It's finally starting to sink in. As you're reading this I have just 10 days left at work... and that includes today! I can't believe how fast the time has gone since I handed in my notice, but it really has flashed by. It's certainly been helped along by me still having holiday left over, so even though I have just 10 days left, they are to be scattered over the next two-three weeks. Everyone in the office has been firmly on countdown for me over the last month, they almost seem more excited about it than I do... not sure if I should take offence at that! But it was going to a launch event at the local college on Monday that really made me realise this is actually happening. As I arrived, loads of people came over to wish me well and say good luck on my travels - it seemed so odd to me, because for the longest time this has just been something in my head. Just a passing daydream of something new and exciting, but now it is really becoming a reality.
So with 10 days left at work - what am I doing and what do I have left to do?
1. My countdown starts with those frantic emails out to every contact I have ever had, made, met or spoken to in my time here. I've been trying my best to make sure everyone is aware I am leaving and where they can send emails in the future.
2. Trying to find a replacement for me, and trying to find out what will happen to my entertainment section when I leave.
3. Making sure I get the opportunity to write any stories I have had lurking in the back of my notebook, and to plan in time to write any others I've had in the pipeline.
4. Interviews - I love meeting people and talking to them face-to-face, so I'm trying to make sure I get the chance to do as much of that as possible before I leave.
5. Training others in the office up on the technical side of our system and making sure they all know how to work the website when I leave, as up to this point I have been mainly in control of it.
I won't lie, it's pretty chaotic and I'm starting to worry I won't get time to do everything I want to do before I leave. But then I remind myself it doesn't actually matter if I don't - much as I would love to leave the team with the next four What's On sections ready and waiting:
That is not my responsibility and I can only do my best.
I've also been reminiscing about my most memorable moments at the newspaper - trust me, there's been quite a few! After three years of working here, and loving it, I'll be taking some very fond memories away with me.
I wanted to share some of them with you:
1. My week of work experience - realising I wanted to be a journalist and getting the front page after just five days at the paper.
2. Being asked to take on writing a weekly column for the paper and causing a bit of a stir - I loved the complimentary letters, but the complaints sure gave me a laugh!
3. Being challenged to write about all sorts of topics - from fuel prices to train services, from bomb scares to charity efforts. Plus all the random stories like the cow that escaped from a field, went on a rampage and ended up tearing through someone's living room.
4. Being trusted by all those families to write tributes to their loved ones, particularly those I already had a personal connection with.
5. Taking on control of the entertainment section of the paper and completely turning it around - even doubling it in size after showing how good it could be.
6. Taking on responsibility of managing the website and social media output for the newspaper - a huge role in a company that is all about "digital first" and one I performed very well.
7. Getting to interview the likes of Adam Ant, UB40, Deaf Havana, national production company founders, West End stars, soap stars and many more - for a town in Norfolk, I've done pretty well.
8. Reviewing huge events, festivals, gigs, theatre productions and much more - I have loved every event and will really miss getting to see this cultural side of the town.
9. Working with some amazing PR/Marketing whizzes who have become great friends as well - you guys have made my life a hell of a lot easier and I really enjoyed working with you.
10. Working with all my amazing friends in the office - we've been under a hell of a lot of pressure particularly during the last year, and time and time again we've pulled together and managed to get the paper out. Those outside the office have no idea what work goes on behind the scenes, and we would never have made it through without sticking together. That includes our "rivals" who quite frankly are under just as much pressure as we are.
I can't imagine what my last day will be like in the office. I imagine it will be pretty strange, as I have never actually left a job that I cared about before now. But I don't regret my decision for a second, and I know the whole office are really excited for me to start a new adventure. A huge thanks to the team for everything they've taught me over the years. I will be firmly making the most of these last 10 days in the office.
Have you left a great job behind to move on to other things? How were your final days of work - did you feel happy or sad to be leaving friends and that part of your career behind?
This is a subject that comes up time and time again, and after receiving an email from friend a few weeks ago asking for some advice on how to get into journalism - I thought it might be about time I tackled this subject in a post. Everyone has a different opinion on whether qualifications or experience have the greater input into where you end up in life, and I know there are great examples for both sides - but I know so many students are left confused by which one they should be focusing on. When you're at university, you're constantly told you need to gain more experience but when you try to get some you are told you're not qualified for the role. It's an eternal battle and a vicious cycle - one that many students struggle to break. So which one should you be concentrating on?
I will always be a champion for the experience route, I may be an English Language and Communication and English Literature graduate, but I'll be honest when I say that my degree has not really had much influence over where I have ended up. I loved studying for my degree because I was passionate about both subjects, and I would always argue that if you are passionate about something it is worth studying. But it is easy to think a degree will get you where you want to be when in actual fact they really won't in many cases. While studying at university, I applied for work experience at national publication, More Magazine, where I spent two weeks working on the fashion desk, helping on photoshoots and so on... It wasn't for me, but it gave me my first piece of worthwhile experience to add to my CV. Work experience at my local newspaper turned out to be the most valuable - after five days I had the front page and had been asked to write a weekly column. I also worked full time for a month with them (paid) before returning to university and was given a job upon graduating. Since graduating, I have also started writing for a festival news and reviews site, of which I was made the editor. It has not only given me great experience, but it looks fantastic on my CV and will help me in the future. Despite not being a fully-qualified journalist, I have worked in two journalistic roles since graduating three-four years ago all because of the experience I have gained. I know other fully qualified journalists who have put a lot of time into becoming qualified, but have been stuck with unpaid writing work or copy writing roles instead of journalism.
