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With more journalism graduates leaving university every year, competition for jobs is higher than ever. As a young journalist, getting your foot in the door at a news organisation is a great achievement but it is important to start impressing early to take the next step on the career ladder.

Speaking at the NewsUK News Academy Summer School this week, editorial director of The Sunday Times Eleanor Mills advised young journalists to make their own luck.

You've got to pitch your stories, you've got to get it out there. No one's going to do that for you.Eleanor Mills, The Sunday Times
She advised against "expecting that there's a kind of 'Buggins' turn', by which I mean that if you do your time someone will come and pat you on the head and say you're going to the next level.

"It doesn't work like that, you have to grab your opportunities. You've got to pitch your stories, you've got to get it out there. No one's going to do that for you."

In a presentation titled "Women in Journalism", Mills explained that while there are many women working in journalism, a much smaller number are taking on the top jobs, and while her advice was targeted at young women in the audience it is useful to any young journalist.

Stick at a tough job

Mills said that doing the types of jobs that other people might be less inclined to take on could be a good way to stand out.

"If you can stick a night shift or stick a job that other people find tough... it’s a steep accelerator." She said a night shift, an unpopular beat, and even working with a boss who others might find difficult could put a young journalist's name on the map.

Choose a male dominated beat

She said business journalism could be a good way in for women because there are more job opportunities where it is possible to learn about a specialism and develop skills while getting paid. According to Mills, this is not always the case on other beats.

"I think we could really do with some more women on the sports desk. We're always keen to have women within the newsroom and on news because we know we don't have enough.

"Sometimes if you actually aim at a particularly male area there could be lots of opportunities... But you may then also encounter quite a macho culture because there aren't very many women there.

"If you really aim for the hard ends where there aren't very many women, you might have a bit of a tough time but you may well prosper in the long run."

Learn at a trade magazine

Mills said it does not matter what young journalists start off writing about. Working on a trade magazine could teach new reporters how to get contacts and stories, about the commercial nature of the publications, and more generally how to write.

Don't be typecast

"I think that if you want to be taken seriously as a woman, write about serious things and talk about serious subjects," she told Journalism.co.uk. "If you want to do kind of lighter, fluffier stuff, that's fine but you won't necessarily be taken seriously.

"And I think because there's a slight view in the industry that women do the kind of lighter stuff anyway it's quite important not to be typecast in that way."

She said she would caution young journalists about researcher roles and advised them to use it as a way of pitching ideas. "I've seen quite a few talented women get stuck in those [roles], so by all means take a researcher role on the paper but don't do it for more than a year."

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