Life as a student is blissful, despite the constant burden of adulthood slowly creeping upon you, it is easy to ride along the glorious train of lectures-library-pub. However, there becomes a day where the word “graduation” starts creeping up from behind. The prospect of finishing university and having to finally accept that you are in fact an adult can be extremely daunting, the thought of having to find a job can be equally stressful. As an adult in denial, I can say that my one piece of advice as a student looking to step into a career in media is: get involved in student media.
Student media is easily accessible across the world, almost every students’ union across the country will have a string of student journalists attached to it, and there are plenty of publications which are designed specifically for student writers. Journalism and the media is a highly competitive industry, which is why your degree is no longer enough to land you a spot in your dream job, you need the experience and portfolio to back up all of those theories you have had force into your brain.
Having been the Editor of Smoke Mag, at the University of Westminster for approximately 9 months, I have come across a few frequently asked questions when we try to encourage students to join us, and more often than not, the answers are the same.
“I am studying Journalism, is my degree, not enough?”
No, to put it bluntly. A degree shows that you have the commitment to study, that you can take in and remember information and that you can pull all-nighters in the library. Working in student media demonstrates everything else that your employer wants to see. Student media will require you to meet regular deadlines, to lead other students and to apply what you have learned in your lectures to a real-life publication.
There are also some things that a lecturer can not teach you, for example; you cannot learn how to edit an article to the preferred style of a publication by sitting in a lecture theater.
“Is student media taken seriously?”
This is a difficult question, and essentially the answer is yes and no. One thing I always tell my team of editors is “you get out as much as you put in”, and that applies to this frequently asked question. An employer will take your time at a student publication extremely seriously if you have a large portfolio of printed work, and articles online to back up your CV. However, claiming that you were a writer for your student magazine, without any published proof or knowledge in the industry beyond your degree, then you may struggle to be taken seriously.
“What can I gain from being part of student media?”
I feel as if this question is best answered in bullet points;
- Improved time management skills
- Experience in working with a variety of different people
- The ability to adapt your style of writing to the style required for a publication
- Knowledge of the industry
- The opportunity to learn how to use industry standard software and equipment
- New friends
- Connections from attending national conferences and awards ceremonies
- Improved writing skills
- The opportunity to learn to be an editor
- Organisational skills
- Leadership skills
- Ability to create article ideas and to engage an audience
The list is endless, being part of student media can give you the platform to excel in almost every skill employers want to see, from the ability to use industry level software to simple communication skills with other writers. You may already be a fantastic leader or have impeccable organizational skills, but student media gives you the opportunity to apply those skills to a situation that is credible on your CV.
“I have a lot of university work on, will I have time for student media?”
Yes. Yes. Yes. You can always make time for student media. Time management is key when balancing your degree and a publication, however, the days where you are downing coffee to have the energy to get through your to-do list are the days where you are gaining so much. If you avoid giving yourself too much to do, then you will never learn how to manage a large work load – something that you will have to do almost every day in a full-time job. Again, student media gives you the platform to learn to balance your time and to prioritize tasks.
However, it isn’t as stressful as it may seem, it goes without saying that a role as an editor will require more time than a role as a reporter or a contributor. Most student publications are printed monthly or every semester, this means that you may only have to write one article a month. By setting aside an hour a month to write an article for the year at university, you will have 9-12 officially published articles to carry into an interview.
“I have my own blog, why is student media any different to that?”
Proposing articles, having them approved by an editor and then completed by a deadline is very different to writing a blog in your spare time. Sometimes your own blog isn’t considered as published work by a potential employer because your blog posts have been written, edited and approved by yourself, meaning that you haven’t gained experience in the way a publication works and an editorial process. Additionally, writing for student media will give you experience in writing for a range of categories and genres, where as a personal blog tends to focus on what you are most comfortable doing, student media will push you to vary your writing.
If you have read down to this point, and you are wondering why I feel as if I am in a position to write this, the answer is – my own experience in student media.
As a student who isn’t studying journalism or media, I have had to push myself to gain plenty of experience in the industry before I am even considered for an internship. However, written for two publications at university, and an external student publication I managed to land myself an internship which led to a job offer at the end of it.
Without student media, I would never have even stepped foot into a real life news room, let alone have by lines in regional newspapers. Student media has allowed me to develop from a shy reporter who was too scared to submit anything into anywhere other than my own blog, to a confident journalist who is ready to walk into a job at a paper or a magazine.
Many underestimate the benefits of student media, but the best piece of advice that anyone looking to go into a career in journalism or the media, is, to gain experience, and for students that first point of call should, and must be student media.
If you have any suggestions, would like to guest post or give me a feedback, feel free to email me at kl.marcel [at] gmail.com, tweet me @marcelkl or connect with me on LinkedIn. Thanks for stopping by, have a splendid day!