Looking for a job or trying to build work experience, whether you’re a graduate, more experienced, or just starting to get your foot in the door is never as simple as it feels like it should be. It’s difficult to do unpaid placements and internships without money (especially if you’re quite a distance from London), and they’re crucial for building work experience up when you don’t have any. Even the job search for more permanent roles can be expensive with train tickets to interviews, smart clothing hauls to look the part, and a couple of post-interview pints and a bagel to ease the stress.
It can be really frustrating in particular when you’re someone from a low-income background, only for teachers and industry professionals to offer vague advice like ‘get as much experience as possible’. Yep. Thanks.
I’ve recently acquired a full-time job as a writer (the first full-time contracted job of my career) and have begun working as a freelance opinion journalist. I’ve also just finished my degree in journalism and creative writing. Copywriting and journalism are careers I’ve been trying to pursue since I was fifteen years old, when my CV was a blank page and I probably had £1 at best. Truthfully, trying to pursue any role in the media is an expensive journey. It involves commuting, equipment purchases, and education, to name a few. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do on the cheap!
The last three years have been the most financially challenging ones of my life, but its where I did the most experience building and job searching. Through a lot of trial and error, I managed to spend three months following university’s end job searching with no money at all. It’s do-able! You just have to do a lot of compromising, and researching around!
Here are some top tips on how to get into the media industry when you’re skint, from a girl who just landed an awesome digital job after a lot of time spent selling clothes to afford train tickets and unpaid internships!
1) Create your own platforms to build your experience within.
I’ve been freelancing and working for different companies since I was 15, writing blog posts, editorial and copy content, but the experience that my employers were always most interested in when it came to the post-graduate job search, were the platforms I’d founded myself. As you probably already know all too well, it’s really difficult to gain work experience without having to suffer at the hands of an unpaid internship. Sure, a paid opportunity comes along every so often and that’s when the media graduate hunger games begin. But what can you do to build experience in the meantime? Creat your own platforms!
At the moment, I have a blog, a podcast, and two magazines (though I have tried numerous other platforms) and all have received enthusiasm from employers. The first and most obvious (and fun!) platform you can create for yourself is a blog. It’s free to start a blog on Blogger, and by doing so, you create an entire outlet for you to prove yourself on and start ‘getting your name out there’. Make sure you’ve got an ‘About’ page with your contact details in case any employers may be interested and write until steam comes out of your ears. Your blog automatically becomes a portfolio of work as you upload content to it, and you don’t have to work for anyone else to build it up! A good portion of the portfolio I attach in job applications and take along with me to interviews is work pulled from my blog.
Another medium you can venture into from home is podcasting. A lot of just-starting-out-journalists are sceptical of podcasting and a little intimidated by it. With the number of podcasts out there right now, and the cost of equipment, I understand that. But there are great ways to start and run a podcast with little to no money. And the great thing about being a newbie to journalism, is you have little to lose and room to experiment, so there are lots of different mediums and methods you can try out.
Another platform I’d suggest, which happens to be the best thing I ever did, is starting a magazine. If editorial work is something you want to pursue, or you’d like to see if it might be, starting your own magazine is a great way to gain editorial experience and see whether it’s the right path for you. Magazines aren’t too dissimilar from creating a collaborative blog, just with a lot of extra design and art stuff poured into it. So, if you have some friends or classmates who might be interested in creating a magazine with you, do it asap!
2) Make the most of free resources
Now that you’ve decided you want to be a journalist but you’re a little bit low on funds, it’s time to grab a sleeping bag and start living at your local library. If you’re in education or have a local library, make the use of that free resource and any equipment available to you. You can set up those platforms we talked about all the more easily if you have any access to good equipment.
3) The Book Trust
I first discovered the Book Trust when I started my work experience placement at Penguin. The Book Trust is a non-profit organisation that provides financial support to those working in the literary industry who are from low-income backgrounds. They can provide reimbursements for train tickets and help you find and fund affordable accommodation during internships and work experience. This doesn’t apply to all kinds of writing or journalism roles, but if you’re thinking of undertaking a placement or training programme at a literary magazine or publishing house (something bookish!), this is a great company to check out if you need financial support.
4) Press Pad
Possibly the most brilliantly named business ever (I love a good play on words), Press Pad is an organisation that helps journalism interns, students and those working on placements to minimise the financial worry by organising shared accommodation. Within Press Pad, is a group of live-in landlords who are all professional journalists offering rooms in their homes to journalists in training. This is a great place to check out if you’re in need of short term accommodation during a placement away from your home town!
5) Find the programmes that pay
While I’ve just gone through some ways to make unpaid internships and programmes easier to manage, but, in reality, you deserve to get paid. If you are completing work for a company, you should be paid by them regardless of what level you are at. There are a lot of internships out there that do pay, along with work placements and training programmes. A lot that don’t pay (though they should) often however cover food and travel expenses. There are a few great resources for finding paid grad jobs, placements, and programmes:
Journo Resources is a fantastic platform lead by journalists to give trainees, aspiring journalists and freelancers work advice, and advertise opportunities. They have a huge list on their website which I’ve essentially used as my bible – it details publications that are taking on contributed writing, and how much they pay for it. They also have a great colour coding system to help newbies figure out whether that pay is acceptable, and where you can find paid in-house work.
Go Think Big
Go Think Big have been a blessing to me. Not only did they partially fund my magazine, but I’ve found fantastic workshops and placements through their opportunities section to strengthen my experience. Go Think Big consistently update their site with new job roles and work placements to apply for, covering a wide range of industries and media sectors. Through Go Think Big, I’ve attended workshops on writing for entertainment, writing reviews, editing, creating magazines, building apps, and have undertaken work experience placements at Penguin Random House and Bauer Media. They also have a blog with a whole archive of employment tips, writing tips, advice from industry professionals, and more.
Mediargh is one of my favourite websites to search through when I’m looking for new opportunities and applying for jobs. With a regularly updated job adverts section, you can revisit the site each day and find new roles to apply for. Mediargh also has a blog containing great advice on media work and employment, which helps move the application process along!
The Dots is a job search platform with the ability to add extreme amounts of detail to your work experience. Rather than filling it out like a CV as most job platforms do, you select the companies and brands you’ve worked for and then detail individual projects you’ve completed there (you can do this for your own platforms too). From there, you can add any contributors you know, and when people view your profile they see the specific kinds of skills you possess, and the kind of projects you can bring to life.
LinkedIn is an obvious but fabulous one. I didn’t like using LinkedIn for years, but post-graduation it became extremely useful to me. You can simply search ‘paid internships’ into the search bar and access an array of paid opportunities advertised on LinkedIn (so many employers use it because it’s free to post!) and you can also find who’s previously worked there and what they got out of the opportunity. The key with LinkedIn, is to take advantage of their free premium account trial! Once you’re using the trial, you can highlight job applications in gold to make sure they’re read by the employer first and access a range of courses to obtain new employment skills!
Those are some great ways to get into journalism when you have no money! Making platforms to build experience on from home has been hugely beneficial to me, practically tripling the size of the experience section on my CV, and allowing me to learn more skills. Thankfully, it seems like unpaid internships are slowly disappearing, as more and more employers are realising how much that pushes away talent in people from low income backgrounds.
I hope this helped, good luck with the job search!