The coronavirus pandemic has caused job insecurity throughout the journalism industry. As a result, many fresh journalists straight of university have had to tweak their career goals as they look for their first big break.

One of those is Iain Leggat, a journalism graduate from Edinburgh Napier University. Whilst there, he discovered a passion for radio journalism and worked as station manager for the university's radio station, Radio ENRG. He was dead set on a career in broadcast journalism, before the pandemic had other ideas.

Three months later, he landed his first industry role as digital journalist with JPIMedia's central team based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He covers trending and social news stories for the 'Read This' online section of JPI owned titles.

Journalism.co.uk spoke to Leggat about adapting his career goals in order to gain experience as a journalist. He offered words of encouragement to fellow graduates to take all opportunities that arise, even if that means having to learn new skills.

Recognise your transferable skills

Leggat's job often involves writing SEO content. For the uninitiated, SEO, or search engine optimisation, is a way to increase traffic to websites via search engines. SEO content is designed to boost web traffic.

It can get very technical, but the basics are usually covered on journalism courses. Leggat says he had to clue himself up with free online tips and be adaptable to learn new skills on the job.

Having a positive attitude towards upskilling, he says, is amongst the transferable skills which has helped him land his current role.

"I learnt how to handle deadlines, find news lines, and cover breaking stories," Leggat says. "One module also saw the class create our own news website and produce content for it over a monthly period."

Relish new opportunities

He had also developed a strong affinity for sports reporting throughout his four years at university and on work experience. That too, he has put to one side for the time being.

He spent two years creating digital media content for Cricket Scotland, the Scottish governing body for cricket. He also took on freelance stints for Scottish rugby website The Offside and work experience at BBC Scotland Sport Online.

Like many job hunters during the pandemic, Leggat questioned whether he would be able to enter the industry straightaway, or take up work in other sectors for the time being.

It was thanks to contacts at another of his work placements, his local JPI publication Edinburgh Evening News, that he heard about the job opportunity that he now occupies. He took this as his chance to get on the career ladder.

Reinvent yourself

His main job involves writing copy for four to five stores a day and looking for trending news stories that his readers might find interesting. But when Leggat took a chance on a story outside his beat and pitched it to fellow JPI title The Scotsman, it made for a double-spread in the Saturday print edition.

"I pitched my first TV review feature for the Scotsman on a whim, hoping that it would make for a nice online article", he explains. "It was one of the highlights of my short career so far."

The lesson for budding journalists is that, by all means pursue your dream job, but keep an open mind for job opportunities that arise along the way.

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