Get a job tips for student journalists

‘Maturity, passion and confidence’ were the bywords of how to get a job in journalism, editors agreed at the NCTJ’s Student Council meeting in London on Friday.

The event brought together 40 students from the 42 centres running accredited courses, editors and NCTJ staff and board members. It was the second meeting of the NCTJ’s Student Council - a valuable opportunity for students to tell the training organisation their thoughts on the industry’s training scheme. It’s also a vital tool for the NCTJ, to ensure the scheme is meeting students’ expectations and needs.

Students quizzed editors on the realities of the workplace, to help them prepare for the end of their courses, and they drew out some tips for what editors are looking for when recruiting.

Paul Durrant, deputy editor of the Eastern Daily Press, told them: “I’m not bothered about a degree. I’m bothered about NCTJ qualifications; I’m bothered about vocational training. I’m looking for maturity, passion and confidence. In terms of currency in the industry, I need to know someone’s got 100wpm shorthand; that they know what a section 39 is.”

Brien Beharrell, editorial director of the Newbury Weekly News, advised trainees applying for jobs outside their area to visit the new area and get a feel for what makes the community tick. “Get the real paper, don’t just read it online,” she said. “Take a bit of trouble, don’t just sit on the net as that’s what everybody does.”

NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher urged students to spell things correctly in CVs, and Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, encouraged attending interviews with questions about the paper and ideas for follow-ups. “Be interested in what the paper is about,” he said.

The meeting, at Bloomberg, also featured a question and answer session with NCTJ staff, in which students addressed a variety of issues which will be taken forward by the NCTJ. Students were updated on actions the NCTJ has taken since the first Student Council meeting, which include the publication of results tables and a new public affairs text book, separate syllabuses and exams specific to Scotland.

The Student Council was set up last year, acknowledging students, alongside editors, training providers and many others, as stakeholders in the development of NCTJ accreditation and qualifications.

Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, said: “The NCTJ is keen to put students at the heart of our decision-making, and the Student Council is the ideal opportunity for us to do this. The industry’s training scheme benefits them as individuals, as well as the news industry, by supplying it with skilled workers, so it is our duty to them to try to get it right.

“It is also a great opportunity for students to talk to editors and share experiences with each other, and we will be using their comments to fuel progress at the NCTJ, as we did last year.”

Friday’s meeting also featured a treat for students thinking about financial journalism, as they heard about the news service’s paid internship scheme from its head of recruitment Helen Jeyes and its trainer for news Paul Addison. Attendees were given a tour of the high-tech, slick operations of Bloomberg’s London office.

The five student representatives who presented the views of all gathered students were invited to give their feedback to the NCTJ directors at the board meeting in June.