Settling into the working world can be a strange adjustment. If you’ve only ever been the intern, or the work-experience, then landing your first job in media is a huge step forwards. You can stop dreaming of paying your rent by writing, and actually start doing it. But it being a dream come true doesn’t make it easy.
Here are ten things I’ve learned in the last two months. Ten things that might have made the whole thing (slightly) less overwhelming, if I’d known them before I‘d walked in on my first day.
1) Everyone in the building will have started where you are now. The most senior editors, (yes, even that one you’re scared to get in the lift with), will have been trainees and junior reporters at some point in their careers. They’ll have some great advice, so listen out for it.
2) Don’t wait to be given something to do – it’s fine to politely ask if there’s something you can help with. Just remember: “come back in five minutes” doesn’t mean: “Never ask me a question again, can’t you see I’m busy and important?” It just means “give me five minutes”.
3) You are allowed not to know something, whether that’s exactly what a “photo lead” means; the difference between a vicar and a reverend; or how to transfer a phone call to the news desk. You aren’t expected to know everything on the first day, or within the first week. You’re going to spend the rest of your career learning new things – embrace it.
4) Getting into a routine is surprisingly hard. If you’ve just graduated then you’ve probably jumped off a rollercoaster of late-nights and lie-ins, and waking up and going to bed at the same time every day feels incredibly unnatural at first. One reporter told me it took them six months to stop feeling tired every day; and someone else said a year. It’s not just you.
5) Small talk is weird for everyone, and you’re going to find yourself doing a lot of it. There’s not really a way around this one, except to smile, and keep asking questions. Treat it as interviewing practice, and before you know it, you’ll find it hilarious that you used to be too shy to chat to your colleagues.
6) It’s okay to make mistakes. In my first week, I was sent to cover a kids’ fun run in Eaton Park. I headed out, determined to write the best kids’ fun run story my editor had ever read, and went straight to Earlham Park to spend about ten minutes wondering whether it was possible to look right past a few hundred ten year olds. (It’s not, and for those wondering, I did make it there. Sweatily.)
7) Coffee is your new best friend. Same goes for shorthand notebooks, pens, shoes that don’t rub, and a portable phone charger. Keeping some boots, or at least outdoor-appropriate shoes in your car, or under, your desk isn’t a terrible idea either.
8) Practice your shorthand. Practice your shorthand. Practice your shorthand. Practice. Your. Shorthand.
9) While you’re caught up in learning everyone’s names, and working up the confidence to join people for drinks on a Friday, (Seriously, go!), and how the hell to change your email signature, it’s easy to forget what an achievement this is. So remember to be proud of yourself too.
10) Finally: you got this. This is the one piece of advice that my friends and I used to repeat to each other like a mantra throughout our final year at university. They hired you because they saw something they liked in you, even if after the occasional tough day, you feel like you can’t quite work out what that was. Doesn’t matter. Keep going.
You got this.