Unlike in some other sectors, only a minority of publishing and journalism employers run an annual recruitment drive for graduates and interns, and those that do have a relatively small intake. There is not a regular annual recruitment cycle where you can expect to see lots of graduate deadlines close together: opportunities, including graduate schemes, may be advertised at any time of year. There’s also no clear progression from internship to graduate job; you might require further work experience after graduating, and are more likely to stumble upon a job at short notice than to have something lined up months in advance.
That’s not to say that getting into publishing and journalism is necessarily more challenging than other sectors – once you know where to start looking. There are three main types of vacancies for publishing and journalism work experience and entry-level jobs, each requiring a slightly different approach when you apply.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a drop in the number of publishing and journalism vacancies advertised. Many employers chose not to run summer internships in 2020, and some that have previously run graduate programmes are not offering them this year. However, as of September 2020, entry-level opportunities are increasingly being advertised again, so don’t give up hope of starting your publishing or journalism career this year. Whether you apply for an advertised vacancy or speculatively, be prepared for increased competition, which may mean receiving more rejections before being offered a role. Jobs may involve temporarily working from home until offices reopen, and some may even be based remotely on a permanent basis.
Publishing graduate schemes are often rotational, allowing you to experience a range of business areas.
Publishing graduate schemes and traineeships
Some publishers (typically larger organisations) typically run graduate schemes, which are advertised on their websites. These are structured programmes that are often rotational, allowing you to experience a range of business areas. Schemes such as these are increasingly open to people without a degree, and some are specifically for people from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, in order to improve diversity.
For example, in 2020 HarperCollins is recruiting for its BAME traineeship. Its rotational graduate scheme is set to open for applications in 2021.
Journalism graduate schemes and traineeships
As with publishing, formal training schemes in journalism are normally only offered by the larger and more well-known publications, and some are open to non-graduates.
Opportunities that have been advertised in 2020 despite the pandemic include The Sunday Times’ graduate trainee programme for news reporters, The Telegraph’s editorial graduate programme and the BBC’s journalism trainee scheme.
Publishing and journalism internships
Summer internships are sometimes advertised annually in the same way as graduate schemes. They can increase your chances of securing a full-time position with the same employer, as well as providing you with some great publishing or journalism experience to impress different employers. Although it’s a good idea to complete internships in your university summer vacations, you may find you need to gain further work experience after graduating before you can get a full-time job.
Some organisations have previously had a work experience recruitment drive more frequently, such as two-week placements four times a year, either instead of or as well as summer internships.
Many publishers and news organisations have chosen not to run internships or work experience in 2020, but we will update this page with examples if internships are advertised for 2021. Alternatively, if it is still not possible to run in-person internships, employers may consider offering some form of virtual equivalent.
Don’t limit yourself to internships and graduate schemes
Formal graduate schemes and internships in publishing and journalism may look like an appealing route in – they tend to have a clearly defined structure to specifically prepare you for a career in the industry, and provide valuable experience with well-known employers – but beware of limiting yourself to these. Even the larger employers only recruit a handful of interns or graduates each year, and so they are extremely competitive.
Applying only to formal internships or graduate programmes limits your chances of success – for example, there might not be any opportunities in the region where you would prefer to live (as organisations running graduate schemes and internships tend to be based mainly in London and the south-east of England). But don’t worry; there are plenty of other options open to you.
Smaller, independent publishers and local newspapers and magazines are unlikely to recruit graduates annually and will only advertise an entry-level role when one becomes available, which could be at any time. The majority of job vacancies in journalism and publishing are advertised in this way, so graduate schemes are far from the norm.
Widening your search to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and less well-known publication names will give you a much broader variety of vacancies to apply for and could help you find a role that’s right for you. At an SME you’re more likely to be given early responsibility and the chance to voice your ideas, as well as assisting with a variety of projects from day one. Find out more here about the benefits of getting work experience with small employers.
To track down these more elusive opportunities, start by listing organisations that interest you. A good starting point is the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which contains lists of UK book, newspaper and magazine publishers. Then see if they have a ‘careers’, ‘jobs’ or ‘work for us’ page on their website that has vacancies advertised. If not, you can try applying speculatively (see below).
Look out for job titles that include words such as ‘assistant’ or ‘trainee’ and check the required skills and experience carefully to make sure you’re eligible to apply. Find out more about the main types of jobs in book publishing. Or if your dream is to be a news reporter, read our advice on applying for jobs at local newspapers and trade publications.
Sign up for email alerts or keep checking back regularly, as you never know when vacancies will arise.
