Warwick University sector event: Working in publishing and journalism

newlookboarWarwick University hosted a careers event on the journalism and publishing sector last night, with a range of tips from professionals in the industry. Around 200 students packed into H0.51 to hear tips and tricks from the experts on working in publishing and journalism.

Rachel Maclean began the event by speaking about her experience in publishing  She is the managing director of Impackt Publishing, who sell IT books. Sadly, Ms Maclean had a slightly patronising demeanor  which scared the third-years into thinking they should have been at this talk earlier, and made the freshers feel embarrassed for pondering over their careers, forgetting about the terrible job climate we’re all in.

Her top tips:

  • CVs: Make sure you tailor them to the business in order to stand out, they shouldn’t be generic. Don’t forget to spell-check it, a huge irritation working in publishing is poor spelling!
  • Small businesses: don’t rule them out as you can learn a lot from them. Especially between departments, as there’s a lot of flexibility to move between them.
  • Work experience: do it! But ask questions when you’re there. Get to know the business, and get an overview of how it works. What are their profits, sales margins, ideas about how to overcome their challenges?

Deepa Shah, a senior speechwriter for the Department of Education. She is a Warwick graduate, and has work extensively in journalism, for the Times, Evening Standard and ITV. She spoke about the rise of journalism as a career due to the changes in technology giving more and more interesting opportunities, teaming creativity with analytical data and production.

“Journalism is like no other job… some say it’s not even a real job”

 Her top tips:

  • Writing: Journalism isn’t just about writing, it’s about breaking the stories. Write succinctly, sharply and accurately – getting sued is still an issue!
  • Contacts: Both when you’re going into the industry, and when you’re in it, these are very important. Being able to talk to anyone is a crucial skill, and it’s great to know people around you. If you don’t know anyone, make contacts through work experience and freelancing.
  • Standing out: What makes you different? Journalism is so competitive, and it really pays to be audacious and differ from the next person to get where you’d like to be.

Isabel Jones carried on by discussing the publishing sector by speaking about her career with Oxford University Press as a Senior Marketing Executive. Her impressive resume displayed a whole host of impressive placements with the creme de la creme of publishing houses. Despite the fact it was clear that she had worked extremely hard to get where she was at such a young age (she only graduated in 2010), it appeared that she had the money and the time to do so, which might not always be an option with all of those in the room.

However, Warwick offers a good opportunity for students to get two bursaries worth £200 for undertaking work experience whilst at university. For more information, see the careers and skills website.

  • Personal development: Learn something from everything you do. Work experience is an experience to learn, not just to get a job. Have some realistic expectations about what you can gain from your time there, and if it’s not what you thought, try and get the most out of it anyway and work out your next steps.
  • Passion: You will most likely start off doing admin roles. Keep in mind what you want to do and where you’d like to go, and keep the interest you started with.
  • Networking: Can be an intimidating process. It’s hard to know what you’d like to get from it, or what to ask. However, journalism is about being interested and talking to interesting people, so ask them about themselves. What are they passionate about? Don’t feel pressured to ask intellectual questions to impress people.

From publishing giant Penguin, Communications Manager Richard Lennon and Digital Business Development Director Duncan Bruce spoke about the issues generated for publishing companies today. They emphasised passion for their careers, and that this passion is crucial in such an exciting transitional period for the sector. While it was interesting to hear about the changes the publishing sector is going through and how Penguin is attempting to stay ahead, it was more of a sales pitch for the company than helping give students advice on how best to break into the industry, and what it could be like.

A transitional publishing environment – challenges and changes:

  • E-readers and tablets: The past few years have seen the development of digital and e-reading. Working in publishing means you need to be commercially minded too in order to think of the best ways to utilise this technology – loving Jane Austen isn’t enough.
  • Bookstores and other competitors: Previous competitors are no longer in the same market. What once was Waterstones and independent bookstores are now Amazon and other online retailers. Piracy proves another threat to this, with the ease that files can be shared online.
  • New business models: Penguin are fighting to try and adapt to new business models. Many people are now fond of the subscription model of content, such as that used for Netflicks. Penguin are trying to look at new ways they can involve the publishing sector in these new models.

Why Penguin?

  • Brand: It’s a big, established brand… which can be hard to get. Over the years, this has developed.
  • Worldwide value: Global platform for English books and the scale to do so.
  • Stories: Story-telling is innovative and constantly changing, and Penguin is constantly trying to embrace that through new directions. Some of these include apps, ‘Penguin shorts’ and ‘pop-up’ stalls.
  • Mobile: People are on the go now, and Penguin realise this. People have less time, and are adapting this lifestyle to suit it. This includes developments in audio books; pre-installed in-flight entertainment and ideas for London underground.

Penguin offer four paid placements during the summer, and two week work placements throughout the year.

Julie Nightingale opened with a Take Me Out reference – she knows her audience. A freelance journalist, part-time tutor and ex French student at Warwick, Ms Nightingale was the most down-to-earth of the speakers. She talked about the decline of traditional and rise of new citizen journalism, and the prevailing feeling of competition throughout the sector. Brightening us all up, however, she assured us that the world still needs journalists, people who can find the truth, and the development of the internet has enhanced this need. “It’s fun!” she said. You don’t know what you’re going to be doing, where you’ll be going or who you will be meeting on a day-to-day basis. It’s a pain, but more than worthwhile.

“Princess Diana, I’m very sorry that she died. But it was thrilling…”

Her top tips:

  • Local paper: Getting experience in news at your local paper is your best training ground. Word hard and start from the bottom – this will help you to get to the top. Graduate schemes or masters are also worth doing if you get the chance, as media law is essential.
  • Evidence: Keep evidence of your work. Get a blog, use it. Compile your clippings. Work on cutting down your articles to a word count. Be careful with your social media presence in terms of Facebook and Twitter – they can really make or break applications.
  • Specialism: If you know what you want to write about, it can help to specialise. This can be especially helpful if it’s a niche area, as you’ll be more sought after. Everyone wants to write about fashion – do you know about health or education?

I have no idea how the final speaker, Paul Myles got into journalism, as he didn’t do a masters, or any sort of work experience. From the amount he spoke about the benefit of contacts, I’d take a wild guess he utilised the people he knew well. Mr Myles is a reporter, investigative journalist and film maker, having previously studied French and German studies at Warwick. He’s worked for Channel 4 Dispatches on topics ranging from specific drugs in the middle east, to the treatment of workers on cruise ships.

“People think you know what you’re talking about… it might not necessarily be true!”

His top tips:

  • Motivation: If you want to go freelance you have to be sure you’re able to motivate yourself and be flexible to your situations. Spend your time gaining skills and contacts in the meantime that will push you forwards.
  • Something is better than nothing: Even if you have postpone what you’d like to be doing for a while, put make sure you put your spare time to good use. If you do work experience or work other jobs, try to make them useful or relevant to where you want to go.
  • Practise: Get to grips with your skills on your on projects; make things your proud of and learn. If something else isn’t taking off, you can come back with more confidence and experience.

Overall, the event was aimed at giving students an idea of what it’s like to work in journalism or publishing, and to give them tips on how to get in. This, it succeeded in, with a range of interesting and informative speakers. With three out of four speakers women, and multiple Warwick grads, it was great to have some high-flying speakers to aspire to. Each speaker added something new to the mix, and with a balance of those working in both journalism and the publishing sector, it was the usual tips and tricks with different faces. My only regret is sitting at the back to get to the plug socket, as by the time I’d sprinted to the front for some useful “networking”, a large queue had formed behind all the speakers. Networking schmetworking.

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Filed under Careers, Journalism, Warwick University

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