University & Degrees

9 enterprising ways to get work experience in journalism 

3 mins
May 31, 2022
As a journalist, your aim could be to investigate serious crimes or political corruption, amplify the voices of a marginalised community, or simplify complex political issues so that your audience can understand them. Journalism is a fascinating field and there are so many strands to it, whether it's researching and writing articles for newspapers or magazines, taking pictures that tell a story, or presenting content on the radio or television. In this article, we’re going to list 9 ways you can break into journalism!

1. Register your interest in one of Springpod’s Media Virtual Work Experience programmes

We may be biased but we KNOW virtual programmes are one of the EASIEST (and quickest!) ways to learn what a sector really looks like. In Springpod’s journalism work experience programme, you'll cover a variety of different types of journalism like print and broadcast, you’ll get to question industry experts and complete activities that could be the start of your portfolio! So, what are you waiting for?!

2. Speak to your teachers!

One of the most straightforward (and often most overlooked!) ways to get work experience is to speak to the people around you - your network. Teachers, careers advisors and other students are all people that make up your professional network as you start out! Start looking for journalism work experience by speaking to your teachers; it’s likely that they have a contact that can offer you a placement. It’s literally a careers advisor's job to build a list of contacts that can help their students, so it’s a better place to start than you think!

3. Local paper

Loads of towns and cities have their own paper or gazette, have a look at a couple you like the look of and see where they’re made; you’ll be able to find the name of the office and contact details. Reach out and mention your career ambitions and ask if they would be willing to offer you any work experience or better yet pitch them an article about what’s going on in your local area. Take the time to do a bit of research and reading so you know what they're about and adjust your pitch accordingly.  

4. Find mentors 

Finding one or two mentors who are able to offer weekly coaching, answer questions or simply point you in the right direction can be invaluable. A mentor can help contextualise things you’ve learnt so far and give you a well-rounded view of what the profession looks like, they might even know someone that could offer you work experience! Mentors are great to have at any point in your career, they’ll likely have taken the same steps you have and can give advice they wish they’d had; this could be anything from whether or not professional qualifications are worth the money or whether a company is good culture fit for you.

As a journalist it’s good practice to make sure you’re getting the best out of each conversation, write down bullets of what you want to discuss beforehand and any questions you have!

5. Watch TV

We’re not saying sitting on the sofa watching Netflix is work experience, but if you’ve got a list of documentaries you love, it might be worth looking into the people who made them (aka the people listed in the credits). Get in touch with producers, journalists and editors on LinkedIn with a message about how much you enjoyed their work and ask about any work experience opportunities. Reaching out to individuals whose work you like is networking, so even if you don’t manage to get work experience, don’t be disheartened you’ve still made steps in the right direction.

6. Enter photography competitions

If you are keen to start a career as a photojournalist, think about entering some photography competitions! There are hundreds out there, and they can lead to you getting noticed. In addition, the more people who see your photographs, the more constructive criticism you will receive. Your first attempts at photojournalism are unlikely to be perfect, so don’t shy away from criticism and advice - it’s the best way to improve.

7. Always be on the lookout 

Sometimes opportunities for work experience can present themselves when you’re not looking or in places you’d least expect. Consider what journalism means to you; do other areas (or business functions!) like public relations (PR) or marketing come into what you think of journalism? At its core, journalism is the art of gathering information and presenting it to an audience. So keep your eye out for related opportunities, any researching and writing for an audience will come in handy and are things that can be added to your portfolio.

8. Share your portfolio

If you’re looking to start a career in journalism then having a portfolio is essential! It doesn’t need to be some overly polished document or only contain work that you’re really proud of; the purpose of a portfolio is to show the variety of projects you’ve worked on and give an overview of each one. At the start of your career, include all jobs/projects you’ve worked on, like your A-Level/university journalism assignment, a podcast you started with a mate, or any longform writing you’ve done that highlights your prowess. It’s important to note that your work will only get better and this improvement looks great so don’t be afraid to include anything - this is only a starting point! For creative fields a portfolio is like your CV so whilst you shouldn’t spend ages on it, make sure it’s formatted nicely and is easy to read, also make sure it’s up to date with your latest projects!

9. Join the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)

The National Council for the Training of Journalists is one of the most important journalism organisations in the UK and is unique in bringing together partners from all sectors of the media and all sectors of journalism education and training. They provide great advice to student members, so check them out and see what you can learn!

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