My first journalism job: what I’ve learned in a month

Four weeks ago, after almost a year of job applications, I started my first, real journalism job. The past month has been a bit of a whirlwind. Aside from all the practical things, like learning how to navigate the custom CMS and realising that you can’t schedule tweets with images in Tweetdeck, here are some of the life lessons I’ve learned during my first month on the job.

Not everything you write will be published

One of the first things my editor asked me to write was a quiz about food waste. “Make it really funny,” she said. “It has to be hilarious.” I thought about this for some time, put together a quiz that I had tried desperately to make witty, and sent it to her – all the while thinking: “Seriously though, who can make food waste funny?” Not me, it turns out. Stuart Heritage, on the other hand, is a dab hand at making the driest of subjects completely hilarious. (I’ve read his version of the quiz probably more times than anyone and still find myself chuckling.)

But there, something that I had put real effort into was passed over in favour of something else. And it won’t be the first time. It’s really crucial not to take this personally, and the sooner you can come to terms with it, take it on the chin and move on, the better. I have learned – although I already had a inkling – that I’m not a funny writer. And that’s perfectly okay. I have other strengths like… umm… I’ll have a think about this.

Sleep is really, really important

When I was working in pubs and applying for journalism jobs, sleep was just this thing you did after you’d given up scouring job sites for the day, or after you’d come to end of the available episodes for a particular programme on Netflix. It didn’t really matter when you went to bed, how much or how well you slept because, really, you could very easily have a nap on the sofa in the middle of the day if you felt like it.

In retrospect, my sleeping patterns during that time was horrendous. I worked in the pub in the evenings, arrived home well after midnight, probably watched something on TV ’til 2am, and finally hauled myself out of bed the next day at 11am. My days rarely got going before the rest of the world had eaten lunch.

Maybe it’s the shock of having a normal, real, day-time job. Maybe it’s joining a big project a few weeks before launch. But I have never appreciated the value of a good quality, 8-hour sleep as much as I have in these past few weeks. Lattes with an extra shot can only keep you going for so long, and you absolutely cannot be firing on all cylinders if you’re burning the candle at both ends. And I think the same truth is applicable for job applications. If you want your work to be at its best, then you have to have some decent rest. There you go, a nice little motto…

Criticism can come from anywhere

Sadly, I have also learned that there will always be someone, somewhere who has something negative to say about the work you’re doing. I’m working on Guardian Live Better: an online project focused on sustainability, funded by Unilever. The idea of an international corporation funding a project which encourages people to be ‘green’ has attracted some criticism. And although bloggers and columnists have questioned the partnership, rather than the actual content I help to produce, it is hard not to take such comments to heart. Sometimes, I feel as though I may have already compromised my journalistic integrity at the very start of my career.

But the content I produce is editorially independent from any sponsors, and living in a way that is respectful to our environment is something I cared about long before I got this job – I am keen to share ways to do this to a wider audience.  I can also take some comfort in the knowledge that it is largely accepted that sponsored content will become more and more commonplace as the future profitably of journalism grows increasingly uncertain. Besides, it’s important not to dwell on these sorts of doubts for too long, or I’d never get anything done.

What is slightly harder to come to terms with is the criticism from people you know personally; who question your suitability for the role you have taken on. The key lesson to learn here – and it’s good to learn this one early on, too – is that these people are not worth your time, focus or energy. The only people you should surround yourself with are those who congratulate you and wish you well.

It’s all worth it in the end

How patronising are those seven words? Yeah, I know. I was on the receiving end of so many of these types of phrases for the best part of a year. ‘It’ll all be worth it in the end.’ ‘Something will come along eventually.’ ‘The perfect job is just around the corner.’ I’ve had them all, and those comments were followed by a strong desire to punch whoever had said them in the face. But, actually, they were (dare I said it?) right.


All your hard work is not for nothing. You are not putting this much effort into your  journalism courses, NCTJ qualifications,  job applications, internships and work experience placements for nothing. As Dev Patel’s character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel says: “Everything will be alright in the end, so if it is not alright, it is not the end.”

This post originally appeared on Wannabe Hacks.


A real job

Over-whelming, exhilarating and astounding. If you asked me to sum up my first week in a real journalism job in three words, they’re the ones I’d choose.

After 10 months of job applications, work experience placements, extra training, and pulling pints for a bit of money, I finally landed a journalism job — as the content coordinator of a new digital project on sustainability at the Guardian. Words cannot really express my relief and sheer euphoria to a) finally have a job, b) have a job at the Guardian, and c) be working on a subject which genuinely interests me. A triple-whammy if ever there was one! I realise that for anyone looking for a job in journalism, this post may be annoying, infuriatingly so. But I did my time in Unemployed Journalist Purgatory, and I’m going to allow myself this one opportunity to gush over my employment.

To be honest, the whole week has passed by in a sort of blur. I’ve ricocheted between IT training sessions, meetings, working lunches (and breakfasts!), and quick chats with my editor on everything that needs to be done before the project launches – all while finding my way around the beautiful Guardian offices. I’ve done all the little things like setting up my phone, working out which printer my computer sends things to, and finding the canteen. (Much to my disappointment, there are no falafel vending machines.) And then there’s all the actual work to do at my desk which overlooks Regent’s Canal … not sure how I managed that one!

My first day was totally overwhelming. There were numerous moments throughout the day – getting my security pass, logging into my email account for the first time, catching a glimpse of morning conference as I dashed off to my first meeting – when I was hit by a feeling of total nausea . Call it nerves, call it adrenaline; I just couldn’t believe that I wasn’t dreaming, that I had a job, that I was being paid to work at the Guardian!

In the end, it all got a bit too much and as soon as I walked through the door to my flat at the end of the day, I burst into tears. Tears of relief, and utter happiness. My flatmate just stared at me, completely dumbfounded.

But most importantly, I managed to go through the whole week without any major mishaps. I didn’t trip over anything, spill coffee down my dress or embarrass myself in front of people I recognise from Twitter.  I even held it together when Alan Rusbridger walked by me as I ate my lunch on Thursday.

I have already met some truly wonderful people and I feel so lucky to be working alongside such smart and creative people, who are so passionate about the work they do. All in all, my first week has been a whirlwind; an amazing, thrilling whirlwind. Long may it continue!