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How to Survive Work Experience in the Media

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by Katie Thompson (subscribe)
University of York Graduate, aspiring to be a journalist with dreams of one day publishing my own novel. Blog: Published work can be seen at and
Published December 30th 2012
Leave your nerves at home

If you're reading this, it's more than likely you also write for Weekend Notes. If you don't, join the club. As an aspiring writer myself, I've had my fair share of work experience in various publications, and have learned a few lessons along the way. Next time you find yourself in a writing-based work experience or first-time freelance role, keep in mind the following tips to keep those nerves at bay.

10). You are there because you are valued
We've all fallen victim to the stereotype that those who are trainees or doing work experience are nothing more than tea-makers you are not a tea maker. The whole point of work experience is to develop your skills and get involved; don't shy away because you think you're not important enough to contribute. That said, don't be too proud to offer to run errands. More often than not I found that everybody did their part on the tea front there is no hierarchy where beverages are involved.

9). Your wardrobe isn't the be all and end all
Too often we fret about how we are going to look on that all-important placement. Unless you find yourself working for Vogue or similar, I would advise not panicking too much over what to wear. I've always found that dressing smartly on the first day creates a good impression, and as the week wears on nobody will notice if you are going smart-casual usually because they're dressed very informally themselves. Dress comfortably to feel comfortable.

8). Get to know your colleagues
I've always found the best way to encourage a healthy working atmosphere is to get to know your colleagues. Luckily the work experience role is a great conversation starter; you can tell your superiors all about your previous experience and education without it feeling too much like an interview. An appropriate amount of socialising and a sense of humour wouldn't go a miss either during one work experience stint I would often go out for lunch with my peers to learn more about them, and perhaps the company itself.

7). Know your software
This one is pretty self-explanatory try to ask in advance what kind of operating system you will be using before you go for your work experience. There's nothing worse than knowing Windows inside out then turning up to a load of Macs (which has happened to me on more than one occasion.) The same applies for other blogging software such as Wordpress.

6). Don't take it personally
Working in the media will always be stressful. If you're lucky enough to be there during deadline week, chances are tensions will be running high, so don't take anything personally. Try your best not to get involved in any confrontation and let off steam with your colleagues over lunch if need be.

5). Bring writing material
It seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how often people expect everything to be available at the touch of a button. A pen and paper are vital tools for research, interviewing and much more, and they're brilliant for practising shorthand.

4). Don't be disheartened if things get changed
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I've learned is to take constructive criticism well. There may be nothing wrong with your writing style but for whatever reason it might not fit the tone of the publication or get the right message across. Take your superior's comments on board and don't be surprised if your words are changed a little in final print.

3). Contribute your own ideas
Just because you are new doesn't mean you won't have ideas don't be afraid to put any ideas across, for example, relevant features for an upcoming month. A well-researched idea will be valued enormously even if it doesn't make the cut the worst that can happen is that you will be recognised for your ingenuity.

2). Do your research
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail there's no truer sentiment in the field of job-hunting. If you turn up to a magazine having absolutely no idea what its subject matter is or to whom it appeals, chances are it'll take you a lot longer to get started on your first assignment than if you had come pre-prepared. Do your homework and you might even find you can contribute more ideas.

1). Take pride in your work
This I believe holds value above everything else there's no shame in squealing a little when you see your name in a by-line. Whether it's published in print or online, you should be proud of the work you have done and show it off besides, the more you show it off, the more attention you could get from potential employers.
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