I’ve never been someone to follow the flock.
When I left college I actually applied to study law at the University of Brighton but I completely fucked my sociology exam (I now know that’s because I had glandular fever throughout my entire A2 exams and then had my appendix out two weeks later due to appendicitis) and didn’t get the AAA I needed to go there.
I did, however, get offered a place to study law at Chichester.
But, me being such a home body at the time, I really didn’t want to stay in halls. The thought of leaving my cosy home, my four dogs and my mum’s dinners every night sent my anxiety through the roof. So, alas, I didn’t go to uni at all.
I got a job on the jewellery counter at Argos and decided I would save some money, figure out what I wanted to do with my life and re-apply for uni the following year.
Little did I know when I got the job that I was actually quite good at selling jewellery and I worked my way up to become a team leader before starting the course to become a manager.
I’ve always been the type of person to put 100 per cent effort into everything I do. If you gave me a picture of a cake and told me to make it with no instructions, I’d practice and practice until I made something identical to the photograph.
However, working in a shop – particularly around Christmas – is enough to send anyone insane. But I’ll never forget this one customer who walked up to the counter with her teenage son, accidentally dropped £1 into the bin below and then TOLD me to get it out for her.
That was the day I decided I no longer wanted to work in retail. I didn’t work my arse off at school and college (despite fucking up my sociology exam) to be told to fish money out of bins.
Writing was always something I did in my spare time. I’d write when I was happy, I’d write when I was sad, I’d make up short stories, I’d come up with poems, I’d blog about my day, I’d flick through the dictionary to expand my word repertoire and so on and so forth.
Around the time I flipped out over £1 lady, there was a show called The Exclusives on television. It basically followed a group of aspiring reporters who went head-to-head to prove they had what it took to win their dream job with one of Britain’s most famous magazines.
And right in that moment I realised that I didn’t need to work in a shop, I didn’t need to spend nine years studying to become a lawyer just because I wanted to prove to my family that I was clever.
I could become a journalist and do what I loved to do every single day – write.
With my mind made up I just needed to figure out how to get into this tough industry with no experience – except a blog, stacks of diaries with short stories I had written and an A in English A-Level – and no degree.
I spent hours trawling through pages on the internet trying to figure out a way that I could become a journalist without having to go to uni and wracking up £30k debt.
I then found Brighton Journalist Works – an accredited NCTJ diploma in Journalism – located just 15 minutes from my house. The best bit? It was a 14-week intensive fast-track course meaning I would be a qualified journalist in less than four months. The worst bit? It cost just over £4,000.
I honestly owe so much to this company because without doing this course – and passing my exams – I wouldn’t have the career I have today and I wouldn’t have done half the things I have in my 20s.
After passing my exams – including media law, shorthand, reporting, public affairs etc etc – I realised I was in a bit of a predicament because everyone else on my course wanted to go into hard news.
I knew for certain I didn’t want to go into hard news because I couldn’t report on animal abuse and the thought of knocking on someone’s door and asking for a quote after their relative had been stabbed quite frankly terrified me.
To be fair, I was only 18 at this point!
I knew before I started that course that showbiz was the field I wanted to get my teeth into so after I finished I emailed a few women’s gossip magazines and asked for work experience. I spent two months doing work experience with companies in London before finding the company that launched my career to the next level.
I did work experience for them for a week, then an eight-week internship before being offered a job at the end of it – and I’ve been there ever since!
In between working for them, I went to Australia and landed a job at the Daily Mail Australia for three months while I was travelling the East Coast with my then-boyfriend.
Journalism is a field that requires a lot of hard work to break into, tonnes of passion and a little bit of luck! If you give anything less than 100 per cent, you’ll find yourself trailing at the back of the line. It takes a long time to work your way up and earn a decent wage so you have to love what you do so much that you don’t mind working for free for a little bit! But, then again, if you’re good at what you do then you’ll sail through the ranks.
My top five pieces of advice for becoming a showbiz journalist
- Be prepared to work hard and long hours!
- Build your contacts – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!
- Be willing to do anything your editor throws your way.
- Attend events and cover awards ceremonies (even if they fall on the weekend).
- Be prepared to be poor for a LONG time!
I’m a firm believer in what’s meant for you won’t go by you. If you work hard, put in the hours and have the passion to succeed then eventually the stars will fall into place for you.
**PS – Some of these pics are 6/7 years old and they’d never make it onto my Instagram feed now but you can have the pleasure of mocking me on my blog haha! **