Why unpaid work can be richly rewarding

“Avoid employing unlucky people… throw half of the pile of CVs in the bin without reading them.” – David Brent in The Office.

There are moments when you are searching for work experience that Brent’s statement seems cruelly apt; unanswered voicemails; constantly trying to prove your worth only to be rebuffed, or worse, ignored.

It’s like a messy breakup.

So is it all worth the effort? Cliché-laden it may be, but you get out of life what you put in. With the best will in the world, a fortnight spent perfecting your coffee making would be best spent working in Starbucks, not a newsroom. However, if you apply yourself correctly, experiencing first hand how the industry works is surely worth the ignored emails and rejection letters.

The process of application for placements is a lesson in itself. Ensuring that you stand out from the crowd ahead of your peers is a skill made even more important in the current economic climate.

They say first impressions count, so sending a well thought-out CV, with a confident cover letter could potentially be the beginning of your journey to paid employment. This is as good a time as ever to hone your sub-editing skills.

A spelling mistake on an application is the equivalent to a ketchup stain on your shirt – neither screams professionalism.

For some of us, the JMU Journalism website is, in essence, the world of work. There are deadlines to be met, meetings to be had and a feeling of responsibility that is above and beyond the call of coursework, but replication can only stretch so far.

Dressing like a civilised member of society, for example, isn’t necessarily a requirement for working on the site, whereas turning up to a placement in a professional office with half of your underpants on show, nursing a not-so-well disguised hangover would see you back to university with your tail between your legs.

It may be disheartening, getting shot down for a job that you feel you would excel in, especially knowing that you would be willing to do it for free, but it’s clear that in the world of work, the sacrifices that you feel that you are making pale into insignificance when you stop to think about the potential reward.

After all, some of the Journalism graduates last year got paid jobs as a direct result of their work experience.

The hunt for work experience isn’t easy but it may just lead you up to a ‘higher ground’.

About Jonathan Birchall, Class of 2011