How to make a lasting impression on journalism work experience

19 04 2012

If there was ever an argument for how valuable Brighton Journalist Works can be in later life, Euan Ferguson made it, writes Liam Westlake.

The colours and fabrics of Euan’s clothes as he stood in front of the class was immediately noticeable and you could tell he was going to be an interesting speaker as well as an interesting person.

After graduating from Brighton Journalist Works in 2009 (he claims he knew he had made the right choice in a few weeks!) he had some work experience in Edinburgh for an arts and culture magazine before moving on to ‘Time Out’. There, he asked the sub-editor for as much work as possible, and he obviously made a good impression because he was offered an entry level position there before working his way up over three years to become the Deputy Chief Sub Editor.

It was apparent to everyone that Euan had become a success, and set the bar high for all of us yet still filled us with optimism that we could follow in his path. The advice he gave, whether it was ‘getting to know the publication inside out’ or becoming the office tea-mule, will be remembered by all and certainly be put into practice over the coming months. His humble manner led to students approaching him at the end of the class for guidance and questions, and it seems he’ll certainly be appreciated if he is ever invited back for another talk.

The gently-spoken Scot provided me and my fellow students with a top-ten of tips for prospective work-experience candidates, writes Philip Williams.  While elements of the list should be as intuitive as breathing – although worth reiterating, as humans are often forgetful and ignorant creatures – there were several that stuck in my mind like a girl with her tits out.  Most notably, one should treat work experience as an extended job interview, approaching the tasks set with enthusiasm and verve.

Being slightly morose, and often sarcastic, I am aware of the tendency to treat menial jobs as disheartening, useless experiences. Yet these are merely obstacles that must be overcome, challenges to accept and thrash like my beloved New Zealand Cricket team are so often. And, in the tradition of the greatest cricketers, one must play every ball (or work experience) as it comes; with equal guile, tenacity, perseverance and a bit of luck.    


Work experience really does pay off, writes Neil Hawkins.

That was the message BJW students received on a visit from ex-student Euan Ferguson, now deputy chief sub editor at Time Out magazine.

“Treat your work experience like an extended job interview,” was the message Euan put across to BJW’s newest recruits. “Editors remember enthusiasm.”

After leaving BJW in early 2009, Ewan jumped from placement to placement, taking in regional newspapers and nationals like The Observer.

After a month’s placement at Time Out, Ewan got himself a job there.   BJW students were glad to hear Ewan saying that editors find NCTJ students “favourable” for jobs. “Spending your time and money on a course like this it shows your commitment to the job” Euan enthused.

Kayleigh Tanner writes:

We all want to know how to make a lasting impression at work experience, and we all love a success story about someone in our current situation. Fortunately, Time Out’s Deputy Chief Sub, Euan Ferguson, visited Brighton Journalist Works today, to tell us about his experience since completing the course himself three years ago.

Euan told us about how subbing is a way to achieve a consistent ‘voice’ throughout the publication, to iron out the inconsistencies in the personal styles of each section’s writers.

He said: “If it was somebody talking, what kind of person would they be, and who would they be speaking to?”

Another interesting aspect of Euan’s talk related to multimedia journalism. Time Out, he told us, has seen the same inevitable decline in its print sales as the rest of the print journalism industry. Time Out has remedied this by taking advantage of the technology available, using iPhone, iPad and Facebook apps to bring its reviews to the public.

Some fresh ideas came from Euan’s work experience tips. Asking for feedback from the professional journalists around you can be invaluable, but is often overlooked. Also, something as simple as making the tea can get you remembered, as you end up speaking to the entire office. As Euan pointed out, this is the ideal situation for most work experience candidates, as the more people who remember you, the more likely it is you will be invited back.

Most importantly, Euan’s reminder to avoid clichés is a point I will definitely remember, to avoid annoying future editors with any uninspired copy. I suppose, though, that I can cross that bridge when I come to it.

On day three of our jam packed NCTJ course, many of us are already feeling a wealth of emotions, ranging from excited to exhausted, writes Katie Smith.  So it was a great to relief (and pick me up) to hear from successful past student, Euan Ferguson, who has made a name for himself in the competitive world of Journalism. As the deputy Chief Sub at Time Out Magazine, he explained the work he does and the opportunities the magazine and other publications can give to people work on experience.

Be prepared. Know the publication, its sections and regular writers. Arrive with appropriate ideas and show you are willing to get stuck in. Sitting at your desk updating Facebook is not a good look.

Act like part of the team. Arrive early, stay late and never decline that sneaky drink after work. Talking of drinks, tea making is up there on the list of skills. It’s a chance to break the ice and strike up a conversation at a desk you wouldn’t normally be at. Make a bad tea and you’re remembered for all the wrong reasons. Decline a tea and you’re not remembered at all!

Euan’s success shows the hard work we are putting in now does pay off. We have made a commitment, through time and money, to the future of our career. And I am sure that in time the commitment will pay off. Now where’s that kettle?




One response

19 04 2012
Learnin’ and… journin’… « Soup du Journalism

[…] Journalist Works a few years ago. We had to do a writeup of his talk, and mine made it onto the BJW blog! He also emailed our course administrator and named mine as one of his favourites, which was nice. […]

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