Update: July 2013

It’s been over a year since I posted on this blog – how time flies when you’re having fun (and looking for a job)! I decided to do the NCTJ journalism diploma, on the advice of a few editors, in September 2012, and finished with a pass and 110wpm shorthand, at the end of January this year. I’m now doing a paid internship at a B2B publication and really enjoying it.

So much has changed in a year and I’ve learnt a lot. But if there’s one thing I’ve seriously learnt, it’s that getting into journalism is TOUGH. There’s no two-ways about it, but if you’re persistent you can do it. I’d recommend an NCTJ to teach you the basics, and put you in a good position for interviews, and do as much work experience as you can.

I would love to keep writing on here but sadly, I don’t have the time. But please feel free to contact me on hannah.friend@hotmail.co.uk if you want any humble advice.



Success at last!

So I finally have some good news to share. After many ignored emails, I have managed to organise a week of work experience at…





(Using a picture since we’re supposed to be all media-savy and different mediums make for a more interesting blog piece!)

And here’s how:

Through a friend of my Dad’s, who knows someone who works at the paper, I managed to get an email. This person replied with the email for the person who I needed to speak to to organise it. From here I sent a request and heard nothing (this was in April). So I emailed again yesterday asking if the editor had received my previous email, and to my joy received a simple email saying ‘give me a ring and we can sort something out’.

Even though the thought seemed scary, as emails are much less scary, I picked up the phone as soon as he had emailed (so I would be rememberd). In a matter of a few minutes, he had kindly said I could go in for a week at the end of July. I’m really looking forward to this and can finally relax a little (in my temporary admin job…).

This has made me realise a few things which help with success in finding placements/work experience:

  • Definitely find out the editor’s name,
  • Keep the email short and sweet,
  • Attach your CV – so they don’t have to ask,
  • Tell them what you’d like, when you’re free and a line or two about wanting to go into journalism and what your current situation is (this shows commitment),
  • Use any contact you can find – all I needed was an email, who replied with the right person to talk to,
  • Phone calls are much more efficient – quick response, show off your ‘excellent telephone manner’ and you are less likely to be ignored.

Even though this last one seems scary, you’d better get used to it. And it won’t be as bad as you think!

On a slightly negative note, I have also received a no to some work experience with a lifestyle magazine (but at least it’s a response!). I emailed the editor asking for some work experience and she said that unfortunately they don’t do placements or internships. But she did give me another tip. In the email I had said that I particularly enjoyed reading a section (on Thai cooking) and had tried the recipe – which worked a treat. She said she loved the fact that I had tried a recipe and it showed I had actually read the mag – in brackets she adds that it’s surprising the number of placement requests that don’t mention the title! So two more points:

  • ALWAYS include the name of the magazine/newspaper/publishing house you are writing to,
  • Show interest and enthusiasm by saying which parts of their publication you enjoyed reading (and yes you might actually have to buy it!).

Hopefully this may help anyone out there struggling to get work experience. But if you’re still struggling, or have some great tips get in touch via a comment, twitter or email: hannah.friend@hotmail.co.uk.

Rejection and persistence

As a break from revision, here are a few updates on the whole trying-to-break-into-journalism-struggle. Not positive, I warn you now!

So over the past few months, before I had decided to do the NCTJ course, I was applying to anything I could get my hands on that was journalism based.

These applications included one for the News International Graduate Programme, The Times traineeship, a copywriter position for New Look’s website and an assistant editor for secondary education publications at Oxford University Press, amongst others! There are definitely more, but I can’t think of them.

So far I have only heard from one. The NI grad scheme emailed to say my application had not been successful – this was hiding in my junk folder, but I finally found it. This is fine, and I’m happy they took the time to let me know…

Unlike the rest. The New Look one sent me an automated email saying the position had been filled. Fine. I’ve heard nothing from OUP, maybe it’s too soon to know, but I’m counting this as a no. And the Times traineeship sent a letter saying I would hear mid-May. Since it’s the 25th either something has been lost in the post or I can also assume this was a no too!

Since I’ve paid my deposit and am definitely doing the journalism diploma course in September, none of this news has been upsetting. But I realise for a lot of people trying to get in to the industry, this isn’t the case. And yes it’s hard to deal with rejection. I find myself thinking, I know if I just got something I would put everything I had into and make the best of it. Or if I just got to an interview, I’d have a fighting chance.

