Students hoping to start a career in journalism were advised to work hard and create their own opportunities by a panel of alumni at the annual NCTJ student council.
The three person panel made up of Joanna Wilson, sub editor, Sky Sports News; Ben Woods, business writer, Eastern Daily Press; and Brian Flynn, investigations editor, The Sun, spoke to student representatives from NCTJ-accredited courses across the UK at the MSN offices in London.
Glasgow Caledonian graduate Joanna began the session by talking about her progression from her NCTJ-accredited course onto the Sky graduate trainee scheme and then securing a job at Sky Sports News.
She described how she juggled her full-time post graduate course at Glasgow Caledonian University with unpaid work experience and a 30 hour-a-week job at Pizza Hut in order to pay the bills and get the experience necessary for a career in journalism.
Joanna acknowledged that journalism was a competitive career, not just for jobs but now also for work experience placements. “In this industry, nothing gets handed to you on a plate,” she said.
She spoke about building up her own work experience, in which she made an effort to talk to everyone, worked extra hours and was eventually rewarded with her own shifts. All this, combined with her NCTJ training, helped her to hit the ground running when she began at Sky Sports News.
Joanna added: “I said I felt lucky to be where I am at the moment, but I think in this industry, a lot of the time, you make your own luck.”
Ben Woods, who recently completed his NCE to achieve senior reporter status, talked about his time as a trainee journalist on a regional paper.
Now business writer for the Eastern Daily Press, he told students there were a lot of opportunities for them to develop their skills as journalists in the regionals, especially with the introduction of local TV and investments in online content.
Ben described how working on the Eastern Daily Press had given him opportunities he never thought he would have, such as going to Canada to cover the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first state visit.
He urged students to, “be strong-willed, determined and be willing to take any opportunity that comes along”.
He added: “I know how hard it is, but stick at it. Once you get through the exams and get into a newsroom, that’s when the real fun starts.”
Rounding off the session, Brian Flynn kept students entertained with tales of his journey from regional journalist to investigations editor for The Sun.
In addition to an NCTJ qualification, he told students they needed three essential skills to succeed in journalism: social skills, common sense and the ability to work hard.
He advised students wanting to carve out a successful career in the industry to plan ahead, make the most of every opportunity and to always maintain their integrity.
He concluded: "Work hard, play the long game, and keep your promises: to your contacts, to your bosses and to your rivals."
Images: Top-bottom - Joanna Wilson, Ben Woods (photographer Adam Partoon) and Brian Flynn (photographer Peter Summers)