Internship – Matthew's Story

Matthew studied BA English and MA Print Journalism at the University of Sheffield and spent 2 months as an intern at the Complete University Guide.

I had the benefit, as I headed toward the end of 18 years of education, of knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I had been focused on becoming a journalist since I was 15, writing for the school magazine, then for the student newspaper, then for blogs and local papers, then national websites, before making it to the national papers. The next step for me seemed obvious – a graduate scheme at a national newspaper, with a swish job at the end of it. An MA in Print Journalism at Sheffield had prepared me, or so I thought.

Rejection is always very tough to deal with, particularly when it occurs multiple times, one after the other. All the national news outlets said no – the Mail and the Sun after interviews, the rest I couldn’t even get that far. After this I turned to local newspapers, but journalism at all levels is excruciatingly difficult to get into as paid work. Despite having a cabal of experience on different levels and styles of news, and some pretty good cuttings if I do say so myself, there was always someone better. It’s a nightmare, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

So what should one do in this situation? Give up? Never do that, if you know what you want with certainty. Sometimes, however, you need to look at things from a new perspective. I wanted to write for a living, to research and uncover interesting stories, provide people with facts they might not know, interview interesting people, who may or may not be famous. All things that, if I could demonstrate on my CV that I was considered good enough to be paid for it, would give me a jobs boost. That’s why I applied to the Complete University Guide.

I got the internship here because of not only my experience at wiring news and features, but because it had been done in a university context, because I had access to good context, but mostly because of my desire and drive to go onto something that I really wanted to do. The staff at CUG knew that I wouldn’t be around forever, most likely not beyond the three month internship. All they expected was that I work hard while I was here. In return they provided a good working environment and an excellent workplace atmosphere – I looked forward to work.

As it turns out, I’m not going to see out the three months. Halfway through, I was offered a Trainee Reporter job at a local London paper – the sort of job I had been gunning for over a year. I think I got it, partially because I was based in London so could start in a fortnight, and partially because I had built an impressive CV for a student. A lot of it, though, is because of the internship, of getting full-time work. Taking a step back – or even a step to the side – leads to a big step forwards.