Todays guest post is from Jenny Southan, Features Editor for Business Traveller, who is writing specifically on the benefits of international internships for The Intern Group blog
Even today, after more than six years in my job, it remains amazing to be that I am living my dream as a travel writer for a prestigious magazine in the UK.
As features editor for Business Traveller, I fly around the world, reviewing the best hotels and often sitting at the front end of the plane (although I do my fair share of Easyjet flights too). As well as commissioning freelancers, I write several features a month, on topics ranging from how Google is changing the way we travel, to the future of luxury.
As a journalist, it is essential to have first-hand experience of your subject, wherever possible, so I often have the opportunity to go behind the scenes – be it air traffic control towers or the kitchen of a Michelin-starred restaurant – as well as arranging trips to the destinations I am reporting on.
I have toured the slums of Rio, flown in a helicopter to Paris, skydived in New Zealand and partied with Richard Branson in Las Vegas. One of the most challenging aspects of my job is the requirement to become an expert on a city in a very short amount of time, meaning jam-packed itineraries and barely any time to sleep. (Unsurprisingly, I never get any sympathy from my friends when I try to complain about this.)
So how did I do it? To start with, it was discovering who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. For a time I thought I would become a painter, and then I went and did a philosophy degree at Sussex University. Then I thought about law, but decided to do a year in Tokyo teaching English while I pondered it.
When I was out there, I blogged religiously everyday about my experiences. In so doing, I honed my writing skills – and realised I loved doing it. After about a year, I decided I wanted to get into journalism, and returned to England to take an intensive post-grad course at the London School of Journalism.
At this stage in my career, already approaching my mid twenties, I felt I didn’t have time to apply for dozens of entry-level jobs and slowly work my way up, cutting my teeth on a local paper. Instead, I started looking into intern placements that would allow me to get a foot in the door, some valuable experience and by-lines (my name in print) for my CV, and hopefully some good contacts (it’s all about contacts).
As you know, even getting an internship is competitive, and when you are on your own trying to get in touch with big publishing houses, it can be tough to even get a reply to your emails.
However, I was fortunate enough to have a tutor on my course who knew the editor of Business Traveller magazine, and put me in touch. I got the placement, and, after a couple of months working for free, I had several articles published and a job offer. Which I took. I couldn’t believe my luck in some ways, but I know that it mainly came about through a serious amount of hard work and perseverance.