Internships and placements

Getting work experience in the media and publishing industry

22 Jan 2024, 13:27

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.

A microphone: work experience can include student broadcasters

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. 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 | Student broadcasters | Virtual events | Part-time work and volunteering

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. There may be formal schemes available (many careers services run work-shadowing schemes with local businesses, which may include media and publishing companies) or you may be able to arrange your own by applying speculatively (see below).
  • either formal or informal 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. Again, you may be able to apply to formal schemes (some years Channel 4 advertises the opportunity to apply for a week's work experience) or you may be able to arrange your own.
  • 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, including Penguin Random House and HarperCollins.

You can find opportunities on employers’ websites, on targetjobs, on media-focused jobs boards 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.

However, not all media and publishing companies are able to run formal internships or placements, but may be able to give you a short period of work experience. So, take the initiative and approach companies that interest you even if they don’t offer a formal work experience scheme. We have advice on making speculative applications for work experience that includes an example email to a specialist children's publishing house.

In most cases you should be paid for work experience, but the media industry is known to offer a high number of unpaid internships: this article will help you know your rights .

Student broadcasters

One of the best places to start getting experience is probably somewhere on campus. 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.

Insight events and online alternatives

Some media and publishing employers run insight days, allowing you to learn more about the sector and the organisation. It’s also worth looking out for shorter webinar-style events run by organisations such as the Society of Young Publishers, BookMachine and some publishing companies.

Part-time work and volunteering

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.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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