Recently, I’ve been pondering the future with some uncertainty and much apprehension. Over halfway through my degree, it won’t be long until I’m waving goodbye to the comforting walls of the education sanctuary – but, with only a half-formed career goal in mind, a independent income seems a long, long journey away. (Owning my own house is an idea I don’t bother idly speculating about: reality confronts me squarely and laughs in my face.) It seemed wise, then, to combine the only two interests and skills I have – food, and writing.
Food writing, though, is just like journalism: a very difficult nut to crack. There are different forms, roles, and limited doors in. Yet, why not follow what you love? My dream job is on a food magazine, naturally for someone who loves anything to do with food: cooking, eating, writing, and reading about everything from aioli to novelty egg separators.
After months of drafting CVs, making fruitless emails, and tweaking covering letters, I finally succeeded in securing an actual work experience placement on a food magazine; and not just any magazine, but BBC GoodFood, at the very top of the game. I was overwhelmed to even hear back from them, especially as I’d sent off my application with no expectation whatsoever of receiving a response – so much so, that I almost didn’t send it.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with BBC GoodFood: it’s the crème de la crème of food magazines, even with its own television channel. I consult its website often for recipes, ideas, and inspiration; spend hours combing through each edition; and have a backlog of editions at home. It’s my secret ambition to work there – or not so secret.
I was extremely nervous on the morning of my first day, for pretty obvious reasons. I’ve never commuted to London before, but once I’d successfully made the two-train journey for the first time, every successive one felt like second nature. Needless to say, I felt quite small around the team: the editors, cookery writers and designers have years of skill and experience under their belts, degrees to which I aspire. What surprised me to begin with was the quietness of the office, and the sheer absorption of everyone in their work – but in reflection, that’s testament to the quality of the magazine and the dedication of everyone who works on it.
In my week of work (because of the short notice, I couldn’t make the whole two weeks), I had a go at range of different tasks. My first responsibility involved skimming a week’s worth of newspapers and selecting any snippets relating to food, which was great fun. Next, I helped out in preparing for and taking part in a strawberry jam taste test. Alongside putting together a Pinterest board on Father’s Day gift ideas, visiting a proper fishermonger’s, and getting lost in an Ideal Home show, I assisted in printing invoices and totalling receipts for the test kitchen’s finances, and reformatting GoodFood recipes for Easycook magazine.
Easycook’s editor was very generous in sitting down with me, taking an interest in my background and ambitions, and talking me through how to use software. Under his guidance, I even got to select recipes and think up a headline for a chipotle feature, to go in the October edition.
One considerable perk of the job was food brought out to the staff from the test kitchen. Sampling food I would happily pay for was my greedy stomach’s dream come true; I tried ice cream, tarts, blancmange, cakes… How nobody on the team is morbidly obese, I cannot fathom.
It was an all-round fantastic experience: travelling and getting to know central London by myself (and manipulating the Tube in a week of delays and a strike); seeing a group of talented people in their element; picking up new skills; and getting to grips with how a food magazine is produced. Work experience is so incredibly valuable to anyone considering a career in journalism – if you’re unsure as to whether you’re suited to it, or aren’t having much luck in getting responses, stick at it. It will be worth it in the end!