The place where former Manchester students report back from the ‘real world.’ This week, we chat to journalist Dan Poole.
Dan graduated from the University of Manchester in 2003, with a BA(Hons) in English and American Studies. He currently works as a sub-editor and writer at Monocle, a global affairs and lifestyle magazine.
What are your main responsibilities in your current role?
As you might guess from my job title, my roles are sub-editing and writing for Monocle magazine, as well as acting as editorial manager for the advertorials that appear in the mag.
Did you know what you wanted to do when you left uni?
It wasn’t until after I graduated from Manchester that I decided I wanted to go into journalism, so I didn’t go down the route of writing for the student paper while I was at uni as you are (sensibly) advised to try and do. Instead I had to start pretty much from scratch, which meant sending out emails to shedloads of newspapers and magazines to apply for work experience.
How did your career progress after graduation?
After a few work experience posts at various publications – the Hereford Times, Matlock Mercury, The Times, FHM – I wound up at the Independent in 2004 on what was then the Sunday Review. I ended up staying there for around nine months as, essentially, a freelance intern: not getting a salary but working full-time and getting paid here and there for articles and interviews that I did. I was fortunate to be able to live with relatives in London and so pay very little rent!
From there, a full-time position came up within the company for an editorial assistant on a selection of student magazines that the Independent used to produce. I applied and got the job. I stayed in that department for five years, progressing to the position of student editor.
After that, I moved to Sydney for three years, where I spent most of my time working for FHM Australia, eventually becoming deputy editor. I came back to the UK in April 2012 and worked as a freelance sub-editor at various publications for six months, then started my current role in November of that year.
How has your degree helped you in your career?
My qualification got me what proved to be those vital work-experience roles; my degree was all people really had to go on from my CV. Having to write essays that were structured and spelt properly also set me on the way to putting together decent articles.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement to date?
I’m not sure that meeting and interviewing Dave Grohl really counts as an achievement but it’s certainly one of the highlights; a press trip to the Arctic wasn’t bad either. However, before I start sounding like a self-satisfied arse, I think my real achievement has been managing to stay gainfully employed in an industry that has been gradually shrinking the whole time I’ve been in it.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing a similar career route?
Make sure you’re completely committed to the idea: the aforementioned shrinking nature of the print media industry means getting a job is as hard as it’s ever been. Also: be prepared to work ridiculous hours for pay that doesn’t always reflect the effort you’re putting in. Read every day and write something – anything – every day; if you haven’t got time, every other day. It’s the only way you’ll get better. Email every single publication going asking for work experience and take anything you’re offered. Don’t just accept positions from the magazine you want to edit one day because it’s all helpful. And don’t try to be overly wordy or clever on your CV; keep it simple and let your achievements do the talking. When you do get a placement, make the most of it. Be keen without being over the top and treat every task you’re given like your life depends on doing it to the best of your ability. And don’t get it into your head that doing something quickly is impressive: far better to take some time over it and get it right. Be friendly, be professional and make tea – should a job ever come up, you want to be remembered fondly.
What qualities do you need to succeed in journalism?
Be able to spell. It might sound obvious but the number of interns I’ve come across who can’t string a decent sentence together, put a semi-colon in the right place or know the difference between “its” and “it’s” is staggering and slightly terrifying. Either they don’t know the right way of doing it or they don’t really care; if you’re either of those types of people, choose a different industry.
With thanks to Rosie Haynes at the University of Manchester Alumni Association.
For careers advice, visit careers.manchester.ac.uk.