Work experience is crucial in all industries, but none more than journalism. It is an opportunity to get a grasp of the career you are pursuing, gain new contacts for new opportunities or future pieces and to showcase that you are willing to work and are enthusiastic.
Many journalists will emphasise that work experience is important, but none more so than Mark Chapman of the BBC. Mark, or better known as ‘Chappers’, has worked in almost all methods of sports media, from radio, to writing to now podcasts. But obviously, Mark didn’t manage to stroll straight into the BBC and get in front of the cameras, he had to work hard and gain experience until people realised that the journalist deserved attention.
We spoke to Mark about his tips on how to gain work experience.
By Charlie Parker-Turner (@CParkerTurner)
“Be nice. You would be astonished how being polite and not being rude to people can get you a long way!” Mark exclaimed. Creating a good impression starts with good manners, a positive handshake, being polite and speaking positively gives potential employers and contacts a great reflection of yourself and will really stand-out in their memory. As simple as it sounds, pleases and thank-you’s are a must, and not just when you would expect. If you get a phone call saying that you didn’t get the job you wanted, don’t leave a sour taste with a disgruntled ‘Ok no problem, thanks, goodbye,’, make sure you thank the employer for the opportunity and for considering yourself, and say that you would love to be considered for future job opportunities.
For other interview hints, we collated a selection of pieces of advice that you should read over and remember before attending any interview, check it out here.
DON’T BE PICKY
Your first few work experiences may be completely different to the end goal, but that doesn’t matter. The important thing is getting yourself out there and showcasing your skills and willingness to work. You can’t just sit and wait for the exact job opportunity to pop up before you start applying, anything in sports media is a steppingstone and could lead to the job opportunity you have been looking for if you’re lucky.
Mark said, “Do anything and work anywhere in the media industry.” And we couldn’t agree more!
If you are looking for work experience then check out our jobs section here, it is regularly updated with both voluntary and paid job opportunities which can help boost your CV and get your ‘foot in the door’.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
“Be patient. It took me 2 years of writing letters before I got my first work experience,” said Mark.
Work experience can be rare, which is why it is crucial to apply for as many as possible because everyone is waiting for the same opportunities. If you find yourself being turned away for similar reasons repeatedly, stop applying, reflect on the feedback and learn from it before applying again. Employers love getting fresh talent in the workplace and learning. It works for both parties, they can guide you into being a better journalist (for potential future work), and you get the opportunity to make contacts and gain the experience.
It is just important to have the correct mindset when applying for the work experience and not be put-off by a few closed doors.
To learn more about the mindset required to become a sports journalist, check out the article we wrote with Alex Milne, from the Mirror Online, where he explained the qualities and traits needed to break into the media industry here.
Work experience is exciting, daunting and hard work, but don’t fear it. As a sports journalist, you are going to be in many more awkward and uncomfortable situations and so the sports desk at your local newspaper should be the least of your worries. If you are still studying and not on the brink of work experience then Mark also had some advice for you, ““Study what you enjoy and what you are good at. It demonstrates that you have a wide range of knowledge in fields other than sport and media. This can help you when you become a sports broadcaster. Gain plenty of work experience.”
Make sure you check out the other articles and advice we have from trained professionals working in sports media here.