Careers in communications – upcoming events!

If you’re interested in a career in communications, you won’t want to miss these events below, taking place over the next 3 Tuesday evenings. Click on the links to register your place.

Career Conversations: Exploring Careers in Public Relations – Tuesday 28th Feb, 6.15 – 7.30pm

handshake-440959_960_720We are delighted to have QM alumni Lisa Quinn who is Director of Communications at Hearst Magazines and Suraj Bhanot who is an Account Manager at leading PR agency Weber Shandwick.  Lisa and Suraj will each give a short case study presentation on a PR project that they have been involved with – to help you get a better understanding of the role of PR in different contexts.

We will also be joined by Kate Turner, Public Affairs and PR Consultant at The PR Office.
After the presentations, Lisa, Kate & Suraj will then answer questions about building their careers, ‘top tips’ for getting in to PR and what recruiters are looking for in entry level/graduate recruits.

Career Conversations: Exploring Careers in Publishing – Tuesday 7th March, 6.15 – 7.30pm

books-1204029_960_720This is a great opportunity to explore how to start to build a career in Publishing.   This will be a panel discussion with recent graduates.

The aim is that students will gain a clearer insight into some of the different ‘early career’ roles within Publishing and so be able to better identify their ideal job and target their job search accordingly.  Our panellists work in different sectors of Publishing – fiction, educational & academic.

Continue reading


Want to write headlines? Journalism – read all about it….

If you’re considering a career in journalism then you may be wondering how to make the transition from your current field or how to give yourself that competitive  edge…

Gaining a qualification accredited by a professionally body, as in any profession, will give you a solid foundation to build on and will certainly appeal to employers.  Not only does it look good on your CV and help you to develop your professional and technical skills, but it will also demonstrate your committment to and interest in the industry.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) accredits a number of UK journalism courses.  From one day introductory courses, to masters (MA) courses, as well as a number of fast-track diplomas, there are a range of options available.  If you are interested in a specific area there are also a number of more specialised courses such as newspaper/ magazine/ sports journalism on offer. The full list of accredited courses is available on the NCTJ website.  Courses are available across the country and are also available at local sixth form and adult education colleges, with options for part time and evening study.

In addition to getting additional qualifications,  you should also consider gaining some work experience. This is an excellent way to boost your CV, give yourself some practical experience and make yourself more attractive to potential employers. You could start by writing for one of the QM magazines or newspapers, and by setting up a blog or newsletter for example. This will help you develop your own portfolio of writing that you can then show potential employers. It also provides a uniquely valuable insight into what the job actually entails and whether it really is a good fit for you.

For advice on finding courses or placements, application processes or to just discuss your options then remember our Careers Consultants are here to help.

So You Want to Work in Journalism?

At a recent QM Careers Event, two fantastic Alumni speakers gave our students the benefit of their insight when it comes to working in journalism. Poorna Bell is an award-winner journalist who studied English at QM, has many years of experience in the industry and now works for the Huffington Post. Alannah Francis graduated from QM in 2012 with a degree in history; after many, many internships and projects Alannah recently landed her first job at the Times. Here we break down the best tips Poorna and Alannah had for breaking into the industry:

Write, write, write and write some more

As a journalist friend told Alannah, ‘You’re only as good as your last story’. Translation: as a budding journalist you need to be seizing every opportunity to build a portfolio of work. If you’re not blogging already, start today. Write for other people’s blogs. Write for QM’s student media outlets. Submit pieces to online newspapers and magazines. Having a solid portfolio of work not only gives an employer an idea of your writing interests and style, but demonstrates your passion for writing.

Quality and Quantity

Do you concentrate on getting that one article in a national newspaper or several pieces on lesser known websites? While having something published in the Guardian would of course be a great piece for your portfolio, it’s not the be all. In the early stages of your career, employers want to see that you are finding opportunities wherever you can. And when it comes to your writing itself, as Alannah explains: ‘You have to show your work to employers eventually so there’s no point writing something just so you’ve posted on your blog that week if it’s poor quality.’

