Can’t Find A Journalism Job? Branch Out

Positivity Cup

Staying optimistic about your job prospects isn’t always easy (Pic: Amy Dicketts)

By Amy Dicketts (@amydicks)

If you’re a student or recent graduate reading this post, chances are you’re whiling away your summer in a hot office somewhere, working for free in the hope of securing that elusive goal: a job in journalism.

I was in the same position last year; the only person eating a packed lunch in Canary Wharf, trying to save pennies while pursuing my dream role. It’s not much fun is it? But working for free shouldn’t be the only way of getting in to journalism – and it isn’t.

By the time I was offered my first job after graduation – as a community manager – I was over the moon, even though it wasn’t a journo job. It was paid and it was permanent and when you’re fresh out of university and feeling battered and bruised by the job market that’s all you care about. Taking the job meant leaving an unpaid internship at a magazine. Some people might say that I should have stuck it out if I was really committed to a career as a journo, but I think that branching out was the best decision I ever made.

A community manager is literally a manager of a brand’s community. For me it means managing and moderating a forum-based community and maintaining and growing a fairly substantial Twitter account. This might seem like a step in the wrong direction for someone who wanted a career in print, but as journalism becomes increasingly digital it is no longer enough to simply be able to write. A cursory glance at job listings proves this.

A Junior editorial assistant at the Huffington Post, for example, now needs to be able to build pages, seek out viral stories and drive social media traffic, as well as produce top quality content. Taking a step away from journalism might well give you the chance to add these extra strings to your bow, making you a much more attractive candidate.

Don’t see it as a move away from journalism but as a detour around working for free. People shouldn’t be expected to work for nothing in the vain hope that it might one day pay off. Taking a creative job in a different industry is just another, fairer way to gain the necessary skills to secure your ideal role.

It could also give you the opportunity to see what else you want to do. Brands are hiring communicators in a big way. From charities to councils, businesses are now seeking socially-savvy people who can get their message out to people in an engaging and effective manner. Writing for a publication is no longer the only way to communicate with people.

Will you miss writing? Probably. I used to, so to counter this I started up two blogs, and, to provide a creative outlet and to teach myself a bit more about different forms of online publishing. Freelancing will always be another means to getting your work out there, if you are willing to put in the hours outside of a full time job. It’s not always easy to balance it all, but it can pay off hugely in the long run.

The one thing to remember is this: there is no single ‘right’ path to securing your dream job. If you put in the work and keep your goal in mind, there’s no reason at all that you can’t get there in the end.

Have you ever been tempted to take a different path to reach your end goal? Or are you doing that now? Have your say by tweeting us @JournoGrads or commenting on our Facebook page.

10 Journalism Job Interview Questions

Emma Ann job seeker

There’s more to interviews than looking the part (Pic: Emma Ann)

By Catherine Hancock (@catherineha1991)

In April I had my first journalism interview and since then, I’ve had two more.

Interviews are a learning curve, and no two are the same. The more you go to and (hopefully that wont’ be too many), the more familiar you’ll become with the process.

Out of the three interviews I have been in, similar questions kept cropping up – so I’ve put together a list of things you may be asked and what you should expect:

1) A test

News Quiz

Never be surprised if they throw a news test your way

Oh yes, always be prepared for a test – even if you are not pre-warned about one.

The test could be on anything – whether it’s writing up a story from a press release, or a quiz to see how much you know about the local area and current affairs.

From my experiences I have only had one test and that was in my last interview.

It was a timed ten minute quiz, with questions including: “What is the population of Worksop?”, “Who is the governor of the Bank of England?” and “Who is the editor of the Daily Mail?”

As with the nature of journalism: expect the unexpected!

Questions You Might Be Asked:

2) Tell us about yourself

Catherine baby for blog post

Just how far back should you go?

It’s that old question which everyone is unsure about how to answer!

Don’t give a step-by-step documentation of your birth up until now, or that time you tried to strip naked on the beach (Yep, the above picture is me).

Instead, think about any key moments in your life that will impress and are relevant to the job.

For example – talk about university, work placements and throw in a few things you like doing in your spare time and any clubs you are part of.

Personality plays a big part in getting that job and the interviewers will want to know if you will fit into their team.

3) What do you think of our website/ newspaper, what do you think we could do better?

catherine hancock blog homepage

Room for improvement?

Now, this isn’t the time to slate all the things you dislike about the company’s publications.

It will offend your potential employers and won’t make you look very good.

This is a chance for the interviewers to get an outsider’s view of their work and to see if you are capable of coming up with ideas which will improve the company as a whole.