It is also very irritating not hearing back from something you could still have your heart set on. And it would be very helpful if you had some indication of where you went wrong, or what other candidates had that you didn’t. We can only assume it’s experience.

But, none of the above can be changed. If you are in this position make sure you always try and ask for feedback, even if you don’t receive it. This is quite a useful article about what to do if you actually receive a formal rejection:


Talking of bouncing back from rejection, I enjoyed reading this today about taking every opportunity from wannabehacks:


It’s something I try and live by. Which is why I’ve been applying for lots of internships/work experience positions as I can for this summer. I hopefully have something lined up through a contact (Dad’s friend!).

But I’ve also been trying through the web. And surprise, no success! I’ve applied for 4 weeks work experience with Love Film, received an email on Wednesday asking me to come to their office today, which I couldn’t do as I’m in Newcastle doing exams. I replied straight away explaining this, trying to be flexible with a phone conversation and going as soon as I was down south again… And no reply yet. I’ve sent my cv to lots of smaller requests for work experience people, and haven’t heard anything. I will keep at it until September comes and hope something has materialised that I can put on my CV!

A good place to find these sorts of things, if they ever reply, is: http://www.gorkanajobs.co.uk/jobs/journalist/

Or the job section on this site: http://www.journalism.co.uk/

I don’t think this experience is dissimilar to a lot of wannabe journos out there, but don’t despair. Persistence, I’m hoping, is the key.

Decision made

Just a quick update. So I made up my mind (today) and decided to do the NCTJ journalism diploma, and to do it in London. And I just paid the deposit so I’m all set! After reading the students’ blog and speaking to my parents, I decide I would go for it.

Since I can (almost) afford to, or at least I can make finances work, and I’m not constrained by time I thought it’s a good opportunity to take. Most of my friends have at least another year of Uni so another 5 months of education seems fair enough.

The main reasons I chose London over Brighton were the grades. Naturally, I want to go to the best place I can. Another reason is that the Brighton course is done in 14 weeks, whereas it’s 20 in London – and I’ve read/heard many times that you can never have enough time to learn shorthand so I’ll take the extra 6 weeks thanks! London is also the centre for a lot (though not all) journalism so I will hopefully make some good contacts.

However, this does mean I’ll be commuting for over 3 hours a day and pay extortionate amounts for train tickets but I’m sure it will be all worth it and an amazing experience. I also feel like I’ll be A LOT more confident when it comes to interviews. At the moment I’m sure I can do the sort of jobs I’d be applying for, it’s just hard to show in an interview. But after the course, hopefully, I will be able to show I can with a portfolio and the fact that I passed it *fingers crossed*!

So I’m quite excited for summer and even more excited for September! I’ll be trying to get as much work experience as possible so I’m in as best position as I can be to apply for jobs when the course starts in January, and of course earning some money to fund this decision.

Anyone else out there undecided? Or going to be joining me in September?

News Associates, London – NCTJ

Firstly, I haven’t posted in a while because I thought I was being ultra modern and tried to blog from the wordpress app… The post is stuck in ‘uploading’ and I can’t get it back so I shall start again!

A couple of weeks ago now, I went to News Associates in London to go to one of their free journalism workshops. Since I had done the exam in Brighton, I just had to be interviewed.

The workshop was really great, and I’d advise anyone considering doing an NCTJ course to get to one. We did an editorial exercise, discussing a number of news headlines and choosing the best and the worst for a local Wimbledon paper. The second task was a simulation of a big news story breaking 2 hours before we ‘went to press’. I won’t give the details away, but the the story was pieced together from various sources as they came in, and it was really fun. All the while we were being given vital new information which we had to squeeze into out 250 word count.

I then had my interview with the director. It was very similar to Brighton, but it was essentially the same. I was asked why I wanted to go into journalism, why I wanted to do the course and what experience I had done.

Top tip: ask a good question, and leave some of the talking to the interviewer. This gives you a moment to breath, but also relaxes you as it feels a bit more like a conversation.

I am pleased to announce I’ve been offered a place, and someone is calling me on Thursday to discuss this further. I think once I’ve accepted I have until the course fills up to pay my deposit and secure a place for September.

