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Find work experience and graduate jobs in publishing and journalism

How to find publishing and journalism graduate jobs and work experience

Graduate schemes and internships aren’t the only route into journalism and publishing careers. Find out what opportunities are available and the best time of year to submit your application.

Graduate schemes, traineeships and internships | One-off vacancies with smaller employers | Speculative applications | Tips for job-hunting

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’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.

Many publishing internships are open to both non-graduates and graduates.

Journalism and publishing graduate schemes and internships

Publishing graduate schemes

Some publishing employers (typically larger organisations in the south of England) do have graduate schemes, which are advertised on their websites. These are structured programmes, usually allowing you to experience a range of business areas. Schemes such as these are increasingly open to people without a degree, and/or targeted at people from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, in order to improve diversity.

We can't guarantee which employers will be recruiting graduates this year, but publishing companies that have previously run graduate schemes include:

  • Penguin Random House: six-month editorial traineeship, open to applicants from BAME or socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds (a degree is not required)
  • HarperCollins: 18-month graduate scheme (applications have previously closed in March), as well as a BAME traineeship for which a degree is not required (applications have previously opened in May)
  • Hachette: 12-month traineeship for BAME graduates
  • Cambridge University Press: 15-month graduate programme (applications have previously closed in February).

Publishing internships

Internships are sometimes formally advertised 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 generally providing you with some great publishing experience to impress future employers.

In this sector, an internship isn’t something that you’ll only do while you’re a student. Although it’s a good idea to complete an internship in the summer before your final year of university, you may find you need to gain further work experience after graduating before you can get a full-time job. Many publishing internships are open to both non-graduates and graduates, and some are only open to graduates. Previous examples include:

  • Oxford University Press: eight-week internship running throughout July and August
  • Penguin Random House: internship running throughout July and August (applications have previously closed in April)
  • Hachette: eight-week internship.

Some organisations have a work experience recruitment drive more frequently. For example, Penguin Random House regularly recruits for two-week placements, while Bloomsbury recruits four times a year for three-month internships.

Journalism graduate schemes and traineeships

As with publishing, formal training schemes in journalism are normally only offered by the larger and more famous organisations, and some are open to non-graduates. Opportunities have previously included:

  • The Times: two-year graduate trainee programme for aspiring news reporters
  • Telegraph Media Group: three-year editorial graduate programme
  • The Financial Times: editorial graduate programme
  • The BBC: ten-month journalism trainee scheme (applications have previously closed in February)
  • Thomson Reuters: journalism training programme.

Journalism internships

  • The Guardian offers ad hoc editorial work experience placements. Applications have previously opened in June for placements between October and December.
  • The Financial Times has previously offered various editorial internships (lasting one month) and placements (lasting three months) for graduates.
  • Telegraph Media Group has previously offered internships lasting three or more months.

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 the options available – for example, there might not be any opportunities in the regions where you would prefer to live. But don’t worry; there are plenty of other options open to you.

Jobs and work experience opportunities with smaller employers

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 and magazine 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
  • Society of Young Publishers
  • The Independent Publishers Guild
  • Inspired Selection – a recruitment agency for publishing jobs
  • Atwood Tate – 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
  • 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 organisations that advertise this way, follow them on social media or keep checking back regularly, as you never know when vacancies will arise.

Networking is useful here. If you know anyone who might have contacts in the industry, ask them to look out for opportunities for you.

  • Keep in touch with past work experience providers in case they have job vacancies in future.
  • Your university’s alumni association is a great way to make contacts. Find out if you can view a database of past students, some of whom may be working in the media and happy for you to contact them.
  • Stay on good terms with anyone you meet through student media societies. Your editor-in-chief could soon become a valuable contact at an organisation you’re interested in.

Speculative applications: a must for publishing and journalism work experience

If there are no vacancies on an organisation’s website, you’ll need to apply speculatively. 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.

Some organisations’ websites state that they welcome speculative enquiries; the careers page asks you to send a CV and covering letter to register your interest, and they will contact you when a job or work experience opportunity becomes available. Examples include Walker Books, Amberley Publishing and Coordination Group Publications (CGP).

You can also apply speculatively to organisations that don’t say anything about jobs on their websites. There’s effectively no limit to the number of organisations you can apply to. However, don’t apply speculatively if the employer is already advertising vacancies for entry-level jobs or work experience.

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. Be willing to do work experience even if you’d prefer a full-time job, because you never know where the opportunity could take you. Being open-minded is key.

Speculative applications are particularly useful for getting that all-important first work experience placement.

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.

If you don’t hear back within two or three weeks, consider making a polite phone call to check that the employer has received your application. Don’t let fear of rejection put you off applying; stay determined, focused and open-minded. Remember that your chance of acceptance will always be greater if you give it a go than if you never even try.

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:

Media job-hunting tips

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 so you have something to offer alongside your degree.
  4. Remember that internships are not the only way to gain journalism and publishing experience. Getting involved with media-related university societies such as student newspapers can be equally valuable. Sign up at freshers’ fair and start to build up a portfolio of your work. Stand for election for positions of responsibility such as a section editor or sub-editor in your penultimate or final year, for an added boost to your CV. Here's why extracurricular activities will help you get hired and how to get the most out of student journalism.
  5. Not sure if publishing is the right career for you? See if there are any insight days you can attend, such as Hachette’s annual ‘Inside Story’ event and Penguin Random House’s ‘JobHack’ events. You can also attend events run by the Society of Young Publishers to meet people working in the industry and learn about what their jobs involve.
  6. Would a postgraduate qualification in journalism or publishing benefit you? Look into this option during your final year and make time to attend any open days or other events. Explore your options with TARGETjobs' advice on postgraduate study and read our advice about masters degrees and postgraduate diplomas in journalism.