Journalism student Joshua Barlow gives you the three vital tips to help you succeed that he has learnt during his three years at Sheffield Hallam.
During my time at university I have learnt a variety of skills and developed into someone who I barely recognise – no longer am I a shrinking violet.
When I first started my degree I wanted to be a fashion editor. I wanted the hustle of a newsroom and the glamour of runways around the world, but having had the past three years to reflect on who I am as a person I have realised that I may have watched one too many episodes of Ugly Betty.
Tip 1: Network.
In my seminars and lectures we are constantly reminded that the journalism field is an extremely competitive one. We are told to take as many opportunities as we can and network, network, network.
The old saying ‘It’s not what you know it’s who you know’ has never been more appropriate.
Looking back I realise I feared putting myself out there and making myself known to ‘professionals’ – I was the kind of person who used to think to myself; “Why would they care about what I say/think?”
Everyone has a story to tell, something to share that means you should read their work over someone else’s – and whilst it may appear that I am fighting a losing battle at times, the key is to keep trying and to have a voice.
One of the biggest revelations in networking that I have discovered at university is LinkedIn, which acts as an online CV and gives you a professional space to create your own personal hive of contacts – adding that one person who you interviewed in your first year can be the difference between receiving a professional endorsement or not.
Networking makes links which in turn can lead to a whole variety of opportunities including work experience and jobs.
However, it is not as simple as walking up to someone and saying “Hi, my name is …”. Whilst this is a nice way to approach someone, it is vital that you have something to offer.
Tip 2: Specialise.
As mentioned above when I started university I wanted to work in the field of fashion, but having developed both professionally and personally I have discovered that my goal is to work in features.
In his essay, Why I write, George Orwell says; “I lacked political purpose” and this is something that speaks to me on many levels.
I believe that as a journalist I have the ability to use my skills to change the world around me – almost like a superpower, and I intend to use this to help those who need it.
My specialisation is mental health writing and it was the realisation of this that has helped me begin to form my journalistic career. It’s led me to write for the university magazine SHUlife, form the basis of my dissertation examining mental health stigma and given me various other projects to work on.
Having a specialisation can set you apart from the rest of the world when you are applying for an internship or job. It is also a major discussion point when you network as it is more likely to make someone remember you – and whilst it is good to have a specialisation, it is also important to note that having a set of general skills ensures that you are not putting yourself into a pigeon hole.
Tip 3: Demonstrate your Skills.
Personally, I am working towards a qualification from the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and am close to achieving a certificate in shorthand.
Whilst you can put a list of skills from your degree on your CV, for example; writing, interviewing skills and blogging – you could also showcase various examples or experience from work which you may have completed outside of your academic studies. Skills from part-time employment can be transferable and you never know when they will come in handy.
You may think that the customer service experience gained from retail may not help you land your dream job, however, it shows potential employers that you know how to communicate with people and deal with their wants and needs.
Every little skill helps and it is displaying these that could very well set you apart from the crowd (and of course LinkedIn helps as I mentioned earlier.)
So remember, if you are to follow these three tips you have a fighting chance at succeeding in anything you aspire to. It’s about getting yourself out in the world and making yourself known to those who are already working in the professional field – and yes, there will be times when doubt your own ability, but it’s about dusting yourself off and trying again.
You can follow Josh on his blog https://jrbarlow.wordpress.com/