Variety or Specialism

Again, there is a bit of a balancing act here between making sure you have a variety of work in your portfolio and not being too random. As Alannah pointed out, having variety opens up more opportunity – so if you like writing about film, being able to write about TV and music as well would mean you could apply for roles with an entertainment publication. At this early stage too, you are not expected to be a specialist. However, there also needs to be some rhyme and reason to your portfolio – so writing about fashion and veterinary science might just confuse an employer as to where your real interests lie.


Postgraduate Study

As one student asked, would doing a postgraduate course help you in your journalism career? In a nutshell: not at the expense of writing experience. Alannah had done a course at the National Council for the Training of Journalists, which she believed has certainly been useful, especially when it comes to law matters (rules on libel etc). Some employers may even ask for this. But as Poorna noted, the main thing she looks at when hiring someone is what have they done not just what have they learnt.

Be Social Media Savvy

In the world of journalism today social media skills are a must. Poorna, for example, is more interested in seeing an applicant’s interest in online journalism than in a list of internships they’ve done. Alannah happened to be following her interviewer from the Times on twitter – so that when it came to the interview she was able to connect better with him. And of course social media is the perfect way to promote your work.


Poorna was scathing of unpaid internship and advises students to think carefully before doing them. For her, an applicant’s passion for journalism is the most important thing, demonstrated through a good portfolio and interest in social media. Alannah too was cautious about unpaid internships, particularly having done a few herself. The main thing to remember, as she points out, is what are you getting out of it? Is there an opportunity to make good contacts? Can you get really get involved in important projects that would look good on your CV? Are you developing a skill worth having?


Alannah had applied for the same position three times before she finally got hired at the Times. Her manager had kept her CV on file and contacted her when someone left. In the meantime, Alannah had also been busy gaining more experience to bolster her CV. The lesson to be learnt here is perseverance. Whether it’s pitching an article or making a job application, you’ll face a lot of rejection on the road to becoming a journalist, so you’ll need to develop resilience.

Be Prepared for Hard Work

Whether you work for a magazine, newspaper or online publication, working to deadline is the name of the game in journalism. You also have to realise that you will be part of a well-oiled machine, so hitting your deadlines will be essentially if the design team and editors and proof-readers and everyone else can do their job on time too. In a world of 24 hour news, shift work is also increasingly common – Alannah works various rotations through the day and overnight

Useful Resources

Huffington Post blog – pitch an idea for their blog. They also encourage comments and interaction with their articles, which would be a great place to start getting your name known.

Guardian Comment is Free – they accept a range of articles on any topic and the guidelines give some great tips. Just remember that you might have to pitch a few times before you actually get accepted, but don’t give up!

Gorkana Jobs – find journalism and PR jobs and internships.

Journo Grads – a good platform for blogging as they accept pitches.

Wannabe Hacks – also accept pitches and good for advice, mentoring and journalism jobs.

Media Argh – lots of tips about working in media and a jobs board (they don’t advertise unpaid internships).

Ideas Tap – excellent for all things related to writing, including advice, events and jobs. You can also create a portfolio, making it a great way to put examples of your work into once place to show employers.

Heather Campbell

Information Assistant, Careers & Enterprise Centre

How to pitch for publication

If you’re interested in a career in writing then it is important to start creating a portfolio of your work to show prospective employers. One way to do this is to have your work published online. Whether you are interested in history, science, politics, art, or engineering, there are always websites out there which would be happy to publish your work.

But before you start sending out emails, you need to know how to ‘pitch’ – that is how to sell your idea and yourself to the employer.

Know your market: Research the readership, explore the ethos.  Cosy or controversial?  Low brow or high end? Pitching a serious exposé to a humorous website is unlikely to prove successful. Read previous articles to get a feel for the style and also to see whether anyone has already written on your chosen subject.

