What To Do After The NCTJ’s pt 5 Patience

November 23, 2010

As a qualified journalist or recent graduate the final thing you need to do to get a job is stay patient, after all it is a virtue.

It is probably the simplest piece of advice that could be given to a recent graduate, but it is very important.

Things very rarely happen overnight and it could be a number of weeks or months before you get your break, but don’t panic you won’t be the only one.

Keep believing in your skills and your education and keep looking for jobs. Keep yourself fresh by blogging and networking in the mean time but stay patient, it will come eventually.

Try to keep yourself relevant during the time you are looking for a job, for example I enrolled on the NCTJ course to gain a further qualification and add another string to my bow. If you just look for jobs without keeping in touch with journalism you will only be hurting your chances.

Although it can be difficult if you are receiving knock backs or are just being ignored, stay enthusiastic as well. It can be easy to become pessimistic going into interviews after being turned down a few times, but put across your passion and your desire to succeed and, coupled with the things you will be doing in your spare time it won’t be long before you go from a qualified journalist to a paid journalist.

As I said at the start of this series I will be following my own advice as I hunt for my first job in the media, thank you to everyone that has followed the series and I hope at least some of it has been of use.

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What To Do After The NCTJ’s pt 4 Availability

November 22, 2010

It seems so simple but you never know when an opportunity may crop up, but you won’t be able to capitalise on it if you aren’t available.

Some people, myself included, have to earn a living outside of journalism while they hunt for their first break. It can be difficult to try and get time off at short notice for interviews and calling in sick always causes problems, not least remembering what excuses you have used.

Try to arrange the interviews for a week in advance, if possible, and save at least five to ten days of your holiday for those occasions.

It’s not ideal but missing out on a few days holiday is definitely worthwhile if it means landing your first job.

Availability doesn’t just extend to interviews either. If your networking is paying off then, fingers crossed, you will have the opportunity to do the odd article here and there, and being able to say yes shows your commitment and your desire to work.

Advice on keeping yourself available can’t really be better put than by TV journalist Sarah Moore, guest posting on wannabehacks.co.uk:

If you don’t say yes to rushing out in the middle of the night to report on the flash floods, they won’t again. That’s just the way it goes. Say yes to everything and resign yourself to living in the newsroom.

You can read her full post here, which includes some great pointers.

Join us tomorrow for the final piece of the “What to do Next” series which handles the art of staying patient.


What To Do After The NCTJ’s pt 2 Networking

November 18, 2010

How often have you heard the phrase “it’s who you know not what you know?” If I had a pound for every time I had heard it I wouldn’t need a job at all.

It seems to be a journalist’s catchphrase and one could quite easily get a job on the back of his contacts rather than his skill or reputation. But that isn’t always so easy for someone who has been in education for three or more years without the chance to make any contacts.

However, there is always a starting point and more often than not the tutors at your University or training course are working or former journalists with bulging contact books of their own, so tap in to it.

Not recognising the importance of networking while I was at Uni is my biggest regret of the three years I spent there. I took a cynical view on one particular fellow student who had a good working relationship with one of our tutors, who worked on the Sunday Express. I preferred to keep my distance from the tutors outside of class and stuck to my work, labelling my class mate a “teacher’s pet” as she went for drinks with them. After Uni who do you think got a job blogging for the Express’ website, me or her?

Sometimes all you need is a foot in the door to get you started and for those of us who are new to the industry that foot isn’t always going to be yours. Don’t be afraid to take help from others and use their contacts as a bridge to get you to where you want to be.

Interacting in the right circles and getting to know like-minded people is of huge importance to an amateur journalist.  But for some people it can be difficult. Striking up a conversation in a crowded room of people you don’t know can be daunting, it definitely is for me.

Luckily enough, however, networking extends to the comfort of your computer as well and an online presence is just as necessary. Where else but Twitter can you converse directly with editors of national newspapers? By contributing regularly to media circles online, whether through twitter or commenting on blogs, you are able to promote yourself and put your name out there.

It’s easier to be yourself in the comfort of your own home and for shy retiring types like me and Joseph Stashko it can be just as rewarding.

Make sure you contribute regularly to the areas that interest you, don’t just sit there plugging your own blog (something even I can be guilty of at times). Comment on others works and interact in a friendly way and who knows what can come from it.

Finally take a look at these networking tips for some further pointers on the art of networking. Tune in tomorrow for more What To Do Next Tips as we look the need for a portfolio.


What To Do After The NCTJ’s pt 1 Blogging

November 17, 2010

If you only do one thing after finishing your Uni course or pass your NCTJ pre-entries then make sure it is to start and maintain a blog.

Quite simply it can be the reason you get a job. In fact, blogging is becoming such a popular way into the journalism world that the reputable City University held a talk for its students on how a blog could get them a job. Take a look at this and this to see two students accounts of the event and look up Dave Lee, Josh Halliday and Conrad Quilty-Harper who were the speakers (all of whom are under 25 and have jobs at national news outlets on the back of their blogs).

A blog for an unemployed, aspiring journalist is a necessary tool. It showcases your talent not only for writing but for attracting  an audience and keeping them there. Finding a niche subject matter you are passionate about and posting regular, useful updates highlights to editors your ability to understand your readers needs. This is a skill that all editors are looking for and showing it in your blog will do you no harm in interviews.

It couldn’t really be easier to start a blog. There are many free hosting sites to get you started. A blog doesn’t have to be a chore either. If all you have time for is a weekly update that is your prerogative, just make sure your posts are meaningful and useful, nobody wants to read a weekly rant about the queue at the cinema.

