The Times – Graduate Trainees, Picture Desk

Location: London

Closing date: September 28th

We are looking for two graduates to join The Times as trainee picture researchers. (more…)

What Should Employers Do For Interns?

Newsroom by David Sim

The newsroom can be a daunting place for interns (Pic: David Sim)

By Hetti Lawrence (@hetti_rose)

Google the phrase ‘work experience’ and you’ll find many articles by top organisations advising students and graduates on how best to behave on their visit to a working environment. Wear smart clothes; be friendly and engaging; be punctual; be clean shaven… the list goes on and on.

However, there is very little advice available for the companies who accept these interns. In my opinion, they are in far more desperate need of advice than we are.

As prospective interns, we go to the trouble of calling or emailing companies, often multiple times, begging them to briefly accept us into their lives, to graciously undertake any odd jobs that they don’t want to do, usually for no pay.

As a result, these companies have on offer dozens of very keen students, often with excellent qualifications and prior experience, willing to work for them in exchange for a decent reference for when we decide its high-bloody-time someone paid us for our work.

So, because of this hideously unfair arrangement that is now basically mandatory to all students and graduates should they wish to secure a decent job (or perhaps even any job at all), I have decided to write a very necessary list of pointers for all employers who are considering offering placements or internships:

1) Assign someone to be responsible for the intern. Make clear to the intern that this is the person they should go to should they have any questions about anything. Make sure the intern knows this person’s name, where they sit in the office, their contact details etc.

2) Introduce the intern to everyone in the office – or, if it is a particularly large office, just to the people in the immediate area. Make sure the intern knows everyone’s name and what they do, and encourage your colleagues to be welcoming and engaging back.

3) Give the intern a tour of the office. It doesn’t have to be particularly in-depth, just the basics – where the toilets are, where the fire exits are, where to make a cup of tea/coffee, where to keep/have your lunch etc. Make sure they know/have written down any codes needed to get in and out of the building (ideally email them this ahead of their arrival) and make sure they know basic information like when they’re expected to arrive and when they can go home.

4) Take the intern to their desk and familiarise them with the equipment they will be using. Ideally, your company should have a ‘work experience email’, so work can be sent to the intern and so that they have a contact address to give out should they need to speak to anyone. Also, make sure the intern knows the company number should they need to ask anyone to call them back, as well as any out-dialling codes etc.

5) MAKE SURE THE INTERN ALWAYS HAS SOMETHING TO DO. Before you bring someone in on work experience, consider whether there will be enough work to occupy them for a week/fortnight. If not, be honest with them: it’s ultimately in their best interests. Let them know they will be first in line should an opportunity for a work experience placement arise in the near future.

And if you DO decide to take them on, here are some pointers on how to keep them busy:

● Before they arrive on the first day, have a list (mental or written) of tasks for them to undertake, ideally some which are ongoing that they can always fall back on should they finish other work.

● If you notice they are finishing work quicker than expected, take that on board. Offer them work that is more challenging and see how they get on.

● If the worst happens and you completely run out of things for them to do, ask other colleagues to see if they would like any assistance with anything. Perhaps the intern could just shadow them for a while, particularly if they are making any out-of-office trips.

Consider this: you have taken on an intelligent, enthusiastic young person who desperately wants to work in your field, perhaps even within your company. If you screw up their first experience in that environment, your sector may have just lost one of the greatest future employees it could have ever had.

Do you have any tips yourself that you think employers should take on board when hiring interns? Join the debate on Twitter @JournoGrads or on Facebook

To Blog Or Not To Blog?

blog screenshot

Does your blog’s homepage look something like this?

If you’ve ever set up a blog without knowing what to write about, you’re not alone. Student Alexander Woolley shares the pitfalls of personal blogging…

Lots of money can be made out of advertising revenue on popular blogs and today they commonly employ several people full time. During the 1990s blogs were the preserve of masturbating teenagers; today they’re business.