Have a USP: What’s your ‘unique selling point’? When dozens of people are commenting on the recent crisis in Russia/Ukraine, how is your voice going to stand out? Maybe you can look at a popular issue from a different angle. Or maybe you can write about something that no-one else is talking about.

Offer examples of your writing: Editors might want to have a look at some examples of your writing style before they commission any work from you. If you are not yet published, offer to send some samples of your university work. Again, think about who you are pitching to and send them something appropriate. If you have a blog, link to this (and if you haven’t got a blog, set one up!)

Start small: While ambition is always good, don’t just concentrate on pitching to high-profile publications such as the New Scientist. Look at other opportunities to get published that are perhaps more accessible to young writers. Websites and blogs that are aimed at students/graduates are a good place to start, such as Shout Out UK.

Read the instructions:

#1 Some editors will send you helpful house style guides – where to put hyphens, how to use inverted commas.  Study.  Apply. There’s no wiggle room.

#2 The editor wants 3, 000 words, Arial 12, double spacing.  You provide 4,0000, in single spaced Calibri 11.  Result?  Deleted or discarded.

Deliver to deadline: Or get the old heave ho. A reputation for unreliability means kissing goodbye to re-commissions.

Mind your language:  Editors will correct only minor errors – and too many of those and the party’s over. Proofread.  Prune.  Check spelling mistakes and punctuation errors, and mercilessly expunge the split infinitive. Read over your work several times and don’t rely on your computer’s spell-check.

Prepare to be rebuffed: Established writers speak nostalgically of the myriad of rejection emails garnered before they get the acceptance one.  Your own blog author cherishes a letter from Mills and Boon rubbishing her work on grounds both inexplicable and unfair.  But, hey, it’s not personal.  It’s business.  The editor knows best.  This isn’t about you, it’s about them. You think your work is the cat’s pyjamas, they beg to differ.  It’s the dog’s dinner.  So rework, recycle – then resubmit.

For more tips and advice on pitching:

You can also have a look at our guide on our website on Getting Into Journalism and Publishing.

Gill Sharp

Careers Consultant, Careers and Enterprise Centre

How To Get Into Media: Tips From Industry Insiders

The videos from the first ever Media Summit are now live on our YouTube page.

Take a look and find out whether our guests think it’s best to specialise or if they argue that variety is the spice of media life.

Channel 4 Dispatches journalist, Hannah Livingston, gives great advice to those wanting to get into TV; whilst Rebecca Coxon, Production Management Assistant at BBC Factual, tells us what kind of experience can help you succeed in the BBC Production Talent Pool.

The videos also feature Alex Thomson, Chief Correspondent, Channel 4 News and Edwin Lampert Group Managing Editor, Riviera Maritime Media. They both highlight the extensive routes into media, including the often overlooked opportunities at business to business (b2b) publications.

There is also great insider advice on how to succeed in the media industry and how you can get experience in the area your passionate about, outside internships and employment.

If you missed the event you can read what the guests had to say here.

QM Media Summit highlights – working in TV and Journalism

Queen Mary Careers Centre and QMSU held the university’s first ever media summit last week, featuring leading journalists from Channel 4 news and the Independent.

Professor John Rentoul was the keynote speaker and gave the audience an insight into the profession, industry tips and his experience of being a journalist.

Here are some of the best bits from the event:

Specialism vs Variety
The decision over whether to specialise or report on a range of topics is something which young journalists often find difficult. It’s often a bigger issue for news journalists, than those who want to be arts journalists and can more readily narrow down their area of specialism to art, food, fashion etc.

Many feel that specialising will close doors and variety will open them. This is something which keynote speaker John Rentoul disagreed with. He urged students to find and develop a specialism, with the caveat that this could change over time.

“Having a specialism gets attention from the commissioning editor.” John said that editors don’t have time to research journalists for every story so they regularly pick the same people who are well known for producing material on a particular topic. This is where having a specialism can be an advantage but notoriety needs to accompany this and this is what many budding journalists find tough.