Alternatively, you can find vacancies on websites such as:
- TARGETjobs – and follow us on Twitter @TjobsMarketing
- The Bookseller Careers
- The Independent Publishers Guild
- Inspired Selection – a recruitment agency for publishing jobs
- Atwood Tate – a recruitment agency for publishing jobs
- Redwood Publishing Recruitment – a recruitment agency for publishing jobs
- Creative Access – a social enterprise providing internship opportunities in areas including journalism and book publishing to people from BAME backgrounds
- Media Beans - a job board advertising vacancies in areas including publishing and journalism
- Mediargh – a job board advertising vacancies in media production (including journalism and publishing)
- Your university careers service website.
It’s a good idea to sign up for email alerts from employers that interest you as well as the organisations listed above, follow them on social media or keep checking back regularly, as you never know when vacancies will arise.
If there are no vacancies on an organisation’s website, you’ll need to apply speculatively by sending a CV and covering letter. There may not currently be an opportunity available, but the employer might contact you if something comes up in the future. Speculative applications are particularly useful for getting that all-important first work experience placement, which could lead directly to a job with the same employer or help you stand out from the crowd in future applications.
There’s effectively no limit to the number of organisations you can apply to speculatively. However, don’t apply speculatively if the employer is already advertising vacancies for entry-level jobs or work experience. Don’t let fear of rejection put you off; remember that your chance of acceptance will always be greater if you give it a go than if you never even try.
Applying speculatively gives you many more options than if you only apply when you see a vacancy advertised. This is true in any sector, but speculative applications are almost essential to break into journalism and publishing. That’s because there are so few organised graduate schemes, and even one-off vacancies might not exist in your preferred geographical region or area of work. Some organisations only advertise jobs for experienced candidates, as their entry-level roles and work experience already receive enough interest through speculative applications.
An SME might not have the budget to recruit a full-time employee or several interns, but could provide one week of work shadowing (spending time with someone in a particular role to try and understand what it involves) to a candidate applying speculatively – and might then offer you a paid position once one becomes available. Being open-minded is key.
Your chance of acceptance will always be greater if you give it a go than if you never even try.
If an organisation can’t afford to pay you, it may be flexible about hours which would allow you to combine unpaid work experience with paid part-time work, or to do, say, one day a week alongside your degree. However, make sure you know your rights before you accept any unpaid work experience.
You can make speculative applications all year round but if you will only be available for a limited amount of time – for example, if you’re looking for work shadowing in your hometown during the university vacation – give as much notice as possible to ensure that the employer will be able to accommodate you at that time.
More info on speculative applications:
- Making speculative applications for graduate jobs
- Discover hidden internships: the art of speculative applications
- Seek hidden graduate jobs and ye shall find
- Don’t limit yourself to just one of these methods when applying for work experience or jobs. It’s a good idea to apply for a combination of formal schemes and one-off vacancies, as well as sending out a few speculative applications.
- It’s normal not to have a publishing or journalism job lined up by the time you finish your degree. Don’t be put off by friends applying for graduate schemes in finance or engineering, who may already have job offers by Christmas in their final year. Take any opportunities you can to build up experience, and as you approach the end of your final year keep a look out for any jobs that come up. SMEs might want someone to start straight away, meaning you can’t apply until the end of your course anyway, and even some larger organisations don’t recruit until the summer for graduate schemes starting in the autumn. The benefit of this is that it gives you more time to explore your options and to focus on your degree and extracurricular activities.
- Some entry-level publishing and journalism jobs don’t require any specific academic qualifications, so you’ll be competing against people who didn’t go to university as well as your fellow students. This includes one-off vacancies as well as traineeships or apprenticeships, which are sometimes offered instead of graduate schemes. That’s why it’s so important to get work experience and develop your commercial awareness so you have something to offer alongside your degree.
Remember that internships are not the only way to gain journalism and publishing experience, and they are rarely a prerequisite when applying for jobs. Whether you’re struggling to gain work experience or you’re looking for something extra to add to your CV, consider the following options.
- Getting involved with media-related university societies, such as student-run newspapers, magazines or creative writing anthologies if they run this year, can help you build up a portfolio of your work. Even better, you could stand for election for positions of responsibility such as a section editor or sub-editor in your penultimate or final year. Here’s why extracurricular activities will help you get hired and how to get the most out of student journalism.
- Attend events and webinars, such as those run by the Society of Young Publishers (SYP), to learn more about the industry and decide where you’d fit in. The SYP has moved all of its events online this year, which means there is plenty of choice: you can attend events run by any of its regional branches from wherever you are based. It ran a virtual conference in November 2020.
- In previous years there have been insight days run by the larger publishers. Although these are unlikely to be happening this year, it's worth keeping an eye out for any similar insight events (or virtual equivalents) that take place in the future. For example, Hachette is running Virtual Introduction to Publishing networking events and HarperNorth is running Northern:Lite virtual open days.
- Would a postgraduate qualification in journalism or publishing benefit you? Weigh up the benefits and disadvantages with our advice on publishing courses and journalism courses.