Guest post by Journalist Works – The Ten Commandments of Work Experience

At Journalist Works, it’s part of our students’ training that they must complete work experience on a newspaper, magazine or website in order for them to get a taste of what it’s really like to be a journalist. We have sent hundreds of students off to the likes of Men’s Health, the Mail on Sunday and Esquire magazine (to name just a few) and, believe us, from the feedback we get, we know a thing or two about making a success of it. Add to that the fact that we are all journalists ourselves so we have seen many a workie come and go as we have gone about bashing out our stories over the years.

We present you, then, with our Ten Commandments of Work Experience:

1. Thou shalt know the basics.

ALWAYS be on time or a little bit early and look smart (at least until you get some idea from your new colleagues about what the often unspoken dress code is).

2. Thou shalt not sit in the corner reading the papers and hiding.

You’ve persuaded someone to let you come into the office, see how it all works and try your hand at whatever it is the company does. So why, when you get there, would you suddenly go all shy and retiring and not reveal the real you? It amazes us when we hear reports back that people have hidden their sometimes considerable lights under a bushel. Go on, show them what you can do.

3. Thou shalt not show off.

Having said we want you to reveal the real you, this does not mean we want you to act like you have known all the staff in the office since they were in secondary school and start regaling them with how messy things got in the Dog and Duck last Friday. Be respectful, take your cue from others on how jokey and chatty to be and don’t, for heaven’s sake, talk so much that you stop people from working.

4. Thou shalt come prepared.

Don’t turn up without the necessary tools to do the job. One editor recently told us that a journalism student arrived in the newsroom without a note pad or pen. He wrote him off immediately.

5. Thou shalt know your onions.

Please be very, very familiar with the organisation and its product before you even set foot in the offices. You are going to look like a berk if you don’t. And no one wants to employ a berk.

6. Thou shalt arrive with ideas.

There’s nothing people like more than a go-getter who has thought ahead, spent some time preparing and can present them with ideas. As a journalism school, we always advise our students to have three story ideas in their heads before stepping through the door of any office where they are doing work experience.

7. Thou shalt be friendly with everyone.

It can pay off. One work experience student we know went to work in a newsroom and soon realised there were no jobs going. She stayed positive, got to know everyone and struck up a friendship with a sub-editor with whom she shared an interest in celebrity gossip magazines. Two months later she got a call from that sub-editor who had landed a job editing a celebrity news website and offered her a writing job on the spot.

8. Thou shalt not be high and mighty.

Don’t refuse to make the tea because it won’t further your career ambitions. It just might. Everyone has done work experience in some form or another and everyone has made the tea in their time. You are no exception.

9. Thou shalt be honest.

If you don’t understand something, own up and say, don’t try and blag it out. You are not expected to know everything when you have only been in the office a few days and the staff would rather spend ten minutes explaining something to you than half a day sorting out your mistakes.

10. Thou shalt keep in touch afterwards.

Just because your requisite two weeks are up, it doesn’t mean you should say goodbye forever. Ask if it’s OK to email every so often to check if there are any suitable openings coming up. They’ve met you and hopefully you have made a good impression. It’s far less hassle for them to employ the devil they know…. Good luck!

Journalist Works is a NCTJ-approved journalism school in Brighton.
Courses include the popular NCTJ 14-week Fast Track Diploma in Journalism.

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