Getting noticed online
Making a name for yourself as a journalist online can seem an impossible feat. The large quantity of online bloggers has increased the competition in getting published, as employers now have so much choice. When asked about what aspiring journalists should do to stand out online, John emphasised the use of Twitter.
“It’s completely changed the way journalism works in this country.”

He added: “It’s not difficult to get published these days, it’s difficult to get noticed.” With virtually everyone having the ability to self-publish, the difficulty moves from getting work out there to getting it an audience.

Finding stories and overcoming challenging interview tasks
Demonstrating journalistic qualities can be a struggle for those hoping to pursue a career in media. Hannah Livingston, Channel 4 Dispatches and Firecrest Films, spoke of her previous interview experience which involved being asked to find three original stories in a couple of hours. The interviewers had already read the stories in the local newspapers, so the challenge meant speaking to the public to unearth something original.

Although the prospect may seem daunting Hannah said: “That’s how you find stories, by talking to people.”

She advised students to immerse themselves in the chosen area. “If you want to get into TV journalism, watch as much TV journalism as you can.” An awareness of the specialism is essential in any line of work but in a constantly changing industry such as media, it is especially important. Employers often ask you to review previously aired programmes, published articles or their website so it pays to be in the know.

Making the most out of every opportunity
All of the guests spoke of the importance of gaining experience and skills, as well as building networks at every opportunity. Student media received unanimous support as a pathway for budding journalists. It is a great way to improve your writing skill and get published during your degree. In addition to the more obvious skills you develop.

Many students expressed frustration with the culture of unpaid internships which are commonplace in media. Hannah Livingston said that she was told to,”work for free but don’t work for nothing.” Make sure you always get as much as you can from any work experience you do…. ask them questions, make contacts etc.

Rebecca Coxon, who graduated from Queen Mary last year, got her position at the BBC following her successful application to the BBC Production Talent Pool. To apply for this year’s intake visit, opening for applications 18 February. Rebecca, who is now a Production Management Assistant for BBC Factual, said that although her position is entry level she has been able to make useful industry contacts.

Who you know or rather who knows you, was a reoccurring theme throughout the summit. However those hoping to get into media shouldn’t be put off by this. Sources are essential for journalists when it comes to stories and can also be a way to secure work.

John stated the importance of who you know but pointed out that, “if you’re determined enough you can make those contacts yourself.”

Speaking about useful resources and organisations Rebecca mentioned Creative Pioneers for their speed meet events. Creative Pioneers offer paid internships to successful final year students and graduates.

Alex Thomson said: “Starting as a runner is just one route. Any way you can get through the door get through the door, get through the door.”

Investigative journalism
The prospect of becoming an investigative journalist intrigued a number of audience members. It’s one area where having a low profile can work in your favour.

Hannah described the work of an investigative journalist as fantastically exciting, but at the same time a huge liability. It’s for this reason that you need “fresh skins” as having a huge media presence eliminates your ability to carry out investigative work for obvious reasons.

Alex Thomson, Chief Correspondent Channel 4 News, said that all journalism is investigative and that there is no big abyss between the two. “Investigative journalism, is just journalism with a budget and time.”

Big names vs independent media organisations
Each guest encouraged students not to rule anything out when it comes to accepting offers from local or less well-known publications. Edwin Lampert, Group Managing Editor, Riviera Maritime Media, a trade publication, said: “Don’t miss opportunities from tech or b2b publications.” With a magazine for practically every leisure activity from knitting to fishing, and for every industry from IT to teaching, there are endless possibilities for students and graduates to build up their experience.

Trade, tech and business to business (b2b) publications are areas of opportunity often neglected by would-be journalists. Big media organisations aren’t the only places to offer graduate roles and applying to more specialist publications can mean less competition and you could end up doing something you really love.

If you missed the media summit you have a chance to hear what the speakers had to say about getting into media. We interviewed some of the speakers after the event and you can catch the videos here and on our QM Careers YouTube page very soon.

Alannah Francis
Careers Administrative Assistant
QM Careers Centre