top of page

Getting that first media opportunity. Tips for graduates

University of Westminster graduation ceremony

It's that time of year when graduates are beginning to worry about their first job and pressure begins to build when colleagues tell you on social media just how well they are getting on and brag about the internship, placement or job that they are doing. Seeing those constant updates from the 'braggers' can be intimidating and depressing. I tell mentoring clients to try and turn off that noise as it's never helpful and instead to concentrate on their own circumstances.

The phase from graduation to employment can happen in many ways. You may get a job straight away in exactly the right field of media that you wanted - but it might take months. You can find yourself doing a job that is not directly related to your degree or you may find yourself being freelance; doing a variety of things that may include media. All of these are progression. Finding some work is key and building experience as soon as you can. That can be as a volunteer, part time or full time, it does not matter initially.

So how do you increase your chances of getting this kind of work and getting into the media world? Undoubtedly there are a number of things many graduates struggle to do well. The first is a broad point about freelancing that I have written about here before. Do not see freelancing as a failure. Half the industry is either freelance or has been at some point. Some of the very best people I work with are self-employed and do not have a fixed employer. If you end up working for two or three companies in the first months after graduating, it may give you even more skills than taking a full time job.

Another thing to think about as a graduate is the need to maximise your skills and any experience gained on your CV and cover letters. Never call yourself 'experienced' - as you need years in the business before saying that. But think about all the content you have produced, either on the course you have completed or at placements you have had. You need to demonstrate that you can do things not just say that you can. The way you do this is by using those experiences. Most graduate CVs I see undervalue work that was done as part of a degree. If you have been involved in producing content at university - you must talk about this on your CV and in your cover letters.

It is also surprising how often I see a graduate CV that lists the modules done during a degree and just says 'dissertation' without saying what it was on. One of the things that makes a candidate unique is the detail. Telling people what you have written about and researched tells the employer more about you and makes you more appealing. In journalism we call it a 'hook', when you think about a story and what makes it interesting. You have to think the same way about yourself and your skills. Simply graduating as a journalist (or any media degree) does not make you special.

I use the word in mentoring sessions all the time - but 'demonstrable' skills are what is essential. Making yourself attractive to potential employers is done by using every experience you have had. If you spent a week working somewhere as an intern, talk about the stories and situations you were involved in.

I had a client a few years ago that mentioned on their CV that they had spent a week at the MailOnline, but gave no details. I noticed the dates and asked if anything significant had happened. They replied "oh yes it was the EU referendum" and it turns out they had produced two articles published online on the day of the result. Here was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate skills like 'working under pressure' to 'tight deadlines' and on a 'big story' without using the generic phrases themselves.

The more you add this 'colour' to your applications the more you will be lifted off the page. Be proud of what you have done and try and reflect that on paper. That will go a long way to making you more appealing and getting that first break in the media. Good luck!


bottom of page