Is Work Experience Worth It?

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People often have a rather cynical view of work experience and in this economy, we are seeing a lot of youth unemployment. Many of that is down to no experience or a lack of motivation to go out and find a job and yes, I know the government has a part to play in this and they are offering a lot of training opportunities for young people who do not go to university. However, unfortunately, if we do go to university, a degree is simply not enough. In any sector now, you need to have some kind of experience outside of education and many of them are unpaid.

In 2012, I completed eight unpaid work experience placements and now, with me being in my final year of university, I have a lot of experience under my belt for after graduation. One of the reasons why I excelled at getting those placements is because luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was simply aiming for that, which does makes things easier.

There is nothing wrong about not knowing what you want to do but that is what work experience is for. Finding out what you are good at and where you want to go. When people think of work experience, they think of a job that you want to do in the future but that is not necessarily the case at all. If you don’t know what you want to do, I suggest you think long and hard about what you like, what you don’t like, what you are good at, what you are not good at and find a sector that you think you may want go into and research that.

I have had ambitions ever since I was young to work in the media, specifically in the music industry. I got my first work experience placement at a music studio in Year 10 and I really enjoyed it. Since then, I wanted to be a music journalist because I loved new music and I was obsessed with certain bands – I thought I really wanted my future to be based around the music industry. A few years down the line, I could not have been more wrong and that is down to work experience.

When I eventually got my first undergraduate work placement during my first year at university, I did something that was nothing to do with music. I worked at BBC Radio 4 for one month and then I did a lot more unpaid radio and TV work placements.

By meshing all of those work placements together, I am now confident enough to tell you exactly what I want to do as a career because I had a lot of different experience to come to a decision about what I really want to do. Sometimes, you may think a certain job is so amazing yet you have not had a chance to work there but when you eventually do, it may not be what you were expecting and vice versa – a job that you really think won’t be to your taste but when you do it, it may perhaps be your dream job. So, do not knock it, until you have tried it.

What I am trying to put across is that, do not be put off by unpaid experience because all my placements made me gain so many skills and industry based knowledge. It did a lot to improve my confidence and self-esteem. I also got to see how the world of work will be like, so it has prepared me for the real thing. Most importantly, I made amazing contacts (who I hassle now and then for a job). Now, I will not have to do what many students do after I complete my degree – go out and look for unpaid work experience, which to me is a waste of time after graduation. I do not want to be unemployed after I leave university.

Also, what I want to stress is that, people think work experience is just making tea. Well, I do not know about other industries, but certainly when I was on work experience, they basically threw me in at the deep end straight away and I had to do big tasks. They treated me like I was an actual member of the team and people relied on me to finish a task promptly. I did not even have to make a single cup of tea to be honest with you. So, it may be unpaid but it may not be what you are expecting it to be like and you get so much out of it for the future.

So, in a nutshell, what I did was, whilst being at university, I did as much unpaid work experience as I can to make myself ready for employment freshly out from university in 2014. That is what employers look for, experience as well as qualification but to me, experience overshadows everything.

I am in my third year now and along with two dissertation to do, I am also starting to think about if I want to do a postgraduate degree or apply to paid graduate schemes or even proper jobs and applying to graduate schemes and jobs feels right because I feel qualified and ready, or rather I will do after I graduate and perhaps after working in the industry for a couple years, I may want to get back into education to do my Masters.

To me, work experience is so important. In fact, it is a must if you want to get a good job. Work experience can also be life-changing, because for me, it was and to answer the question of this article, yes, work experience is so worth it.

How I Got Into Journalism & Advice On How To Get Into Journalism

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People often ask me how I got into journalism so I thought I would do a blog post on it about both broadcast and print journalism and my top tips on how to get into journalism yourself.

I actually have no idea how I got into journalism to be honest because I just sort of fell into it. I did not ever say, “When I grow up, I want to be a journalist.” Not really.  I wanted to be a teacher (as most kids do), a singer, a dancer….I knew I always wanted to work in the media industry, specifically music but that has died down now and I will talk about that a bit more in a bit.

I always remember being fascinated by the news and what is going on in the world. When I was little, I watched and listened to newsreaders on TV and on the Radio and tried to imitate them. I always wondered what it would be like to be a newsreader, a TV presenter or a radio presenter…but I always felt like I could never be those things because of my lack of confidence and so I just turned to writing and music instead, which was easier as I am not much of a speaker.

Writing has always been one of my main passions. I can articulate myself better in writing rather than speaking. I used to keep a diary. My diary went everywhere with me. It was a very useful way of letting my feelings out. It kind of was my only friend – do excuse the cliché. The reason why, was because I always felt rather misunderstood and so when I wrote things down, I felt like I was getting it all off my chest and therefore felt better. Also, my diary (along with music) was a big part of my life when I was being bullied and my times in psychiatric units. It helped, a lot.