I was recently asked by someone whether I keep a personal blog. I sheepishly replied that I don’t, and gave some excuses about not having enough time.

I felt I was being judged. I felt inadequate, as if I’d been caught trying to avoid handing in homework. I felt all the more pathetic because, actually, I have a blog.

In fact, I have several blogs. But in each instance when I’ve ‘founded’ a blog (i.e. handed over personal details to some American corporation), I’ve failed to upload any articles.

The furthest I’ve got is to put up a pretty picture for the background – the digital equivalent of re-ordering notes with nicely-coloured dividers in the days before an exam. The more I think about keeping a blog, the more impossible the task seems to be.

Yet I am constantly advised that it would be in my best interests to have one. Why? I’m usually given some generalities about “getting my name out there” or “getting my writing seen”. “Just start a blog, and all the world will be reading it,” I am told.

I would really like to believe that. I’d love to genuinely think that if I begin a blog in earnest, everyone will want to read it. But I am sceptical. The only personal blogs I have ever read are those of friends who would be offended if I didn’t read them.

It isn’t just my cynicism in the ability to build a readership that makes me hesitant. There are other reasons for my reluctance to start blogging. For one, I am terrified of self-editing.

I don’t worry about being able to spell or form coherent sentences (that’s what spell check is for, right?), but I do worry about having no one who can look at an article as a whole and say, “Alex, why did you even bother writing that?  Hell, why did you even get up today?”

There are only so many times you can ask friends to be your editor without employing them; plus, it gets awkward when they say things like that to you.

And then what if you produce something dull and tedious – or, even worse, something unintentionally offensive? Perhaps you’ll get a few facts wrong. Maybe you’ll lose a follower or two. But what if you write about something that others out there are more clued up on than you? And what if it’s a really sensitive issue?

What if, through ignorance, or through misunderstanding, you write something that comes over as nasty and bigoted? Then you get attacked on Twitter for your unfounded or uneducated opinions.

Even if you take down the blog post, those tweets will be public for all to see – and all for the sake of some blog post that you hadn’t researched thoroughly enough before you wrote it.

Okay, so that may seem like an extreme situation – but there are still other issues with writing a blog. Even if I plucked up the courage to edit my own work, I would then have to find something to write about.

Blogs only work if they are regularly updated. That means I would need to find a topic I’d want to write about around fifty-two times a year (roughly once a week). That’s a huge number of articles. There are lots of things I’m interested in, but I really struggle to think of a subject that I could produce fifty-two interesting, original articles on.

I suppose I could revert to the 90s and blog about my everyday existence. I wouldn’t struggle to come up with fifty two articles about that. But I cannot imagine anyone else cares about the details of my life to such an extent that they’d want to read fifty two blog posts about it – I’m not even sure I’d want to read that.

Have you had trouble getting your blog up and running? Or do you feel the importance of having one is something that is exaggerated? Share your thoughts via Twitter @Journograds 

Where Are All The Journalism Jobs?

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Danielle McGarry

English literature graduate Danielle McGarry

Content and social media management intern Danielle McGarry gives her thoughts on the differences between London and Hull when it comes to the journo jobs market.. 

As a recent English literature graduate who had far too much fun at uni and subsequently blew her bank balance, I know only too well the difficulties that arise when looking for work after study.

Times are tough and unemployment can often be a reality for graduates – as previous blogger Ellie Matthews highlighted.

That’s not to say that there aren’t opportunities out there – providing you take advantage of your situation. (Take it from me – I live in Hull, a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country).

Despite the grim odds, and much to my surprise, I eventually managed to find an internship as a content and social media manager. I’m not sure if it was through hard work, determination or luck (or maybe a combination of all), but after showing them my blog and having a successful interview, I was offered the role.

Regardless of my good fortune, there is little debate as to whether or not journalism is a tough industry to break into -  I’ve been warned countless times that it can be an unrewarding and competitive career. It is especially tough for someone like myself who is looking for work in the regions, at a time when it still seems like all the jobs are in London.

