The journalist’s apprentice: an alternative route into a media career

I was on work experience at a student website over the summer when a newspaper article caught my eye. Janet Murray, a freelance education journalist was offering an alternative route into the trade by recruiting an aspiring journo to be trained on-the-job – as a paid apprentice.

The chosen candidate would spend four days a week interviewing, researching, writing and learning everything else she needed to know to make it in the trade.

The on-the-job training appealed to me. My previous jobs in customer service, finance and retail had taught me a thing or two about where I thrive. Bar shifts and working in a busy call centre had made me enjoy working under pressure and I’d realised that I learn far quicker when thrown in at the deep end.

At the time, I was a year into a three-year degree at Lancaster University which seemed the only way to get even a sniff at an interview for a job in the media. Seeing a chance to avoid two more years of academic misery and be taught in an environment where I could reach my full potential, I applied for the job, then held my breath until I received the phone call to say I’d been shortlisted.

At the end of last month, I was invited along to a two-day Alan Sugar-style assessment at Harlow college, where the apprenticeship will be delivered. I was up against 13 candidates (from an initial field of 50) to win the ultimate prize – a year in an entry-level non-graduate job in journalism with an expert in the trade.

The two days were filled with various news gathering and writing tasks as well as a spelling and current affairs test. I stayed positive with my eye on the finish line at all times, I wasn’t going to leave thinking I hadn’t done my best. My journalistic head went on, I chased people for quotes, never took no for an answer and thought outside the box to try to grab that brilliant scoop.

At the end of day two, after a gruelling half-hour interview I couldn’t believe it when I was told I’d bagged the opportunity of a lifetime. In the end I believe it was my drive and confidence that made me stand out from the crowd.

I’ll spend four days working with Janet (at a rate of £6.08 an hour) and a day at college each week, working towards my apprenticeship. I see it as my chance to use my skills to prove that anyone with determination and talent can succeed – even in the toughest of industries.

I can’t wait to get stuck into the job and start becoming the best that I can possibly be. During my year with Janet, I expect to encounter as many challenges as there are successes but am looking forward to learning how to survive.

This is the first rung of my career ladder and I aim to use it to prove we do-ers can hack it with the academics.

I’ll be posting regular updates of my progress here and you can follow me on Twitter: @journapprentice.

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