24/03/2015 13:42 GMT | Updated 24/05/2015 06:59 BST

How to Make the Most of Your Journalism Work Experience

In the journalism industry, work experience is a pretty crucial part of getting a job. You need to put together a portfolio, demonstrate you can hold your own in a news room, and prove you have a flair for writing.

Qualifications are all well and good, but if you don't have the above, you won't get too far.

From personal experience, it can be daunting going into a newsroom for the first time, especially if you're stepping foot into a national one. No-one told me what to expect, what to do while I was there, or how to make a good impression.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share some pearls of wisdom on how to make the most of your work experience. Feel free to tweet me @sherrifflucy if you've got your own nuggets of knowledge to offer up.

Before you start


I run the work experience programme at HuffPost UK, and for me, preparation is key.

Ask your employer if they would like you to do anything in advance. Even if they say no, sit down and brainstorm some ideas you could present on the day.

Think about upcoming events you think the publication/website should cover. Rough out some feature or news story ideas.

If you can demonstrate you know the audience the publication writes for, and what content they consume, you're already onto a winner.

Dress appropriately

There's nothing worse than turning up somewhere realising you've totally misjudged the occasion. So don't do it. Ask what the dress code is before your first day, that way you won't get it wrong. If you don't get a response, then it's best to err on the side of smart than to turn up too casual. You might be sent out to do some on-the-ground reporting, and if so, you need to make sure you're representing the company well.

While you're there


This is possibly the most important thing to get right. You might be the best reporter on the beat but if your attitude stinks, then you ain't going nowhere.

Most places are looking for someone with enthusiasm, energy and a willingness to learn.

Remember that - you are there to learn, so don't get annoyed if you're told something you've done isn't right. It's not a personal criticism. Just ask where you went wrong, and what you could do better next time. Most journalists are more than happy to share their expertise, as we've all been there before.

You've probably only got a short time to impress. I'm not saying don't be yourself, but no-one's going to remember you when there's a job going if you haven't said a word all week, so don't be afraid to introduce yourself, and make friends.

Don't be afraid to ask questions

We don't bite! Make the most of your time, as it's far easier to get advice when you're in an office and chatting with someone face to face, than it is over email, Twitter or telephone. Also, it's much better to ask and get it right, rather than staying quiet and getting something wrong.

Use your initiative

Saying this, sometimes you do need to use your initiative. Not sure what an acronym stands for or what a word means? Your first stop should be Google. If you still can't find out, then ask.

The newsroom is a busy, fast-paced environment and this means you need to be able to think for yourself. Yes, you're there to learn, but it should be a two-way street; you should also be contributing to the publication.

Work your assets

Are you a social media fiend? Have an eye for trending stories, or a brain for data? Are you well versed in SEO? Can you speak a second language? Or is there a particular issue you know inside out and are burning to cover?

Don't be afraid to utilise your expertise and knowledge - and don't assume your employer already knows everything. I once went in to an office and taught half the team I was sitting with how to use Twitter.

Check your writing

I mean this literally, as well as style-wise.

Make sure you proof, proof and proof again before you send your article over to be subbed. Spelling and grammar mistakes are not looked upon kindly - and factual errors even less so. Yes, everyone does make mistakes, but if you can avoid doing so, do.

Style-wise, shake yourself out of your English Lit or politics essay writing habits. You're writing an article, not a dissertation. Keep sentences snappy, simple and digestible. We don't want to see flowery, superfluous language and complex sentences. Save that for your professors.