Personal touch could be the key to getting a journalism job

It’s not turning out to be the most cheerful week for news about journalism.

We’re not halfway through yet, and I’ve read dire warnings about the future of media advertising and a hard-hitting farewell blog from a reporter who clearly doesn’t mind burning his bridges.

And then there’s a report from the NCTJ about where student journalists taking its first-stage diploma exams end up.

There have been a couple of different takes on its main findings.

HoldTheFrontPage homed in on the fact that a third of diploma-holders ended up in professions other than journalism.

While UK Press Gazette preferred the slightly more complicated line that they were more likely to get a job, but would end up earning less than other graduates.

Leaving aside the idea that journalists’ starting salaries being lower than those in other professions is hardly new news, there were a couple of other findings that struck me as interesting.

The survey discovered that the second most common way into a job – after a specialist website or recruitment agency – was through personal contacts.

The next most common was on a similar theme: through work experience.

Together those two categories amounted to 41 per cent of successful job applications.

While one can be disturbed by the notion of daddy’s mates being the gateway to the world of work, I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here.

I think the survey illustrates a simple life truth that is a largely innocuous combination of ‘better the devil you know’ and ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’

There are clear lessons for would-be journalists – and indeed, would-be anyones from architects to zookeepers.

Those periods of work experience really are your time to shine, with every day a potential shop window for, well, your potential.

As I have said before, the very best reporter I have ever worked with got her job on the strength of a week’s work placement.

And she is far from unusual. Another who was a regular Saturday shift intern in the days before that word was even invented is now a very familiar face on regional TV.

We are a people business which relies heavily on gut instincts.

So it is entirely logical that our recruitment processes should reflect those characteristics.

And talking of recruitment, can I just draw your attention to a couple of vacancies in my neck of the woods?

In Yeovil, there’s this one for a trainee reporter, while in Bath, there’s this temporary role going.

So get in there – even if you’re not the devil we know.

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