Find your feet, but don’t dig your heels in
Provided you’ve picked the right place – which, if you spent enough time looking around on open day, you will have done – you’ll be surrounded by a great mixture of tutors, all with different specialities, different backgrounds and different opinions.
What you’ll also quickly realise is that it seems there are more journalism students than journalism jobs. Whoops. But that’s OK, as with journalism courses there are an awful lot of drop-outs. And some of those who don’t drop out will have decided long ago that journalism isn’t for them, but the course is pretty fun all the same.
If you want to specialise in a certain subject area like music or sport, be prepared to accept you can’t do that straight away (unless, of course, you’ve taken a course in sports journalism). One of the hardest lessons for some is learning that people writing reviews for the NME are not solely review writers. Nor are they just gig reviewers. They’ll be well-skilled in all manner of news writing, researching, interviewing, and everything you’d need for a normal newspaper job.
So, by all means aim for the NME, but don’t think there’s a fast-track straight to it. Every bit you learn will help you on your way.
Similarly, don’t limit yourself by setting your heart on one particular medium. In this multimedia age you’ll get left behind. Also, you may be missing out on personal enjoyment – often the hardest work is your most rewarding.
Swallow your fear, not your tongue
There will be times when, on an assignment, you’ll be scared. Early on in your course you’ll no doubt face the task of a vox pop. Asking ten people what they think of wheelie bins isn’t going to shake the journalism world by its very foundations, but it’ll bring home one of the key skills of journalism – interacting with people you don’t know.
Always remember: It’s OK to get it wrong – you’re a student. If your audio sounds rubbish, or even if it’s non-existent, at least you were out there doing it.
Go out, have fun, meet people
Journalism: It’s the voice of the people. So get out there among them! Sure, spending all that money might make you poorer, but you’ll be better for it. You can write up articles at 3am if you really need to. No matter how many words it is. Just remember to read it through again in the morning.
All that socialising helps your contacts too. You’ll be among other people who want to make it in journalism as well. Those friendships you make at university could see you hearing about jobs before they’re advertised. Your friends will fill impressive vacancies up and down the country. Imagine where that could get you.
Don’t be afraid to take on extra work
Radio stations, student newspaper/magazine … there will be plenty going on at your uni. If there isn’t, that’s even better: You can be the one that gets it going.
If you’re worried about taking on too much, then it’s worth just trying it. Somehow you’ll fit it in, and come graduation day you’ll be glad you did.
Start your blog and your career
Blogs are the greatest thing to happen to student journalists ever. What other format gives you a potentially bigger circulation than all the world’s newspapers combined?
Start a blog, update it frequently – but don’t force yourself. Write whenever you like. Meet other bloggers. Become a hit in the blogosphere.
Who knows where it could lead? In fact, we all know where it can lead: JOBS. And that’s what you want, isn’t it?