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Don’t be a stranger

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If I had a pound for the amount of times I’ve heard that a journalists address book is their most important tool, I’d have at least enough for a (modest) Topshop spending spree. Want your job application considered, article pitch read or find that lead for a story? It’s not about what you know; it’s about who you know.

Before I started my journalism apprenticeship, the journalism industry felt like a member’s only club. And the only way to get in was if your dad/auntie/cousin had a fully-fledged-gold-plated-VIP membership. But as it turns out, this club isn’t as exclusive as I feared. And after months of coffee meetings, networking events and some good old tweeting I feel my membership is almost secured.

So a contact isn’t necessarily someone you’ve declared your Best Friend Forever after a few martinis. It’s actually far simpler than that. They could start off as someone you sparked up a conversation with at an event or exchanged a few tweets with over twitter.

The way my freelance boss went from being ignored to gracing the pages of national newspapers was to take the editors out for coffee who hadn’t been replying to her pitches, ask where she was going wrong and get some advice. Another journo said if he wanted to work for a specific magazine or newspaper, he’d find out where the staff go for drinks after work, go down and get talking to some of them.

From my experience, a face is always better than an email. Journalists are busy and rarely have time to reply to out of the blue emails from people they’ve never met. So meet them. Go to events and conferences and get talking to people. Join a journalism forum, interact with users and go along to drinks.

It’s not weird to meet work contacts online (although I would advise public meeting places…just in case). Generally, journalists are very sociable and meeting strangers is an everyday occurrence. Most of them came into the profession because they like talking to new people.

Work experience is another perfect opportunity to make contacts. Keep in touch with the people you worked with (this is very easily done over twitter).  Or gone for an interview and got turned down? Ask for feedback afterwards to find out how you can improve and stay in touch with the interviewer, if you’re still on their radar you’re far more likely to be considered for opportunities that may arise in the future than someone who isn’t.

Journalists rely on each other for favours whether it’s being recommended to a friend’s editor for a job, getting some legal information from an expert or even proof reading each others work so knowing other journos is really important.

But it is all about tit for tat. If a journalist has helped you out with an article, pitch or contact perhaps you could use social networking to share their work with people you know or offer to buy them lunch. And if you seem approachable and willing to give people help who ask for it, you’ll find it much easier to get.

But most importantly, remember that it is okay to ask for things, one day they might need you for something. If you don’t ask you don’t get and there really is nothing to be scared of. What’s the worst that can happen? No reply? Don’t take it personally.

The ability to network and make contacts is a journalistic skill that runs alongside being able to write and interview well, so the more you practice the easier (and less awkward) it will get. It’s what will make your potential as a journalist first class so start NOW.


How to WORK work experience

If you’re a wannabe journalist, chances are you’ll be doing a fair few work experience placements. Spending a week or two in a newspaper/magazine office is an ideal way to make editors remember you for the right reasons, making you a strong contender for future jobs, not to mention the importance of getting a great reference.

So seeing as journalism is so COMPETITIVE and there are SO MANY other people trying to make it just like you, you need to make sure you stand out from the HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS of other work experience people.

Here are the ways to do it.


Bring value to the workplace. Yes it’s a learning experience and you will need to be taught a few things, but once you have mastered the tasks make it your mission to really impress them. Be better than the last intern; how much work can you get done in a day? Take initiative and offer your ideas: make sure they know how good you are. It’s a chance to sell yourself and prove you’ve got something to give.

Be confident

Speak up when spoken too, say hello to the big boss even if he is slightly scary. If you hear someone struggling with something that you are an expert in, go over and offer to help. And if you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help.


For that period of time, you should pretty much live and breathe the placement. Yes, you might have to get up at 6.30am every morning for two weeks and you might miss Eastenders but it’s good practice for the real world. Put that job before anything else. If you need to, have something to motivate you to look forward to at the end.


If you are going to be late or sick, ring your boss as soon as you know. People don’t get pissed off because you’re ill and can’t come in, they get pissed off because you didn’t bother to tell them and ringing in sick is far more believable when you don’t do it at 4pm. They are not going to shout; they’ll say ‘thanks for letting me know, hope you feel better soon, let me know how you are tomorrow’. Easy.

Be social

This one is really really important. No matter how hard you work, if you don’t make a positive contribution to the office atmosphere, you won’t impress.

–        Never make yourself a drink without asking anyone else if they want one and offer to help if someone is given orders from the entire office

–        Is there a big group that go for lunch together? Go with them

–        Always accept drinks after work invitations

–        Join in with banter. You are far more likely to be liked for being a bit of a div than for being the one that doesn’t speak

Keep in touch

Follow your colleagues on Twitter and reply to a tweet every now and again. You never know when knowing them might come in handy in future so make sure they remember who you are. Or even better, is there anything you could carry on doing for the company after the placement is up, perhaps a few blog entries or editing work? If you think you could help make sure they know, and don’t be afraid to ask to get paid (although if it is blog type stuff probably better to accept a byline and experience rather than money).