How do you show you'd make a great journalist when you're still at school? There are ways to demonstrate you have the right stuff.
You've been studying hard for exams. You don't have a large portfolio of cuttings, videos, or news photos. But you can still convince media employers to hire you for your first job or internship, and here's how:
1. USE YOUR PERSONAL QUALITIES
Whatever media you choose - TV, digital, print or radio, (or all four!) you need to show you're a great writer. Writing is at the base of all good journalism. You should be curious about people, organizations, places, and how things work - or don't. You are personable, comfortable with yourself, determined, an independent thinker, and you like to tell stories. You are not shy with strangers, and you are committed to truth.
2. GET TO WORK
Its easy to write about yourself and your friends, but that's not what media employers are looking for. Join the college paper, start a blog, find local stories which peak your interest and talk to the people behind them. Buy a digital stills or video camera and think about the different ways you can present your story in print, on video, a podcast, and on social media. Poynter. A successful internship is the key to future employment in media, whether you impress them so much they want you back, or simply to gain priceless on-the-job experience you can take elsewhere. Check out Poynter's job site.
News2Share is one of several student-run organizations which accepts credible and well-produced video and other reports from journalists and aspiring journalists anywhere in the world.
3. BUILD YOUR CONTACTS
I still have my old weather-beaten contacts book, and I still use it. Buy one - it might seem a bit empty at first, but write down the names, phone numbers, email addresses and social media handles of every new person you talk with. You never know when they might be helpful to you on future stories. Reach out via social media to potential story sources and contacts, and be honest with them about your goals.
4. GET TO KNOW JOURNALISTS
When I was at college, I wrote a letter introducing myself to a reporter I had heard on the air at a station I admired. The station was Radio City in Liverpool, UK. The young reporter was Carolyn Brown, who has subsequently enjoyed a long career with the BBC. I asked her if she would meet with me to discuss journalism careers, and she was kind enough to agree. She also did me another huge favor, introducing me to other reporters and anchors at the station, who all had useful advice. I had nothing to lose, but thanks to Carolyn's kindness I gained a foot in the door there and, eventually, a job. Sure, some people will tell you they're too busy, or ignore your requests. But many journalists I know are thrilled to help talented young journalists get onto the career ladder, and to help them acquire new skills.
5. DON'T BE SHY, BE PERSISTENT
We all know these days resume submissions for jobs and internships can get mangled in company algorithm systems or put in trash cans. Sure, keep on applying the traditional way, but don't just send your credentials into outer space. Face to face contact is a much more effective way to impress. So reach out, get to know people in the business, take a chance, then push that foot in the door. Media managers admire chutzpah - after all, its another of those skills they seek in new journalists. And thirty years on - thank you, Carolyn, for helping me fulfill my dream.