Want a career in the media? Start developing your skills and experience now!

Online newspaperOK, so you would like to get some kind of job in the media when you graduate. Maybe you’re not really sure what yet. Perhaps you quite like the idea of writing, or maybe you fancy yourself as the next Jeremy Clarkson or Paxman, depending on your personal style. OK, great – here are some things you need to know.

1. The media as an industry is developing and changing at breakneck speed. Keep your finger on the pulse.

  • It’s tough out there. Let’s start with the bad news. The job market for traditional journalism is contracting, and this is a long-term trend (over and above the impact of the recession), due to a great extent to the explosion of online media and user-generated content. Getting into journalism always was tough. But it’s going to get much tougher. For example, the Manchester Evening News recently announced it is axing 150 jobs and shutting down its local offices, due to falling revenues. And this is part of a national picture. The NUJ estimates that at least 1,000 editorial jobs have been lost across the industry since last summer, and ITV have cut up around 1000 jobs – broadcasting is not immune to this trend. At the same time UCAS reports that applications for undergraduate journalism degrees have gone up 24% in the last year. So expect more competition than ever before.
  • However, the media job landscape is changing. Even a ‘print’ journalist is now expected to be able to write for the web (e.g. google search friendly headlines) and be able to use social networking tools like Twitter for researching and breaking stories, as well as develop video and audio reports for the web. New job titles like multimedia content developer and social media specialist are springing up all the time the media industry embraces the web, just as ‘traditional roles’ in print and broadcast journalism are disappearing or changing shape. The Media Week jobs site is currently advertising 143 jobs in its digital/online category, compared with 10 in radio, 7 in TV and 29 and 20 in national and regional press respectively. The traditional distinctions between types of media (e.g. print and broadcast) and media and marketing are also dissolving online. Job roles for people working in online media/journalism, PR, marketing and advertising can be very similar, as the day-to-day activities and skills required are often the same and organisations and individuals increasingly ‘do a bit of everything’.

2. You need plenty of work experience and a whole host of skills to make you stand out!

  • Start small. If you have diddly-squat media experience on your CV, you’re unlikely to land a cushy internship at a top newspaper/TV studio straight away. Most people start out as regular writers/editors for the University newspaper Student Direct or contributors to the Student radio station FUSE FM. There are also hospital and community radio stations to try. The North West Radio info site has a good list of commercial and community radio stations. To get media recruiters to take an interest in you further down the line, you’ll need to demonstrate a longstanding commitment to a career in the media, so make sure you start early so you have lots to go on your media CV by the time you graduate.
  • Be proactive and self-publish. Don’t depend just on getting formal work experience. The internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities, so there’s no excuse for not starting to build up your portfolio now. Try submitting reviews of gigs, restaurants etc to local online entertainment sites like Manchester Confidential or local blogs, start a blog yourself on a subject you’re passionate about, write news reports for ‘citizen journalism’ sites like iReport (owned by CNN). If you’re interested in broadcasting, buy yourself a digital dictaphone and create a mini-documentary or special report on a local issue and see if you can get it aired on a local radio station. In other words, be proactive and imaginative!
  • Develop your bank of skills. Look at job ads for jobs you think you would like. What skills do they ask for? Start to develop these as early as possible, e.g. by setting yourself projects or going on short training courses. This will help your CV really stand out.
  • Sign up for our 2-day ‘Insight into Broadcasting and Journalism‘ course on 30th and 31st March – open to all University of Manchester students. On the course you will have the opportunity to hear from and work alongside many media experts and professionals from leading companies like the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, ITV, Galaxy radio and more. You will also get the chance to work in TV, radio or print groups to produce a news story and create a real piece of work to include in your portfolio. Great for meeting media employers, learning about the media industry, and developing new skills. There’s a small charge of £42.50 to cover costs, but think how it will look on your CV!

So… it’s not easy to get into a career in the media and the industry is changing rapidly, but there will always be a market for people wanting to consume media. Top tips for employability for the media sector:

  • Keep your eye on media jobs sites and the media press and make sure you’ve got your finger on the industry’s pulse. Where are the new job opportunities? How is the market developing? Where are jobs being cut?
  • Use your spare time to get as much work experience as possible, build your portfolio and your ‘skills for media’ toolkit. Familiarise yourself with the new tools used by experienced media professionals, like Twitter and other social media and also multimedia, as well as the more traditional skills. Don’t just read about them – have a go at using them!
  • Be both determined and flexible. It’s not easy to get into a career in the media, but it is possible. Be prepared to experience plenty of knock-backs (most people do!) and try to keep a number of different strategies on the boil at once. If you can’t get the job you really want, think about what other related jobs you could go for which would give you the skills and experience you need.
  • Download our invaluable ‘ Journalism & Broadcasting’ careers guide with lots of links to info about work experience and training opportunities.

Good luck!

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