By Kal Sajad
As part of my MA in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Salford, I have more than six weeks dedicated to organised work placements. I have been fortunate enough to have penciled in placements at BBC Radio Manchester, ITV Granada and Key 103 station.
In the first week of January, I was due to begin a one week placement at talkSPORT in London. As an avid fan of the station (I wake up every morning to the soothing sound of Alan Brazil), I couldn’t wait to start. I am based in Manchester so I booked a week’s accommodation in the capital and turned up to the studios on Monday morning, only to be told that due to emergency building repairs employees were being sent home and my placement would have to be postponed until later on in the year.
I was absolutely gutted. I was looking forward to this placement all throughout the Christmas holidays. I thought I would get in there, be confident, apply some of the skills I have learnt on my course and make a great impression. Instead, I didn’t even make it past the barriers in reception.
So what now? Of course I was disheartened, but I had two options; I either admit defeat and head back to Manchester or, having already paid for my accommodation and be without lectures for a week, try my utmost to get another placement, which would be difficult at such short notice.
I used every single contact I could, from frantically phoning my lecturers to tweeting and emailing other journalists. I even tried my luck by turning up at radio and TV studios. It was this determination that, in the end, made the whole talkSPORT situation a real blessing in disguise as I was able to grab three work experience placements!
As a big boxing fan, I phoned up Boxing News magazine and explained the situation. A JDF recipient from the previous year’s cohort, George Gigney, is a journalist working at the publication so I used that as a way in. The team were keen to help and asked me to come in for the day. I ended up staying for the week and had a feature published in that week’s edition.
A friend of a friend worked at BT Sport so I got his number and gave him a call resulting in two evenings with the broadcaster, shadowing the production team on the Clare Balding Show and Football Tonight.
The way in which I got my third placement is probably the most interesting. I was once a contestant on ITV’s the Tipping Point (No, I didn’t win. But I am a winner of Dale Winton’s Supermarket Sweep but we can save that for another blog). I kept in touch with the presenter, Ben Shepherd, who gave me some advice when I first decided to pursue a career in journalism. So I sent him a message, and he managed to get me over to the Sky Sports studios for the weekend to support the Goals on Sunday team.
I am not saying that in order to get a work placement you need embarrass yourself on national television by not knowing what photosynthesis is (and subsequently search your name on twitter to find out that school kids are mocking you for it). But the point is that I went through every contact I could, I emailed and phoned people and organisations who I had never spoken to, I walked into buildings and just explained my situation, I used social media. I was so determined to make the most of the week I had in London.
It also taught me the valuable lesson that in this industry there will be challenges that you may not see coming, and sometimes things might not go your way, but you need to bounce back and dust yourself off.