10 Tips for English Students Who Want to Be Journalists


So we’re almost four months into 2013, and whether you’re in your first, second or third year, it’s never too early (or late) to start planning for your future career. Especially if that career is in something as competitive as Journalism, with a lot of people wanting to get into relatively few openings!

An English degree is a good start, but it’s worth doing everything you can to get ahead of the crowd. Here are 10 great ideas that will give you that extra competitive edge and help you get your foot on the Journalism career ladder…

1. Network

Most jobs aren’t found through advertisements or agencies, especially in competitive industries where each job advert gets hundreds of responses. Having contacts is imperative, so attend all the talks and join all the societies so you can to start building some bridges.

2. Intern Early

A summer internship is a great foot in the door, and although most companies hire students for placements during or after their second year, it’s never too early to start applying for them, even if you’re still in your first.

3. Learn To Research

Journalism is as much about research as it is about the ability to write. If you’re writing something factual, the emphasis is always on getting the right facts in the right context between slickly constructed sentences.

4. Blog!

Having your own space to sprawl out your thoughts is useful for building an online presence, and for developing your writing. Just don’t let it sit there and gather dust: set yourself deadlines and topics to write about to help sharpen your skills.

5. Keep Current

If you’re looking to cover something dynamic like fashion or technology, always take the time to cover new developments. You can even revisit or expand on older pieces so you’re ahead of the curve. Plus, it’s good practice if you end up staffing a retractions desk.

6. Volunteer

Especially in digital media, content is a buyer’s market. Finding blogs or local papers that need volunteer contributors can demonstrate a good work ethic and build up a body of published content, as well as letting you develop your style in the print world.

7. Become an Entrepreneur

If you have a niche interest or you can’t find the right outlet, why not start your own? If you want to become a writer, you should get involved in the business side of media. Generating content is useful, but with the mindset to manage or monetize written content you’ll look even better to employers.

8. Try Anything

If you’re interested in lifestyle journalism, always be open to new things. Editors love to have someone they can confidently send to cover different events, especially on smaller papers where you might be seeing local plays one week and reviewing a wine festival another.

9. Keep Your Essays

If you’re looking to get into the more academic side of journalism, it’s worth remembering that over the course of your three years, you should be building up a solid collection of referenced critical writings that you can carve up for examples if you’d like a career writing in this manner – but only the best ones, mind.

10. Persevere

Journalism is a tough industry with a lot of people trying to get in, and a lot more are trying to get to the top. Bear this in mind if you find yourself struggling to find opportunities. Times are tough, but something can only stop you if you let it.

If you’re an English undergrad with some other ideas, or an industry insider with some advice, why not drop me a comment below?


Ed Hitchman blogs about media, society, culture and journalism. He writes for GKBC.

photo credit: The PIX-JOCKEY (photo manipulation) via photopin cc