Still umming and ahhing over whether to live in Brighton, one of my favourite cities, or face a 2 hour commute there and the same back to South Wimbledon each day… Or cough up and live in London. Which will give me better contacts and has better exam results but at a price. But I’m pleased I’ve been offered places. It gives some sort of hope for the future!

I also had an interview for a paid internship with a brand comms agency, organised by the university, so some tips from that to come!

NCTJ aptitude test and interview: Brighton Journalist Works

As I mentioned in a previous post I had two interviews and exams in place for two NCTJ fast track journalism diploma courses. On Monday I headed down to Brighton, one of my favourite cities in the country, for the first. I stayed at a relative’s and on Tuesday morning got on a bus, hoping it was going the right way, to the building where Brighton Journalist Works are situated.

I was pretty nervous and didn’t really know what to expect. In the email inviting me to go it said I didn’t need to prepare for the exam, and since I didn’t know where to start, I took this advice. But this didn’t help the nerves.

When I got there I was greeted by the programme director and spoke to a girl who was also doing the exam and interview whilst we waited for someone else who in the end didn’t turn up. She had come all the way from Liverpool and arrived 2 hours early so had already done the exam. She was nice enough to tell me to keep an eye on the time as she’d spent too long on the first question and had to rush the last.

After a while, the programme director gave us a tour of the building, chatted to us about the course and asked if we had any questions. Then I went to do the exam.

I had an hour and a half to do it and there were 4 parts. The first question asked you to read an article and correct all of the mistakes, which was quite straight forward. Next, was summarising this article in 70 words, not many at all! You were then asked for 5 areas which you could follow the story up with as a reporter.

The last question gave you a load of quotes about an unusual incident with exploding cans of sausages… And asked you to write a 200 word article on it.

I then had the interview with the director, which was quite informal. She asked about my work experience I had spoken about in my online application. That was easy enough to answer. She then asked me a number of questions like ‘You’re not from the area, how would you go about collecting local news?’ and ‘how would you cover a local election?’.

I was then asked where I get my news from, and what was the last story I read. Kindly, my mind went blank. All I could remember was the story I’d just read on the coffee table in the waiting room, so I said that. She asked how I would go about following up the story, which was about poisoned pets. I said I’d ask pet owners who had been affected, go to the police, the local vets and the RSPCA, because owners thought it was on purpose.

I was also asked after doing the course what sort of jobs I would apply to, to which I pretty much answered ‘any’ – which she said was the right attitude to have, phew! I had managed to think of some intelligent questions by this point so asked them and it ended.

An hour and a half later I got an email from Brighton Journalist Works and panicked. My first thought was that was enough time to reject someone but they couldn’t have marked my paper and decided in that short space of time. But I couldn’t ignore it so opened the email. Turns out I had passed the test and ‘following a successful interview’ have been offered a place to start in September.

Relief. And then joy! I finally have some sort of plan, whether it be plan B or plan A. So at the moment, if I don’t find a job I’m keen on between now and September I’ll be studying in sunny Brighton:

(Or London – I don’t need to do the exam again but have an interview with News Associates on Friday so fingers crossed.)

More Guardian Open Weekend

So as promised, here is more about the sessions I went to at the Guardian Open Weekend, slightly later than planned. But better late then never!

Twitter: tool of the elites?

This session was generally discussing twitter and whether it is elitist. It was established at the beginning of the talk that it was definitely selective since you decide exactly who to follow. Overall, I think it was agreed that it takes away the power of some, since everyone is on an equal footing when they start and have the same tools, and gives to others who can follow and contact potentially anyone.

However, it was pointed out that followers is by no means correlated with interestingness or quality of tweets. The main thing for wannabe journos that I picked up on was the importance of connecting and interacting with readers. It was also pointed out that a huge amount of abuse can be stopped with a simple reply pointing out that you’re a real person, or journalist, with feelings! A good tip for the more controversial of you out there.

Suzanne Moore also discussed, rather amusingly, how she has found that women get more abuse as columnists that men. But twitter makes it easier for women to be funny, because there is no one to be intimidated by.

The advice for users from the panel was you can either give your personality on twitter or don’t tweet!

Hyperlocal journalism: Introducing n0ticeboard

Well my pen ran out, so no notes, but it was a very interesting discussion of up and coming “hyper” local sites and how they developed. It seems this is definitely somewhere journalism is heading as people engage heavily with their immediate community.


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