Of course, not everyone is trying to be a journalist. But this is something that will work in most professions - I have friends who work in retail, in marketing and advertising, in engineering and several who have become teachers. All of them have had to gain experience in their chosen fields before they were able to progress in their careers - it has just come in different forms. For one engineer, he was given experience and training as part of the course to become qualified for his role. For the retail worker, she started as a shop assistant and gained experience while working on the job, which allowed her to work her way up and become qualified as an office manager. All of the teachers had to gain experience of working in schools, mostly unpaid, alongside their PGSE studies so that they could finish their qualification. And those in marketing and advertising found their experience vital to gaining employment in bigger and better companies upon graduating - completing a placement year or few months while studying was a necessity. Of course, all of them also needed qualifications in one form or another, but their experience played a much larger part in their overall career path.
In many fields, experience can be impossible to gain without having some kind of qualification beforehand. Journalism can be a tricky one, particularly if you are applying for work experience before studying for an NCTJ, because there is so much competition. I was lucky that I was given the opportunity to do work experience at the newspaper because I was the first in over five years to do so, and I wasn't even studying journalism! But I know of many student journalists who have struggled to get experience without already being enrolled on a journalism course. If you know that you want to study journalism, it is a good idea to just go for it and study for your NCTJ because some papers are unwilling to take on work experience students when they do not have skills like shorthand, or a knowledge of media law. Don't do a journalism degree! I can't stress this enough - I know so many journalists who have done a degree and then have had to pay to study for a NCTJ afterwards because they haven't fulfilled all of the criteria. If you want to study a degree as well, why not do like I did and study English or another humanities subject you have an interest in? Just bear in mind it is important, particularly if you want to work for a newspaper or news site, to be qualified. But also bear in mind, that there are lost of people out there who are working as journalists and freelance writers who are unqualified. It is not necessary to have a NCTJ, but it is a helpful addition to your CV and skills.
Don't feel like I am down on qualifications and how useful or important they are. I have always taken them very seriously, whether they were GCSE's or final exams at university, and I always think it is worth working towards having an official document saying you can do something - even if you have known you can do it for ages before. It is an achievement for yourself, and it also proves to the world that you can do something. Being officially qualified puts you ahead of the pack, if two people go for an office manager job and one has completed a managing course and the other hasn't - the employer will probably favour the one who has. When a potential employer is just looking at your CV, having an extra qualification on there can mean the difference between a new job and the dole. It can also mean a huge difference between the rate of pay - having an extra qualification can mean you are entitled to thousands more a year overall. It can also mean being paid significantly less than someone who is doing exactly the same job as you - soul destroying. I would always recommend trying to get a well-rounded CV packed with experience and qualifications - both will play a part in getting you where you want to be.
But which one is more important to you? For me it has to be experience - as much as I love and am proud of my degree, I have found my working experiences invaluable. My time spent working at the newspaper and the festivals site has changed what I want to do with my life and has given me the confidence, knowledge and skills to achieve that with or without the qualifications. I see them as an added bonus to my life, but not something that will hold me back or prevent me from achieving my career dreams. I know that it will be different for those working in different fields - but I would love to know about your experiences of different industries.
Do qualifications or experience mean more to you? Which has played a larger part in bringing you closer to your dream?
I spotted a great post by Kettlemag.com the other day about how to get the best work experience in journalism - fantastic advice from Sian Elvin for up-and-coming journalists who don't know where to begin.
It made me think about work experience and the importance of getting the most out of it while you have the opportunity because quite simply, it can completely change what you want to do with your life. I am a great example of this - I went to university where I studied English Literature and English Language and Communication thinking that I wanted to become a teacher. The summer before my final year at university, out of desperation from working at a terrible milkshake shop and card store, I wrote to the local paper and asked for work experience to save me from insanity and to have something to show for the summer.
Amazingly, they welcomed me in - I was the first person to be given the opportunity in several years because the previous editor didn't allow it. Sheer luck? Or a great CV? I had previously done an extra course at university on perfecting your CV and highlighting your credentials, so I would like to think this is what secured me the position. I went along, smartly dressed and full of beans for my first day at the paper. I was there for just five days, but in those five days, I wrote every different type of story going, spoke to the public, interviewed, went out with photographers, went to court, inquests and council meetings with another reporter. It gave me a wealth of experience and even led to me securing the front page story for that week. This incredible experience completely changed what I wanted to do with my life and career - deciding there and then that I wanted to go into journalism.
When I left, I was asked to take on a student writing column specifically about my life and adventures at university - I wrote this weekly column throughout my final year at university and loved it. I still get people, including the local MP, talking to me about it now several years on. I also was the paper's first port of call when two reporters left their jobs quite suddenly and they found themselves short-staffed - they took me on with no qualifications and I worked there for the month before returning to university. It gave me a fantastic opportunity and helped me secure a job and training for when I finished university.
But it has become clear to me over my time working at the newspaper, when I have seen several work experience kids come in of all ages and experiences, that so many just do not have the confidence to make the most of this opportunity. Instead, many prefer to keep their heads down and struggle along instead of asking for help or guidance.
So here are my top tips for getting the most out of work experience:
So there you have it - my top tips for making the most of a placement. Don't waste the opportunity - they are few and far between in today's job market and you really can't afford to not take advantage of the situation. Just be sure to make it work for you as well - don't be afraid to speak up if you feel you aren't getting much out of the week, just do it in such a way that you suggest things you could do to help them rather than saying it is rubbish.
Have you got any work experience tips? Share them below.