Student journalism: How to do the scary things
First off, I know I haven’t done a blog post for a while! I’ve been so wrapped up in uni, and it’s taken it out of me so much that whenever I have a spare moment I just crash. I’ll do better, I promise. Maybe.
During my time at uni, I have wrestled with a lot of situations related to my anxiety. When it came to putting myself in social I worried about imposing on people or not knowing what to say. When it came to allowing people to read my work, I’d get really defensive over it and worry they wouldn’t like it. But over the past few years, I’ve learnt that sometimes you have to just do these things.
The end. Thank you for reading my blog post!
Haha, I’m joking. If only it was that easy, right? With anything you need confidence, but especially with my ‘career’ (don’t know if you can call it that just yet), you need to make yourself stand out. Two years ago I decided to do the scary thing first, and then be scared – I became the Editor of my student magazine (which if you read my blog/know me, you’re probably sick of hearing about). And now I’m an award-winning student journalist (not to toot my own horn or anything, but toot toot). It has been a struggle though, with ups and downs and a lot of discovering about myself. These are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way that help combat anxiety when it comes to putting yourself out there:
1.Talking to someone important
You’re a student journalist! Everyone expects you to ask questions! If you don’t know how to speak to someone – whether it be an interviewee or an employer – keep the conversation casual. What have they been up to? What are they working on? It sounds obvious, but instead of rambling on in nervousness (and I do this sometimes), just listening to people and enjoying their company is an easy way to relax. Then, when it comes to the part that might be more intimidating, you’re both already chilled, and then you’ve also built up that repertoire for the future.
2.Not being shy about your work
With writing, it can be so hard to clasp onto your baby letters, and not want anyone to criticise them. With journalism, criticism is generally well-meant – you’re dealing with busy people, and in the real world they won’t be showering you with compliments. Even if someone points out an error and it makes you upset, just know that in the future you won’t make that mistake. Publishing something like a blog or on student media is a great way to build up that confidence, as you’ll get feedback, and you’ll get into the habit of consistently publishing articles.
3.Meeting other student journalists
Before throwing yourself into a newsroom, it’s so handy to speak to other student journos. No matter how big the publication or the university, everyone’s in the same boat. Everyone wants to be a journalist. It can be really useful to hear about other people’s experiences starting out in industry, and picking up pieces of advice such as how to get work experience and next steps once you’ve graduated. It’s really motivating as well, as everyone just wants to see each other succeed. The Student Publication Association conferences are so good for meeting these people and making those contacts. Plus, who knows? You might be speaking to the next Owen Jones (who, actually, was at the last SPA conference…).
4.Knowing your worth
This is quite a big one. Unfortunately, with student journalism, a lot of places do expect you to work ‘for the experience’. And as student journalists, you may feel like you’re not qualified enough to argue otherwise. But writing is an art form in itself. My advice with this is just taking a step back and evaluating how much you’ve done for a publication, and how much experience you have overall. If you know a place keeps putting unreasonable pressure on you without paying you, you need to have a conversation with them. If you’ve written for multiple publications and have a good portfolio under your belt, don’t be afraid to be asked to be paid.
5.Applying for things
When it comes to asking for jobs, applying for awards, whatever, you need to tell yourself is that the worst thing they can do is say no. If you get an interview for a job but don’t get it, that’s still a good experience for the future. If you apply for an award and you don’t get it, it’s still great you know what your strongest pieces are and are confident presenting them. Even if it’s asking to write an article or asking about going into the offices of your dream publication, so long as you’re polite and friendly, you won’t have a bad fallback. Just take it all as a learning curve. I’d recommend with CVs and cover letters, read everything aloud, and send it to your mates to read too before you send it off. Using a site like Canva instead of boring Word can also make your application look unique and professional, catching the eyes of employers.