It was 10am on 11th April and I was ready for my week work experience at one of the oldest newspapers in the UK, the Yorkshire Post. Feeling apprehensive yet excited, I had no idea what to expect or what they would expect of me, but I was ready to show what I was capable of.
My brain has always been wired more towards writing and English. I like to think I have a creative flare. But it wasn’t until this year I realised I could actually have the potential to be a journalist. Admittedly it’s a hard industry to break into but me being me I always like to make things difficult for myself. And anyone who knows me will tell you I’ve never really had much faith in myself, or have never believed I could achieve what I wanted. I’m a relatively quiet person and I’ve always expressed myself better on paper. So I sort of set myself a personal challenge, to prove to myself that I am actually capable of doing anything I put my mind to.
Before my week with the features editor at the newspaper I was undecided on the real benefits of work experience. I questioned, did it really matter in the long run? Was I wasting my time? Was I going to get a real sense of the job?
I’m a firm believer in that just because you don’t yet have the experience or skills for a job, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the capabilities to learn them. And even if someone has the experience, who’s to say they’ll do a better job than you? And it all relates to the frustrating lines at the bottom of a lot of job adverts, ‘Previous experience required’. But if all the jobs we apply for require experienced candidates, how are we going to get experience in the first place, if no one will take the chance on us?
So why is work experience important? For me it was a personal thing. I’ve had my fair share of part time waitress jobs and bar jobs. But very little that I’ve learnt through my part time job pouring pints for minimum wage, compares to getting a taste of the job I one day aspire to have. During my week I realised things about myself and what I had the potential to achieve. I realised qualities that I didn’t know I possessed when I was faced with something that I was actually passionate about, which in itself has proven valuable in my growth into the person I want to become.
Over the week I was invited by the features editor along to a press day and was able to sit in on interviews with her and got a sense of the work and research that goes on behind the scenes to produce the newspaper each day – all of which was more than I expected to experience. I was given more tasks and responsibilities than I imagined, with a few short sections even being published and printed in the paper. Although they were short I felt a small sense of achievement – of course we’ve all got to start out somewhere. And all of a sudden I had developed a bit of self confidence – me of all people!
But the key is that you’ve got to make the most of the experience. These employers work there day in day out and you could just be another drop in the ocean of work experience hopefuls that they take on. So you have to make an impression on them. Or else yes, it’s probably not worth yours or their time. You’ve got to ask the relevant questions, be enthusiastic, you’ve got to do what they ask, but I think what’s most important is you’ve got to go beyond what they expect.
Take two people with the same education and personal skills applying for the same job. One has experience in the field, the other hasn’t. We all know who’s probably getting the job – that’s just the way it is. But it’s not just the experience that gives you the upper hand, for me it was also the lessons I learnt about myself and others and what I am capable of doing as well as confirming that the job is in fact what I want to do for the rest of my life.
We hear about some job industries being all about who you know, not what you know, in getting your foot in the door to becoming successful. And I would say journalism and freelancing is very much about the contacts you have and the people you know. I got lucky with an opportunity however others might not be so fortunate. Based on my own personal experience, work experience has gained its merit. I would say if you get that opportunity to work with an employer in your chosen line of work, even if it’s only for week like mine, make that effort and go for it. You might be surprised with the outcome, just as I was.