Getting work experience in the media and publishing industry
While a media or publishing internship isn’t essential, doing some form of hands-on media work experience will help you get your first job in publishing or the media.
Take the initiative and approach companies that interest you if they don’t offer a formal work experience scheme.
The media and publishing sectors are hard to get into as a fresh graduate 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 on your CV, the more likely you are to get in. Work experience is a perfect way to showcase your talents, make contacts and show your enthusiasm.
Relatively few employers advertise summer internships each year compared to other sectors – and this has become even more apparent during the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, you’ll need to be open-minded when looking for opportunities, but you’ll also have the freedom to get involved with all kinds of different extracurricular activities that will be equally valuable.
Internships, placements and work shadowing
Work experience options with media and publishing employers include:
- work shadowing, which is a good introduction to many areas of the media. Here you spend time with an experienced professional, learning about what they do.
- work experience placements lasting one to two weeks. These are a good way to get a strong feel for how a particular role works in a short period of time, as well as to find out more about a job you think you’d like.
- Longer internships, which usually last two to three months and sometimes – though not always, take place in the summer. These are usually offered by larger organisations.
You can find opportunities on employers’ websites, on TARGETjobs and through organisations such as Creative Access. While some other sectors have an annual recruitment drive for summer, internships, publishing and media employers tend to advertise their work experience opportunities at any time of year so it’s worth checking back regularly. Take the initiative and approach companies that interest you if they don’t offer a formal work experience scheme. We have advice on making speculative applications for work experience. In most cases you should be paid for work experience: this article will help you know your rights.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic fewer employers are offering internships and work experience placements this year, and some are running them virtually: the Penguin Random House internship is one example. Read our guides to internships, work experience and the coronavirus and what to expect from virtual internships for more advice. Fewer available opportunities mean that internship applications are likely to be more competitive this year, making it even more important to seek alternative forms of experience as well.
One of the best places to start getting experience is probably somewhere on campus – though these activities will have been more difficult to find while university campuses are closed due to the coronavirus. Many student unions have a website, newspaper, magazine, creative writing anthology, radio and/or television station. These are good places to build up a portfolio of work. Even if they don’t have enough space for you to contribute any new content when you join, they will almost certainly need support staff, proofreaders, producers and so on. Sign up at freshers’ fair or go along to a meeting.
Once you’ve joined, you can stand for election to a more senior role, which will allow you to take on responsibility and be more involved in planning, organisation, decision-making and training up less experienced students. For example, a section editor for a student magazine might attend meetings, come up with article ideas to delegate, interview people, send requests for photographs, use online publishing programmes and liaise with designers. Experience across a range of different roles will also help when you apply for jobs as it demonstrates an understanding of the whole process.
Some media and publishing employers run insight days, allowing you to learn more about the sector and the organisation. During the coronavirus pandemic these are being run virtually. Examples include Northern:Lite virtual open days (with HarperCollins’ Manchester-based division HarperNorth), and Orion on Tour: Demystifying Publishing (run by Orion in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University).
It’s also worth looking out for shorter webinar-style events run by organisations such as TARGETjobs, the Society of Young Publishers and BookMachine. Hachette is also running a series of free virtual panel discussions called ‘Opening the Book’ from June 2021 onwards.
In fact, any work experience is valuable if it helps you develop the transferable skills that employers look for, such as communication, commercial awareness, creativity and problem solving. On your CV you might choose to split your experience into media-related work experience and other work experience.
Some non-media experiences are particularly relevant. If you’re interested in book publishing, for example, a part-time job in a library or bookshop (or volunteering in a charity bookshop) will improve your awareness of current book trends and what makes a book sell.
Last updated: 29 April 2021.