Start off with positive aspects of their website/ newspaper, then move onto things they could improve on.

For example, you could word it like this: “You have great video content on your website, I think having more of this would drive people to the site.”

4) Tell us about a time when you have found your own story

Catherine Hancock newspaper

Get out there and find some stories

If you go to an interview for a trainee reporter role and haven’t found your own story before, then there is something wrong!

Being able to find your own stories is a key quality of a journalist, so make sure you have at least one example to show to the interviewers.

It doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking, but a it should be a story that shows you can do the following: spot a story idea, have the confidence to pitch the idea to a newspaper, know who to talk to for quotes, are able to write the story without help and can take a picture.

All of this shows initiative and that you already have the basic skills of a reporter.

5) Scenario: What would you do if someone called the newsroom and said there was an explosion in a nearby town?

Talid Khatib explosion

Be prepared to think on your feet (Pic: Talid Khatib)

This question comes up time and time again in some form, so be prepared for it.

It shows the interviewers you are a modern day thinking journalist. So for example, if this is an interview with a newspaper, in this digital age the first thing you would do is get something up on the website.

Explain how you would get something up and published like: “It has been reported there has been an explosion in an industrial building in Chilwell, more to follow.”

Inform your editor and get someone to check social media for pictures and eyewitness accounts, which you’ll use for quotes for an updated version of the story.

Call the emergency services so they can officially confirm what has happened. What ever you do, keep updating the website with more information.

6) Who would be your key contacts in the area?


Contacts are an essential tool for journalists

I sometimes find this question a bit difficult because I think it wouldn’t be as simple as people in the police force, hospital staff or local councillors.

Think about others who could give a tip off for a story – for example key people in the area such as teachers, shop owners or other key members of the community.

Tell the interviewers how you would get to know people in the community so you’d be the first one they’d contact if a news story broke out.

It’s usually the people you least expect who give you a diamond of a story.

7) How would you cope with door knocking?

door knock

So-called ‘death knocks’: Never a pleasant experience

Door knocks or ‘death knocks’ aren’t a myth and unfortunately these things happen more often than you may think. In case you don’t know, death knocks are when a reporter goes to the house of someone who has recently been bereaved to interview them.

I once heard a horror story of a journalist who went on her first death knock and someone opened the door, greeting her by chucking a bucket of water over her head.

Horrific huh?!

In my last interview I got asked how I would cope with door knocking and even though they sound like horrible things to do, you have to approach the situation with sensitivity but in a firm manner.

You have to respect the families wishes if they tell you to go away. Leave your number with the family, sometimes they will call you. Refer to the PCC code and talk about the ethics of journalism.

8) How do you feel about working weekends and some evenings?

Catherine Hancock

Work weekends? Moi?

If you are going into journalism for a 9-5 job, then you are daft.

Every newsroom is different, but at some point you will have to work weekends and some evenings, because most news isn’t planned.

Say you are flexible and more than happy to swap sunbathing in the garden at short notice to go and cover an exciting story.

Nod along.

Give examples of when you have done this in the past at university in work, and you will be well away.

9) How much do you use social media, which sites do you use the most?

social resume

Don’t underestimate the power of social media

A wise editor once told me that they wouldn’t even consider someone for an interview if they didn’t have a Twitter account.

That may seem harsh, but in reality social media is such an important way of sourcing news stories. By not having a Facebook or Twitter account, you are automatically at a distinct disadvantage.

Mention how much you use social media, how you use it, and how you would use it to find a story.

Make sure you know how many Twitter followers you have! This was a question I got asked in an interview and luckily I knew the exact number.

Talk about your blog if you have one and tell them what type of people you follow or pages you like.

Also talk about the negatives of finding stories by using social media, for example making sure information is legit and how to trawl through all the spam!

10) Give us an example of when you have worked as part of a team to get something done

Catherine Hanckock team

Teamwork - a vital attribute in most working environments

In my last two interviews I never spoke about my experiences of working a part-time job at Costa Coffee, because I didn’t think they were relevant.

In my last interview, however, I was encouraged to talk about it and it enabled me to find the perfect example of working as a team whilst under a lot of pressure.

If you have an example of working as part of a team in a newsroom then use it, but if you don’t, think about the time when you ran the student newspaper or when you were at work and had to make 10,000 lattes in a day, whilst showing the new person what to do and talking to the customers at the same time.

Just because the answer isn’t journalism based doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant to the job.

Have you recently had a job interview for a journalism role? What questions were you asked? Share your experiences on Twitter @JournoGrads or on Facebook

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