The Art Of Applying For Journalism Jobs

John Fernandez Prepares For Interview

Persistence paying off: John Fernandez now works for the BBC

Award winning journo grad John Fernandez interned at various companies before securing a staff role the BBC. He explains how the more jobs you apply for, the stronger your application becomes…  

When you’re trawling through the blogosphere, twitter-sphere or any other sphere, for advice on how to make the leap from interning lackey (working for diddly-squat) to staffer, the constant advice is to get as much work experience as you can possibly fit in to your jam-packed schedule of tea, toast and Jeremy Kyle (I draw from my own experience).

Applying for jobs and work experience is an acquired skill. It’s not something that you just run at atop your noble steed with a full suit of armour, lance in hand and shield held high.

The head first charge or the carpet bombing approach to applications will all but ensure a firm but polite, “sorry you’re not what we’re looking for at this time”, or the more damning, “you lack the experience for this position” or even a “LEAVE US ALONE” if you’re one of those persistent types.

Instead, look at the process of applying for jobs as a talent that you can hone, fine tune and at which you can, in time, become an expert in. Remember that job applications are delicate creatures that you have to nurture, develop and tend to on an ongoing basis.

A scattergun approach of sending of a bazillion nonsensical and un-targeted e-mails to a bunch of employees who you a) ‘really admire’ or b) ‘have been reading since you were a wee nipper’, is a sure-fire way of getting your application shredded, binned, or perhaps even communally laughed at by a company’s more malevolent HR department.

Rejection should be accepted as your starting point within an industry that has few absolute truths or objective measures; in fact, rejection is almost as inevitable as death and taxes.

In my case, rejection found me a lot – but then again I was practicing the aforementioned carpet bombing approach.

You are inevitably going to apply for the jobs of your dreams, for which you are far too junior – but don’t let those aspirations of grandeur be shot down by rejection e-mails from faceless HR executives.

In its place, see it as a learning curve as to how to carve a better statement of intent onto a covering letter or CV so that when you come back to the aforementioned company (of your dreams) in a few years with lots more experience, they can witness your transformation from terrified work experience applicant to fearsome hyper-journo (with lasers).

So essentially, if you are faced with a tirade of rejection, fear not! It is from these rebuttals that you can sculpt and whittle away the perfect CV and covering letter for the job which hands you your big break in this industry.

From each rejection, read over your covering letter and CV and see where tweaks can be made. After those tweaks have been made, send it to a trusted mentor.

You can show it to a tutor, for example, or an ex-employer who you hold in high regard. Alternatively you can let your fastidiously accurate mate give it a once-over or, if you’re lucky enough, a friend in HR. If all else fails, you can try my personal favourite: your dad

Take on board the criticisms they make as they will be honest in their appraisal, more critical in their assessment and more liberal in their censorship than you will be.

Remember: in your mind you are, of course, the perfect candidate for the job – if you weren’t why would you be applying for it? But by asking your trusted confidante to step in to the shoes of the employer you will quickly develop an understanding of the reader’s perspective of your skill-set, along with your strengths and development needs.

It may be difficult to take on reams of red pen corrections, but in the end, a meticulous approach to accuracy will see the end result come good.

So what advice can you take from this? In short:

  • Don’t limit your ambition, apply for anything and everything
  • Take time in constructing your CV and covering letter to ensure that you are addressing the needs of the specific job
  • Avoid using generic documents, every application should be assessed on its own merits
  • Learn from your mentor’s feedback
  • By doing all this you’ll end up creating a more succinct and attractive portrayal of your professional persona.

What do you think about John’s suggestions? Do you have any tips of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or get in touch over Twitter, @JournoGrads

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