Sunday, 14 September 2014

From Intern to Journo...


Other than a vague dream of becoming some kind of performer when I was tiny (I used to sit in the middle of the living room and make my parents interview me as another person) and a foray into fashion designing (I was a keen stenciller), I’ve pretty much always wanted to be some kind of writer. My mum told me recently that when I was really little I’d ask her and my dad to read the newspaper to me until I feel asleep, I’d get lost in book after book and having one of my primary school poems published in a book when I was eight was one of the best moments in life. Ever.

As I got older, I started reading teen magazines like Sugar and Bliss (RIP to both) and became obsessed with the idea of magazine writing. That was when I was about 12 and it was ever since then I knew I would become a journalist. There are so many different sectors of journalism and on top of that so many ways to get into each of them; none of the pals I’ve made in the industry got into it in the same way, which can seem daunting for someone looking to break in but also exciting as you can kind of find your own way.

So below, as a homage to the fact that I’m entering into my 12 month in my career (wuuut?), I’ve broken down what I’ve learned on my route in to the industry, and hopefully it may help any aspiring fashion + beauty journos working out their own path.


Where it started, work experience at Sugar Magazine.

- Start NOW... work experience
My first work experience stint was at 14. Here in the UK you have to do a week of work experience during Year 9 and I was adamant I was doing mine at Sugar magazine - it was my favourite teen read and I knew it was the perfect place for me the spend my week drinking up understanding on how the industry works. I wrote, emailed and called persistently for about a month until it was finally confirmed. That week I was literally beaming from ear to ear everyday, making my way to the offices in Marble Arch. I would throw myself into every task and I literally could have cried going back to school. I’d definitely recommend doing work experience when you can; the younger you start the longer you have to work out the direction you want to go. Work experience is great because it’s for a much shorter period than interning so you can try different places. A Smörgåsbord of opportunities if you will.

- No one is indispensable.. But try
When I was at sixth form I interned at Hair for a couple of weeks, ironic since I now work there! The Hair offices were on the same floor as Marie Claire and Instyle, and when an intern fell sick I was brought in to be Instyle's features intern for a week. I did every task diligently (a low point was definitely haulin' a ridiculously large Ikea rug from the magazine offices down a million miles to the loading bay - 'twas not fun) until they ran out of tasks for me on the features desk… and the beauty desk, so I would wander into the fashion cupboard and help the interns there do the returns. Four days in I fell ill. Like really really ill; temperature, shaking, everything. I was lugging stacks of the new magazine to the post room when the editorial assistant asked me if I was ok - I was in my cardigan and jacket when everyone else was in short sleeves and normal summer attire. I confessed and she was lovely, sending me home and said I didn't need to come in for my last day (probs for the good of the office) - but I did and they gave me a little bag of goodies for my interning prowess.

What did I learned? Push through the illness!! No just kidding. If you get sick stay away from offices with air con where you risk infecting everyone else! What I actually learned is to never think your tasks are done. It's easy to think that once your set tasks are done, you're done, but finding things to help out with will set you apart from other interns and show that you actually care.


- Make friends!
Journalism is all about communication, so making contacts is essential and every advice book, blog and article will tell you that, but what some don't hone in on is the social aspect. I think it's all well and good exchanging business cards and calling somebody a contact, but one of the things I've found is being sociable is crucial. You want people to think of you and want you around their launches and events because those events or the people at those events are what lead to stories and more contacts. I used to (and still kind of do) dislike going to press events alone but doing so forces you to talk to new people and each time I've met someone new!


- Uni/no Uni/ Uni?
I went to Uni in 2010 and studied English Literature with Creative Writing. Even though I knew I wanted to be a journalist I also knew I didn't want to study journalism. I wanted to work in a very particular sector and I knew that studying journalism I'd only be able to do that for a very small percentage of the course. I figured that English Lit would be a fun course for me as I love to read and analyse and doing a minor in creative writing would sate my urge to write.

I know people's reason for going to Uni are different, but mine was 90% to learn, 8% to get new stationary every semester and 2% social. I didn't get a "proper" uni experience in regards to going out all the time and joining societies, but I'm ok with that and I've made new friends through different ways.
I can't advise anyone wanting to be a journalist in the field I'm in (women's lifestyle) to go or not to go to Uni but what I can tell you is that the majority of other candidates applying for the same entry level jobs as you will have a degree so you really need to be a shining beacon of life experience to even be considered if you don't go.

- Intern... Then intern some more...
Once I did my short stint at Notebook, the Sunday Mirror magazine, I was like the herp, there was no getting rid of me. I would come back again and again during Easter and summer break for two years. After Uni I returned again, vowing to stay forever! I did the usual stuff like transcribing and researching but also, having becoming a sort of honorary Notebooker if you like, went to press events on behalf of the mag and secured my first celebrity interview. Going back time after time helped them get to know me and know my ability and when I finally left for good I knew I made friends and contacts for life.

- Blog blog blog
My blog helped to get me my job. When I went for my interview I brought along two pages I did in Notebook and my three favourite blog posts; that was my portfolio. My blog was my only real outlet to waffle on about the things I loved talking about like fashion, beauty and baking so it was a good representation of what I was capable of and also showed that I had a real passion for writing and creating content.

- If you don’t know you better ask somebody… or, you know, google it.
I would literally say yes to any task I was given, no contemplation. Even if I had no clue how to do it, I'd say yes and then worry about figuring it out after. One instance was when I was at Sugar and they handed me pictures of two celebs and asked me to go on to Oxford Street at lunchtime (aka hell on Earth) and do some vox pops. Vox pops!? What the heck were vox pops? I googled it straight away and hotfooted it outside to ask random tourists which celeb's look they liked better. Another time was at Notebook when Mel, the editor, asked if I could fax something for her. I'd manage to get through my entire life so far without sending a fax. It was just me, her and Karen, a freelancer, in the office and have never felt such inner turmoil but I figured it out. It’s infinitely better to be the ‘no problem’ girl than the ‘I don’t know how to do that’ girl.


- Just apply
Apply apply apply! When I applied for my current job I was convinced I wasn't even in with a chance but maybe I would get an interview and then when they tell me they've gone with someone else I could ask for feedback for my next interview because this was my first one. The only other times I'd been interviewed was for my bar job at The Emirates Stadium - and that was in a group and for a sports writing programme. It was my first graduate job interview, and I got it. Don't let people tell you that your prospects are bleak and you'll have to go for 124.2 interviews and won't get a job etc... Of course it can be tough but everyone's course to his or her career is different and a little optimism didn't hurt anybody.

Love Keeks xo 



My first cover interview


Organising the Hair Awards

Fun at work shoots

Attending press events with my lovely Editor, Keysha

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1 comment

  1. Amazing post lady, once a Notebooker always a Notebooker <3

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