for someone who has ‘at least one year’s experience’, you can tick that box.
Tips for applying
Most of the big media organisations (notably larger book publishers and the BBC) organise their work experience placements up to a year in advance. At the other end of the scale, smaller organisations are less likely to have an official structure, and may not know how to deal with an internship inquiry. It's normal to need to cover a lot of ground before you find someone willing to take you on.
Be organised and keep your eyes open for interesting opportunities. Application methods vary; some companies respond best to speculative applications with a CV and covering letter attached, while some require you to apply online. Our article on 'How to find publishing and journalism graduate jobs and work experience' explains the main types of vacancies (internships, ad hoc work experience opportunities with smaller employers, and applying speculatively) in more depth. Whatever the details of the application process it’s vital to display enthusiasm for the industry.