A blog doesn’t just keep you writing either, it also helps you to learn new skills. HTML knowledge and multimedia management are just additional skills you can boast after a few months of blogging if you are willing to learn them.

So, a well maintained blog can act as a rolling CV, showcasing your talent and letting potential employers know that you are out there, however to get a blog noticed you have to move in the right circles and tomorrows post on networking will help to put that into place.

But for now, why not take a look at the below links to further whet your blogging appetite and help you set up.

Firstly, Adam Westbrook’s superb blogging series: “Why journalists must blog and how”. The first post of the series can be found here, but navigate around the site to find the others. They are a must read.

Wannabe Hacks are another example of how to be successful if you blog well. Two of their contributors had a very decent debate on the need to blog which can be found here.

And finally this post at Publishing 2.0 while posted in 2007 still rings true today.

Stop by tomorrow as we take a look at the merits of networking, both in person and online.


What’s Changed With The NCTJ

October 8, 2010

As I mentioned a week or so ago the shorthand section of the NCTJ course has experienced some changes recently. But it isn’t just the teeline test that’s changing, the entire syllabus will change from September 2011. Seeing as some centres are delivering the changed syllabus now I thought it was about time to highlight some of the differences.

Firstly, and possibly most importantly, news writing doesn’t exist anymore. Nope, it’s now known as reporting and teaches multi-platform reporting and news writing for online, magazines and TV/Radio as well as print. The discipline also looks at basic editing skills, finding and telling stories and accuracy and use of English.

The move can certainly be seen as a step in the right direction and will answer the NCTJ critics that recently questioned its street cred. However, the current NCTJ pre-entry exams provide a very good grounding for a trainee newspaper journalist on a local level. A balance will need to be struck and the NCTJ will have to be wary of following journalism degrees that try to cram in too many aspects into their courses and leave students without a real speciality.

The portfolio also changes and is now called the multimedia portfolio which allows students to submit stories on any format in another move to try to produce a more rounded journalist.

Both public affairs and media law have been rebranded as essential media law and essential public affairs, while the shorthand changes can be found by following the link at the top of the page to my NCTJ Shorthand – The Future post.

Anyone concerned that the new curriculum may be leading students down a path of uncertainty in the job market, with too many skills and not enough specific knowledge can breathe a sigh of relief.  Students will not be able to gain a diploma in journalism unless they pass all the required elements above AND two specialist subjects.

The subjects include court reporting, online video journalism, sub-editing, sports journalism, business of magazines and broadcast journalism. Again, this is a change for the better and it allows more variety to be offered and will help to produce a well-rounded journalist with a refined specialist field with which to work in.

Upon launching the changes Donald Martin, chairman of the NCTJ Journalism Qualifications Board, said:

 “We all now operate in a multimedia world. The boundaries between journalism sectors are no longer distinct. Employers like me are demanding multi-skilled journalists. And students, who are full of enthusiasm for this new world, want multimedia training and multimedia NCTJ qualifications.”

So there you have it, the qualification which best suits trainee journalists has expanded and should be able to help place young journalists in jobs across all forms of media and not just the local press. A change for the better, I’d say.
If you are taking or going to be taking this new form of NCTJ courses or are already taking them please get in touch. We would love to hear your thoughts.
You can also read the full aticle of Donald Martins launch of the Diploma in Journalism here
Pic Credit – Arvind Balaraman

The Blog Collection – Week 2

September 23, 2010

First up this week is a piece by Martin Belam on currybet.net which looks at the fear of a newsroom to publish viewing figures of their work. He says:

“The point of measuring and understanding an audience behaviour surely has to be to better deliver your news values.”

It’s a decent piece and a point that is well made. There is a look to the future as well when young journalists, fresh from their YouTube accounts and blogs, will enter the media having been entirely used to having their reader numbers displayed in public.

While I am still new to the blog world, I have been reading up a lot on tips about getting more traffic and keeping readers updated. This article is the latest to fill my screen about how to break a story (or post). In terms of journalism it is quite interesting to see how they advise you to break a news story.

In a topic a little closer to home, Fleet Street Blues followed on from my top five tips for work experience with some advice of their own. All useful stuff and there are some tips there that I didn’t include. Well worth a read, if only for the last comment.

Finally, a story that I am sure most of you would have seen. It turns out that Apple are quite difficult to get hold of for a quote, Steve Jobs on the other hand….

Remember you can follow us on Twitter @nctjandbeyond and now on Facebook too. NCTJ & Beyond has its own Facebook page so be sure to “like” it in the sidebar on the right to get access to more discussion.

Also, please let me know what you think of the new banner? Designed by matthewstrangedesigns.co.uk. Much more professional

Picture Credit : Salvatore Vuono


University Journalism: Are Student Papers Really Needed?

September 20, 2010

An interesting news piece on Journalism.co.uk reveals that final year journalism students at Coventry University will be responsible for the copy and pictures of the Coventry Telegraph’s community pages.

It is a very promising initiative which will no doubt benefit both the students and the paper; however it has got me thinking. Is it better than a student paper?

In terms of exposing your talents to potential employers I would argue that it is. The editor of the Coventry Telegraph, who set up the scheme, will have direct access to the students work and they will have more of an opportunity to impress him than if they were to take cuttings from their time at the Uni paper.

On the flip side, are Uni papers irreplaceable? They are most people’s first experience of the hustle and bustle of a news room environment. For others, it is the platform in which the skill of being an editor is learnt. But are employers really swayed by a candidate’s record at their Uni paper? I am not sure.

Is a project like this the future of practical journalism while at Uni and will it yield more jobs in the process? Its success and popularity is something to look out for and only time will tell. But in terms of giving students a chance, I would say it’s certainly a good start.


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