Robert completed a journalism degree at University College Falmouth. During his time at university he undertook numerous journalism placements, including helping with the editorial at The Big Issue.
What was your motivation in applying?
The fact that The Big Issue is a well-known and respected publication was a key motivator. Having previously had a stint on the Guardian Unlimited website, I was also keen to see how working for a weekly magazine would differ – and if this was the route I would ultimately angle for after graduation.
What did the application process involve?
A cover letter and a CV to the news editor stating why I wanted to gain some work experience, my availability and what I had already achieved in the field.
What did you do?
From the very start I was granted with much autonomy in researching for, and writing up, stories for publication to tight deadlines. My week was spent writing two news features; on the Crisis Changing Lives Champions Awards, as well as researching and writing why Liverpool City Council had introduced a traffic light food-labelling scheme for the city’s takeaways. All of my work was published too and this was a real bonus!
How did you sell the experience on your CV?
I simply listed it in chronological order (as my most recent spell of relevant work experience). If given the opportunity to expand a little bit on application forms, I detail what I was required to do, what I managed to get published, and specific skills the stint of work experience developed (such as interviewing skills). As I have found at job interviews, one is often given the chance to describe their work experience in greater depth.
Did you enjoy it?
What did you learn?
Apart from practising my skills in researching for and writing stories to tightly defined deadlines, the fact that I had to conduct six interviews with ex-homeless individuals for one story, homed in on my interviewing skills and greatly improved them. From initially being nervous on the telephone, the demands of the assignment improved my telephone demeanour and made me become more inquiring, asking the all-important ‘why’ to everything my interviewees said.
It was empowering and rewarding, and the fact that I got published twice was a distinct bonus. The fact that all cups of tea and coffee were made for me and that I didn’t do one bit of photocopying really does dispel the myth about interns and work experience.
I found the prospect of having to jump into the deep end from the start a little daunting, initially. But in retrospect, this has given me a taste of life in a publishing environment.
What advice to readers do you have?
Work experience is seemingly what employers look for from potential candidates. It speaks volumes about them, so get as much of it as you can and this will hold you in good stead. As with graduate jobs, work experience is almost as competitive, so be tenacious and keep applying.