Every year literally thousands of people apply for jobs in the media. Some apply for specific jobs, others do speculative applications. How do you get your letter, CV or application to stand out from the crowd. There are no promises, but here is a short guide to the dos and don’ts.
1.What do you want to do?
•Don’t write a letter saying “I want to do something in the media”.
•There are dozens of different sorts of jobs in newspapers, radio and television, from acting, law, HR to sales, being a writer or journalism.
•Think before you put pen to paper (or mouse to screen!). Rule out what you don’t want to do and be as specific as you can be about what you do.
2.Keep an eye out for openings
•Use Monday’s Media Guardian and the industry magazines “Broadcast” and the “Press Gazette”.
•Check out relevant websites.
•Check the jobs’ pages of local papers
•Be prepared to get an opening that allows you a “foot in the door”!
3.The letter/C.V./Application form
•Be relevant to a particular vacancy – do your research using the internet and by reading, listening to or watching the relevant output.
•There’s probably a job description for any vacancy – so ask for one before you complete the form/C.V.
•Most application forms have a section seeking “skills and experience”. Relate the information you give to the vacancy and include examples – this is a key section used for shortlisting.
•Be concise, don’t ramble; these are the skills a writer needs – the more succinct you are, the more it suggests you understand what’s required.
•Use a computer for an application form, letter or C.V. IT skills are needed in the media and if you don’t show them on a form, the reader may wonder if you have them.
•Check your grammar and your spelling – e.g. use a spell check. Good use of English is a key skill your letter/CV/application will be judged on.
•Take time over the presentation e.g. how your letter/CV/application is set out.
•Don’t send lengthy CVs when an application pro forma has to be completed.
4.How to stand out from the crowd!
•Read, listen and watch the output
•Be curious – know what’s going on in the world, and in your region or town
•Understand the job and what it involves
•Know your target e.g. the local newspaper – or an equivalent in another part of England if you live elsewhere, but get examples to read/watch/listen to.
•Do your research and be specific in it. Use the internet.
•Try to get some work experience – use it to rule in and rule out what you want to do. But think before you make a contact – adhere to the points above first!
•Show that you have a genuine commitment by having been involved in relevant activities e.g. school/college newspaper or radio station, hospital radio.
5.If you get an interview
•Try to visit or at least speak to the person named in the advert before your interview. Prepare what you will ask first, and make sure you know something about their output. Don’t ask obvious questions you could have got the answers to by some simple research.
•Ensure you have read, listened to or watched the output. If you don’t live locally get some tapes/papers sent. Organisations are normally more than willing to help applicants who contact them for information prior to interview: don’t be shy! At the least know the equivalent output where you do live.
•In journalism you have to be a storyteller – so have some ready.
•Have lots of ideas to hand – newspapers and broadcasting thrives on a constant supply of ideas, so show you have them. These can be both ideas to develop the product and potential stories.
•Presentation counts – so take some care.
6.Who are the people who succeed?
•They can do it, and they show they really want it. They have passion.
•They are curious, with broad general knowledge, understanding the wider world whatever the subject from politics to sport. They understand the context for stories that you need to tell a story properly.
•They will have done research about the specific job and the organisation, and probably had practical work experience, or got involved in relevant activity at school or college.
•They are story tellers.
•They don’t give up.