Finding that first job

You might have to compromise here – jobs on the glossies don’t come up that often and when they do they’re not always as glamorous as you’d expect. Think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses – if you’ve done a post-grad, fast-track journalism course that will have helped concentrate your mind on the kind of position and publication that will be right for you.

The glory of journalism is that it allows you to tailor your own career path

Genned up on gun dogs, relish racing bikes, passionate about pottery? There’ll be a specialist magazine out there somewhere all about your favourite subject. Take a look in W. H. Smith, get a copy of The Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book or The Guardian Media Guide and they will tell you all you need to know about publishing companies and the publications they produce.

Think laterally

You may have to think laterally too. If you’ve an eye for detail and a good knowledge of the English Language in all her subtleties, subbing is an excellent route into magazines and newspapers. A good sub editor is an expert writer who is able to correct and prune someone else’s copy into something that reflects the publication’s style and attitude. He or she will be able to conjure up arresting headlines and revealing captions in the ‘blink of an eye’ (while avoiding clichés at all costs) – forever striving for something new that will catch the readers’ jaded attention. Subs often write copy too and sometimes also have their own pages or columns and as there is usually a shortage of good ones it follows that there should be more jobs available.

Other publishing jobs to consider or aspire to include:

  • Ad salesyou’ll see lots of these jobs advertised but they can be rather a cul-de-sac for aspiring journalists unless you want to be a publisher (see next page) in which case it could be quite a step in the right direction.
  • Art DirectorYou’ll have gone down a very different, design-led route to arrive at this particular destination.
  • Assistant EditorExactly what it says on the tin. The Ed’s little helper, usually responsible for the boring bits like chasing and checking copy, liaising with section editors etc. etc. Essential qualities include diplomacy and patience.
  • Deputy EditorOne step up from above and down from below: You stand in for the editor when he/she is at the Oscars or the Olympics but earn less and take the rap if you made the wrong decision in his/her absence.
  • EditorThe big cheese, responsible for budgets, staffing, keeping up circulation, content and getting the newspaper/magazine out on time. A bit like being a football manager, stop winning and you’re out.
  • Editorial AssistantA realistic first job with a variety of descriptions. Gofer, PA, secretary, booker, photocopy supremo, tea and coffee provider, sender back of borrowed items from shoots, proper up of fragile journalistic egos, you name it. But it’s fun and it’s varied – at least you’ll never be bored…
  • Feature/News WriterIt will be a while before you can aspire to this. But maybe a bit of moonlighting as a freelance while toiling away as a junior will get you a portfolio of published work that might eventually impress – beware though many publishing companies make you sign a contract to the effect that you won’t work for anyone else before employing you.
  • Layout Artist/DesignerAgain you’ll need a graphic design course if this is your ultimate ambition.
  • Picture EditorUnderstands the balance between words and pictures, has great contacts at all the picture agencies, knows what’s needed to make the page work, great job if you can get it.
  • Production Editor/AssistantPulls all the different elements in a magazine or newspaper together, ensuring they work against the flat plan then getting them all to the printers on time. A large circulation publication will need a printing slot and if you miss it, it costs a lot. These days it’s all done digitally so you’ll need to understand the processes too.
  • PublisherResponsible for budgets, distribution, circulation, a publisher is different things to different companies but he/she wields a great deal of power.
  • Section/Department EditorNews, fashion, style etc., all responsible for their own part of the magazine or newspaper and all reporting to the assistant and deputy eds and the editor.
  • Sub Editor/Chief SubProof reads all magazine and newspaper pages, corrects, cuts and changes to style, adds headlines, captions etc., where necessary. Keepers of dummy and flat plan.