How do you get started in journalism? If you've gone out to look for an answer to this question, you have found that there is no recipe for success. If this is the first article you read – surprise!

There are many routes you can follow, and many key figures in media will tell you stories that do not fit the traditional path you might have heard of from journalism lecturers or other professionals.

If you're just embarking on a journalism course in September, check out this advice for making the most of your time at university, as well as these tips for students seeking journalism work experience or pitching stories.

And if you don't already have months of work experience under your belt or an impressive portfolio, there's still time.

Speaking on the BBC World Service programme "The Conversation" on Monday, 28 August, Lydia Polgreen, global editor-in-chief of HuffPost and Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of Guardian News and Media, shared how they got their start and what their experience as women at the helm of international media organisations has been like so far. has extracted highlights, lightly edited, of Polgreen and Viner's accounts of their start in journalism. Listen to the full episode, hosted by Kim Chakanetsa, on the BBC website.

Lydia Polgreen, HuffPost

Polgreen grew up mainly in Kenya and Ghana, where the events happening around her revealed her interest in news, although she initially planned to become a philosophy professor. She said:

"I knew that I had this passion for finding things out and I always wanted to be the first to know and the first to tell people. I was a bit of a busybody – really, really liked witnessing events.

"Witnessing a coup in Kenya when I was six years old – it was a coup attempt, it wasn't successful – made a huge impression on me, seeing all the looting and the violence. It was both terrifying for my family, but for me it was weirdly thrilling, to sort of be in the middle of the action.

"And then when I was in high school in Ghana, it was the first free and fair election in many, many years in Ghana. I just became really fascinated by the political events that were unfolding and it was really exciting to see them first-hand.

"But I went off to college and I ended up studying philosophy and mathematics. I thought I was going to be a philosophy professor, and I ended up finding my way back to journalism kind of out of boredom.

"I don't think that I was meant to live a life where I stare at a clock and wait for the day to end so I can go home, it just didn't feel right.

"So a friend of mine had an unpaid internship at a magazine and he said they needed more unpaid interns. I said I really can't afford to do that, I had student loans, I needed to pay my rent.

"I ended up taking this internship and getting a job waitressing at night. So I'd edit and write articles during the day and then serve dinner to people at night, and that's kind of how I got my start."

Katharine Viner, the Guardian

Viner is the first woman to edit the Guardian in the paper's nearly 200-year existence. Her first article was published in the Guardian when she was 16 years old, when she wrote about being the last generation of students to sit the O Level exams. She said:

"When I look back, it seems so obvious to me that I was made to be a journalist, and I always wanted to be a journalist, but somehow it never translated to trying to be one for quite a long time, because I didn't see it as a track that was open to me.

"I didn't know any journalists, it always seemed a very intimidating profession, I think.

"I had that article published when I was 16, when I was in my late teens I won a competition in Cosmopolitan for student journalists, then when I was 21 I won another competition in the Guardian but I was still saying I was going to be a writer or poet or something.

"When I won that competition in the Guardian, it was typical Guardian style. You didn't win any money or anything, you just won the honour of editing the women's page for a week, which was just completely brilliant. I loved being in the office.

"And then after the end of that week, the women's editor, Louise Chunn, she took me to one side and she said ‘you know, I really think you should try to be a journalist, I think you'd be really good’, and I suddenly went ‘oh that’s it! Thank you’.

"It’s a really interesting lesson to me how something can be quite obvious and yet you don't quite see it. And from then on, it was a complete mission and I never wanted to do anything else."

What was your path to your first newsroom job? Tweet us at @journalismnews.

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