Experience in any career field is of utmost importance, but one could quite accurately argue that experience in the media industry is more important than most other fields. Wanting to be a journalist, work experience is the only assured way to be in with a good chance of being employable after I graduate. This means competition for places is fierce and rejection is inevitable. But, by some miracle, I managed to secure a placement at a national magazine title last week, and now I’m back to tell you all about it.
Heat magazine offered me the chance to go to their London offices for five days last week. I could hardly believe that such a large title – one that receives hundreds of applications every time they advertise – had offered me a seat in their Covent Garden offices for five days. It meant missing my first week of term two at university, but the chance wouldn’t come around again so I had to take it. I kept a little diary along the way and thought my journo pals would be interested in seeing exactly what I’ve been up to:
I learned the basic day to day tasks from the editorial assistant Darryl, who I quickly figured out would be my mentor figure for the week. Whilst some of my tasks on the first day were menial (such as handing out the mail and posting the latest copy to everyone on the mailing list) they were essential in helping me figure out who everyone was and getting to know my way around the office. Heat magazine is published by Bauer who are the publishing house for the majority of the national magazine titles in the UK, including Vogue, Kerrang!, Empire and Q. With regards to the Covent Garden offices, Heat magazine shares a floor with Closer and Grazia and so I got the opportunity to see how the different publications are put together and how they are all in fact very different magazines. My first impression was that the newsroom was a lot bigger than I had anticipated, but it was a LOT more relaxed too. There was no screaming editor, no one was running around like a headless chicken and no one seemed too stressed. As the week progressed and the magazine was due to be sent to print things got a bit more fast paced, but my opinion largely stayed the same from beginning to end; magazine newsrooms aren’t actually that scary.
Before going into my work experience it was made very clear that I shouldn’t expect to write anything or get anything published because Heat is such a big title and they have plenty of writers who are much quicker, refined and trusted than I. However, on my second day I got asked to do a quick article on the return of My Super Sweet 16. As it turns out, my ability to write chatty and funny pieces put me in a very good position because it just so happens to be the style of Heat. My article barely (and I mean barely) got subbed which was a huge compliment, and the kind email I got from one of the online writers, Polly, really boosted my confidence and made me more excited than ever to go back to the office on Wednesday.
Darryl was out at the NTA’s on this day and rather than hiring someone to fill her position as the editorial assistant, she asked me to cover for her based on my performance during my first two days. I was nervous as I had seen how much work she had to do. Her job involves anything from booking cars/trains/planes, doing celebrity interviews, writing articles, transcribing interviews for other people and generally helping everyone if they need it (including people from Grazia and Vogue). She was also solely responsible for the phone and dealing with PR companies and agents. It seemed like such a big task for someone like me, but the experience was invaluable. I had such a good time doing everything (including writing a second article) and I really felt like a member of the team having been entrusted with it all. Not many people get such an opportunity and so I was beyond excited to be able to put it on my CV.
I had an exam on the Friday and so my fourth day (Thursday) was my last day in the newsroom. Darryl was back (ever so slightly hungover from her night of mingling with the biggest UK stars) and she congratulated me on doing such a good job the day before. I got given some transcriptions to type up (NTA interviews as well as two celeb personal trainers and Ray J) which were all interesting to listen to. I learned that celebs really can be dicks to journalists and that our favourite stars are probably grumpy gits unless they’re promoting something for their own fortune. I got asked to submit article ideas to Polly and to write a third and final piece because, according to her, I have “the Heat style”. That compliment alone made my entire week. My day drew to a close and I walked away from the office having made some excellent contacts, having got three articles published and having made a new friend in Darryl.
I learned a lot from my short placement and it truly cemented that magazine journalism is the career for me. London living wasn’t for me at all, but if I got offered a job at a Bauer publication – or any publication as relaxed and friendly as Heat – and it just so happened to be in London, I would tolerate it for the sake of doing what I love and what I am the most passionate about.