GUEST BLOG: Work experience is key to getting a foot in the door

Trainee journalist Stephen Matthews is working with Orange Juice as our latest intern. In the first of a series of guest blogs he reveals the importance of getting work experience to impress prospective employers and the difficulties he has faced in getting the chance to showcase his skills.

Work Experience

It’s important to understand that a young aspiring journalist stands absolutely no chance of getting a job at a newspaper unless they have undertaken enough work experience to get them up to industry standard.

A fancy degree from a prestigious university is no longer a golden ticket to a career in journalism, students must complete an advised 400 hours of voluntary service in order to fine-tune their skills and get them ready for the real world. But gaining work experience isn’t as easy as it sounds. 

Editors are reluctant to take on work experience students, often thanks to one student they took on five or six years ago who just spent the entire time on Facebook. 

Your emails will be ignored. If you send out 50 work experience requests, you’d be lucky to get one back. And on the off chance someone does reply to you, they may tell you that you aren’t good enough. However, if you want to gain experience in your desired field, you will have to keep trying to get someone’s attention, especially if you’re serious about a career in journalism.

Work experience often involves making endless cups of tea and remembering how many sugars your editor has, but it has its perks. If you manage to leave a lasting impression, you will hear back from the company again in the near future, offering you another stint of experience, or even perhaps a paid freelance opportunity. The extra pair of hands you offer can be invaluable.

Turning up to work experience for the first time is one of the most daunting situations you will ever find yourself in. You’ll be full to the brim of pre-conceived ideas that everyone in the office will disregard you instantly. However, Orange Juice Communications were completely the opposite of what I expected on my first day. Not only did they treat me as a member of the team, but I actually felt valued as an intern.

OJ are arguably the most recognisable PR firm in Northamptonshire and will allow to me stand-out from other students when it comes to hunting for a job next summer when I graduate from the University of Bedfordshire.

Everyone here is a former journalist, with decades of experience of the industry. I’ve picked up a huge amount of inside knowledge since I’ve been here, and I strongly doubt that I would have learnt this at any other firm. Hopefully I will continue to gain even more experience and industry insights from the team of professionals.

I’m so grateful to both Oliver and Daniel for the opportunity, and I can’t thank them enough for the experience they have enabled me to gain. Their previous intern, Jacob Jarvis, recently graduated with a first-class degree from De Montfort University, and walked straight into a job at a local sport, health and lifestyle media outlet in Leicestershire. He claims OJ was a huge factor in him landing a job straight after his studies. That says it all.