On my latest online job search, the search term ‘journalism’ yielded just fourteen results for roles in Manchester (the majority of which were unpaid) and just one in Hull. Compare that to the 400 that I found in London.

There is no doubt that London is the hub for wannabe writers. There really is nowhere else with anywhere near that level of jobs – particularly ones where we can actually get paid!

The old rhetoric of young people lacking the drive to go out and find jobs is often given as a reason for our woes. Obviously this is something I disagree with.

Young people, specifically graduates, are working harder than ever to secure work in journalism, with the vast majority of paid jobs asking for significant experience first.

The real issue here is nothing to do with our lack of motivation, but our proximity to the actual jobs and the disparity of between the capital and the regions when it comes to the opportunities available. There are a lot of jobs in London, but if you don’t already live there, the cost of living is a significant barrier.

It’s difficult enough to afford a living even where I am based – I have two jobs (and have recently attended an interview for a third) but I still can’t afford a living.

Have you struggled to find work outside London? Or have you been forced to relocate to get a job? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @JournoGrads

‘Job Snobs’ And Unemployed Graduates

Ellie Matthews conducts an interview for JournoGrads

Ellie Mathews conducts an interview for JournoGrads

Can fresh graduates afford to be picky when it comes to employment? Freelance journalist Ellie Mathews joins the debate…

In an interview with BBC Newsbeat in August, recruitment expert Norman Rose suggested recent graduates believe they are ‘too good’ to do entry level jobs and are guilty of so-called ‘job snobbery’.

Nick Hurd, a fourth-generation MP and an Old Etonian, added to the attack on the work ethic of young people in a subsequent Telegraph interview by saying we lack the ‘grit’ to go out and find jobs.

I highly disagree with both their comments and believe they further damage the already negative environment around youth employment.

There has, in fact, been a decrease in young people out of work compared to this time last year – which would suggest graduates are actively seeking, and successfully finding, jobs.

Figures released in August by the Office for National Statistics showed that: “For April to June 2013, there were 1.09 million young people (aged from 16 to 24) in the UK who were Not in Education, Employment or Training (Neet) … down 104,000 from a year earlier.”

Compare this again to the same time in 2011, where the Neet figure was reported at 1.16 million between April and June.

The change in these stats shows a genuine improvement in work opportunities for young people.

Alex Spicer, a recent First Class graduate in Architecture at the University of Northumbria says comments by the likes of Rose and Hurd are misleading, particularly as financial circumstances have changed dramatically over time.

“The people making these statements attended university at a time when it was for them, free. I am adamant they would hold a different view if they, like us, had needed to pay £30,000 or more for an education,” he says.

University lecturer and multiple degree holder Laura Lacey provides context to the changing times. “We live in an age where children have been spoilt,” she says.

“From a young age this generation has had televisions in their rooms, iPods, video games, DVD players, computers, laptops etc.  All effectively without having to work for it.”

“In this day and age a job is a job; it brings in money.  So this generation of graduates needs a reality check.  Having no job does not look good on a CV.”

Lacey also feels previous governments have contributed to the current generation’s attitude towards work.

“Tony Blair said tertiary education should be for all, and almost overnight polytechnics disappeared,” she says. “Who wanted an apprenticeship when they could get a degree, whether they were intelligent enough or not?  It was deemed to be their right.”

“We have a generation who have undertaken degree courses at a time where there are more students studying the subjects than there are jobs in the UK.”

Regardless, graduates should still expect a return on investment for the courses they pay for.

Graduate Alex Spicer sums it up perfectly, saying: “In my first three years of study I made many sacrifices to ensure I achieved everything I wanted to with my BA. It seems like madness to even suggest that I would make these sacrifices for nothing.”

Do you think graduates have a right to be selective when looking for work? Share your thoughts on Twitter @Journograds or post a comment on Facebook. If you’d like to join our team of bloggers, get in touch via editor@journograds.com

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