My work experience got me a job – here’s how

7 11 2011

By Scarlett Wrench

When I turned up for my first day at Brighton Journalist Works I still wasn’t completely sure what ‘subbing’ involved. I think I even tried to change the font size on the first piece I worked on, to try to make the copy fit. I was working as a waitress at the time, writing for a couple of local papers on the side — and just excited about the prospect of a job where I didn’t come home smelling of beer and gravy every day.

Eight very short months later I’ve been offered the junior sub-editor position at Men’s Health magazine, and I honestly can’t wait to get to work every morning. You don’t need a degree or years of work/life experience under your belt — just a lot of enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn. So for those of you who think subbing may be your thing, here’s the best advice I have for you… bearing in mind that I am still very new to this!

1. Read the magazine before you start your work-experience placement. Really read it. And think like a sub while you do so — look at the heads, sells and picture captions. Take note of whether they are funny, informative, a smart play on words or straight to the point. Ask yourself who buys this magazine, and what they expect to gain from reading it.

2. Find out who works there and what they do. Not just the editor and the chief sub, but the creative director, features editor, the head of the fashion team… You’ll save yourself a lot of time if you know who to address your questions to.

3. Read the style guide and try to memorise as much of it as you can. Do they favour “learnt” or “learned”, m-dashes or n-dashes? Is it “photographs by” or “photography by”?

4. Fact-check absolutely everything. Names, places, statistics. And if you read anything that doesn’t make sense, ask someone. No one will think you’re stupid. They’ll just think you’re thorough.

5. Brush up on your spelling and grammar. That’s not to imply that you have to be some sort of grammar wizard to get a job, but it helps to know the difference between “which” and “that” and how to use a hyphen correctly.

6. Learn the language, so when people start talking about folios, flatplans and ABC figures you’ll know what they’re on about. Take the one-week Business of Magazines course if you can, or if not, ask Paula or Dinah very nicely if you can look at a copy of the ‘key terms’ sheet.

7. Have confidence in yourself and your opinions. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but your opinions matter. If something doesn’t look right, doesn’t read well, doesn’t make sense or doesn’t sit comfortably with the tone of the magazine then tell someone — whether the piece was written by the former editor, a celebrity panelist or the work-experience student is irrelevant. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s the sub’s job to flag them up.


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