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How to find publishing and journalism graduate jobs

Graduate schemes and traineeships aren’t the only route into journalism and publishing. Seeking out other vacancies or applying speculatively will help you to secure an entry-level role in these competitive industries.

Graduate schemes and traineeships | One-off vacancies with smaller employers | Speculative applications

Publishing graduate schemes are sometimes rotational, allowing you to experience a range of business areas.

Unlike in some other sectors, only a minority of publishing and journalism employers have an annual recruitment drive for graduates. Even those that do run graduate schemes have a relatively small intake and don’t all advertise their vacancies at the same time of year. You are much more likely to stumble upon a job at short notice than to have something lined up months in advance.

That’s not to say 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 entry-level jobs, each requiring a slightly different approach when you apply. It’s a good idea to apply for a combination of formal traineeships or graduate schemes and one-off job vacancies, as well as sending out a few speculative applications.

However, more applications doesn’t necessarily increase your chance of success: you should still carefully prioritise which companies you’d like to apply to (across each of these application methods) and spend time putting together quality applications.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to a drop in the number of publishing and journalism jobs; in particular, there have been fewer graduate schemes and traineeships advertised in 2020–21. However, the numbers of ad hoc entry-level opportunities are returning to pre-pandemic levels. This makes it more important than ever to be open-minded and consider small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as the big names.

1. Journalism and publishing graduate schemes and traineeships

Some large publishing companies (typically trade publishers) run structured trainee schemes, which are advertised on their websites. These programmes are sometimes rotational, allowing you to experience a range of business areas such as editorial, marketing, publicity and rights. They are increasingly open to people without a degree and/or aimed specifically at people from ethnic minority backgrounds, in order to improve diversity within the companies. For example, in 2020–2021:

  • HarperCollins is running an 18-month rotational graduate scheme and a 12-month BAME (black, Asian or minority ethnic) traineeship
  • Hachette has a 12-month traineeship
  • Penguin Random House has a six-month traineeship.

Likewise, 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 advertised in 2020–2021 include:

  • The Times’ two-year graduate trainee programme for news reporters
  • The Telegraph’s two-year editorial graduate programme
  • the BBC’s two-year advanced journalism apprenticeship scheme.

Applying only to formal traineeships or graduate programmes limits your chances of success – as well as there being fewer vacancies available overall, there might not be any opportunities in the region where you would prefer to live (organisations running graduate schemes and traineeships tend to be based mainly in London and the south-east of England). Fortunately, there are plenty of other options to consider.

2. Individual journalism and publishing job vacancies

Sign up for email alerts or keep checking back regularly, as you never know when vacancies will arise.

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 of year.

Widening your search to include SMEs and less well-known publication names will give you more opportunities to apply for – and make it easier to 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.

A good starting point for tracking down these opportunities is the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which contains lists of UK book, newspaper and magazine publishers. Then see if each one has a ‘careers’, ‘jobs’ or ‘work for us’ page on its website with vacancies advertised. If not, you can try applying speculatively (see the next section for more on this).

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.

Alternatively, you can find vacancies on websites such as:

  • TARGETjobs – and follow us on Twitter @TjobsMarketing
  • The Bookseller
  • The Independent Publishers Guild
  • BookCareers
  • The Publishing Post (a free online magazine that you can download from its website)
  • 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’s careers service website.

It’s a good idea to sign up for email alerts from employers that interest you and the organisations listed above, follow them on social media or keep checking back regularly, as you never know when vacancies will arise.

3. Speculative applications for publishing and journalism jobs

Your chance of success will always be greater if you give it a go than if you never even try.

If there are no vacancies on an organisation’s website, you can apply speculatively by sending a CV and covering letter. If there are not currently any opportunities, the employer might contact you when something comes up in the future. Don’t let fear of rejection put you off; remember that your chance of success will always be greater if you give it a go than if you never even try.

Applying speculatively gives you more options than if you only apply when you see a vacancy advertised. This is true in any sector, but speculative applications are even more useful for those trying to break into journalism and publishing. That’s because there are so few organised graduate schemes and ad hoc 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 already receive enough interest through speculative applications.

There’s no limit to the number of speculative applications you can make. However, don’t apply speculatively if the employer is already advertising vacancies for entry-level jobs. You should also prioritise the employers that interest you most and take some time to research them beforehand. Our article on speculative applications for graduate jobs explains how to do this.

Last updated: 29 April 2021.

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