Going from working part-time at Costa Coffee to finally getting her dream job in journalism. Catherine Hancock reveals all how she became to be the Freelance Multimedia Reporter at the Worksop Guardian Newspaper and emphasises the importance of having a blog.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background.
I’m 23-years-old and I’ve lived in Nottingham all my life.
I have always wanted to write in one way or another. I think it runs in the family because my dad is a writer!
As a child I never really had any confidence in my ability at school. For example I had to take my maths GCSE a whole FIVE times!
Maths wasn’t for me, but I always did well in English. Despite this, after school I decided to go onto college and study English Language, Geography and Media.
At the time, I kind of tried to push the idea of Uni to the back of my head, because I knew I wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure I would get the grades I needed to get in. I applied to go to Uni anyway and I went to the University of Chester to study a journalism degree.
They were truly the best three years of my life. I did work experience at the Liverpool Echo and Chester Chronicle whilst I was there.
When I graduated, I moved back home and thought it wouldn’t be too long to find a journalism job.
I was wrong. The first problem was that my degree wasn’t accredited by the NCTJ so, I decided to teach them myself from home because it was the cheapest option.
Then I was told I wasn’t experienced enough, so I spent over a year doing various free work for companies such as the Nottingham Post, Leicester Mercury, Wannabe Hacks, Journograds and the Newark Advertiser.
I did all this whilst working part-time at Costa Coffee and studying.
I eventually got to my dream job though.
What one word would you use to describe yourself?
Driven (I was going to say determined but I think that can sound a bit aggressive sometimes).
How did you keep yourself motivated, when you were faced with rejections?
I have always wanted to be a journalist so there was no chance of me ever giving up because there is nothing else I want to do.
I’m a Taurus so can be quite stubborn sometimes!
After job rejections I would always get feedback on the interviews which helped a lot.
I carried on writing and kept getting work published, which gave me the confidence that I could write and everything is about timing.
If you’re not ready then it won’t happen.
Tell us about your current job?
I’m a full time freelance multimedia reporter at a weekly newspaper called the Worksop Guardian, which is owned by Johnston Press.
I write all kinds of stories from charity events, court stories to council stories.
I don’t just write stories though, I have to make videos, update the website frequently, update the social media sites and occasionally have to do the odd review!
What do you like most about your job?, What do you like least?
There is a lot I love about my job and I could go on forever, but I won’t!
I love going out and meeting all different types of people.
It’s just the best feeling in the world, talking to people who you wouldn’t perhaps get the chance to talk to in everyday life.
There is also no better feeling than seeing the end product when the newspaper comes out and seeing your name in print, I’m not sure that feeling will get old anytime soon.
Oh and the occasional freebie too – I’m off on a press trip to Poland in a couple of weeks time!
I least like the fact that I’m freelance. Even though I work full time like everyone else, you don’t get the same benefits or security as the fully employed people.
Unfortunately more and more reporters are being employed as freelance these days because it tends to be cheaper – but I’m just so pleased I have a job.
What has been the happiest day of your life?
The happiest day of my life was graduating.
I graduated in Chester Cathedral on Halloween and it was incredible.
It was so nice to celebrate everyone’s achievements together with their family and friends.
I never thought I would graduate or get a degree, so it was an emotional day and one that I will never forget.
What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
Naive me would say in five years time I would love to be working at a national, but I think that is probably more of a ten year dream.
The next best thing would be working at a daily newspaper in a big city like Manchester (I’m not sure I could ever afford London).
What would you advise someone who is wanting to embark on becoming a journalist?
First an foremost get two of the most important things you need to be a journalist – the NCTJs and a driving licence.
If you look at job descriptions for trainee journalists it is so rare for companies not to mention that candidates should have their NCTJs.
If it isn’t on the job description they will more than likely bring it up in the interview.
The NCTJ exams show that you can write a court story that is legally safe, you understand how the government and local councils work and that you can write news stories up to the standard of a journalist.
Driving speaks for itself. As a journalist you need to be able to get out of the office at the drop of a hat.
If you have both of these things and a bit of experience, then I don’t see why someone can’t at least get a job interview.
Get as much work experience as you can. Do it once a week at the same newspaper, if you can.
This way you familiarise yourself with the team, get the chance to build up great contacts and you will get to hear of any vacancies that may arise in the company before everyone else.
I think weeklies are a good training ground because the teams are smaller and there is less chance of you being forgotten about.
During your work experience make sure you have a good at everything and not just writing for the newspaper.
Have a go at making a video, updating the website and social media sites.
Also get a blog! I cannot stress enough how important having a blog is for someone who wants a career in journalism.
I didn’t have a blog until about a year ago, I thought they were a bit pointless.
This changed when I went for an interview at the Nottingham Post and the editor told me I needed to get a blog and update it regularly, because that is what my competition was doing.
I took his advice and have never looked back since.
It has given me a lot of different opportunities. So PLEASE get a blog!
Catherine Hancock is a writer, blogger and a journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @catherineha1991 and Instagram @catherinehancock91. Her blog can be found on catherinescolumn.com.