There has been a lot of studies showing a correlation between creativity and mental illnesses and I can definitely vouch for that. Writing has always been a release for me.

I would not say my favourite subject in school was English, however I did get a good grade in my English GCSE and I enjoyed a lot of the coursework. I love writing essays. I remember writing a GCSE English essay about something to do with the media and I got an A on that piece – my first ever A that I have ever got in my life and I was proud of it. I then realised that I am rather good at writing. I was praised by teachers saying how well written my essays are and that really gave me a bit of confidence – I actually was good at something.

Because I enjoyed music and had a passion for radio, I wanted to work in music radio or become a music journalist writing for a magazine. I started a blog and wrote about music – reviewing music/bands etc… but I just was not happy with it. I did not feel like I was getting anywhere with it and I did not enjoy it.

During my stint at BBC Radio 4 , I really got into news and politics. I met rather intellectual people everyday there such as newsreaders, producers, journalists, presenters, philosophers, politicians and authors. It was then when I felt like this is what I want to do. I want to make news and current affairs programmes for a speech radio station such as Radio 4. I want to create news and inform people.

Music really at that point, did not matter to be anymore. Well, of course it mattered but not in a career sense. I love music and always will, but I do not want to work in that industry anymore.

I remember a lot of the Tony Blair years. I was only little but the Blair era stood out as a lot of things happened in that Labour government, overshadowed by the Iraq war. News was on everyday in the house and Blair was not that popular in our house. Gordon Brown years were absolutely ridiculous too. I was not heavily into politics then but Brown absolutely destroyed the government.

However, when I visited the Houses of Parliament and saw how the House of Commons looks in real life – I pretty much fell in love with it.

I am following the Coalition government very closely and since Radio 4 and my time at LBC, I have quite an obsession with politicians and how they think, how they act, their policies. I have developed this kind of analytical mind about politicians and I love writing about UK politics. I actually would love to work at Westminister as a politician’s assistant. How weird. I do not support and have never supported a particular party because being a journalist has taught me to be impartial. I would not want to be political journalist though as I love writing about various things, as you can see by this blog.

Putting politics aside, I have realised that I love storytelling, I love writing, I love reading and I love meeting interesting people. I love informing people about certain issues. It does take a lot of guts to do what with having issues with anxiety but in order to be a journalist, you have to talk which is what I am working on and journalism is my own personal journey to getting better and conquering a lot of fears.

Something that has helped me emotionally has become something that I made into a job now, which is absolutely amazing.

So, these are my top tips if you want to become a journalist yourself…

Be Passionate

Obviously, if you want to become a journalist, you really have to know your stuff – you have to be on the ball all the time – watching, listening and reading the news everyday. Attend events. Go to the scene of the crime. Take notes. You have to be passionate about news and getting a story out there.

Write

Start a blog and write whatever you are passionate about. I do not write about something that I am not interested in. I write about something that really interests me and if I have something to say.

Read

If you know me, you would know that newspapers have always been something that I have read ever since I was little. I love newspapers and I have a collection of newspapers (mostly The Independent), including magazines too. Read as much as you can. Books, newspapers, magazines, online articles etc… It really helps with learning.

Work Experience/Internships/Graduate Trainee Schemes

I do not think I would be a journalist now if I have never done a work placement at a place as big as the BBC. You must have some kind of work experience in order to get some practical skills. Apply at the BBC, your local radio station, magazine, newspaper – anywhere to get your foot in the door.

If you have graduated from university, apply for Graduate schemes. The BBC provide a Journalism Trainee Scheme. Many top journalists have been on that scheme.

University

Not everyone who is a journalist is a graduate but most journalists that I have met have some kind of degree behind them. Most top journalists have a postgraduate degree but of course, that is not essential. It is good to have a degree anyway – it will definitely be easier to get a job in the field.

Volunteer

If you are at university, volunteer at your student radio station or write for your student magazine. Get involved with your community radio station or your community magazine. Get a few articles published and keep them for your portfolio.

Have Ideas, Be Creative and Most of All Learn How To Write A Good Pitch

When you are a journalist, you have to constantly write pitches to Editors. It could be for a newspaper, a magazine, a radio station and television. I was not prepared for the amount of pitches I will need to write. Everyone wants an idea. Something unique. You need to be creative and you need to learn how to write a good pitch. When I feel like I am good at pitches, I will be sure to write a blog post on it.

And Finally…Be Persistent

You will get a lot of rejections. There is no question about that. You will just have to keep on going. It takes a long time to get to where you want. You cannot give up!