JOB BLOG // Alumni Profile: Sean Wales
You can’t be under 26 forever.
When SYNners get too old to volunteer, a lot of them go on to work in the media, taking with them all the skills SYN has instilled in them.
Sean Wales volunteered on Panorama and a seasonal show and now works as a sports journalist for the Wimmera Mail-Times in Horsham.
Read more about him here:
Have you been to uni? What did you study?
I went to the University of Melbourne straight after high school where I studied a Bachelor of Arts. I majored in Media and Communications and Italian and graduated at the end of last year, 2017.
Did you do any internships? How valuable were these in finding a job?
I did do some internships while at university. I started looking for opportunities at the end of my second year at university. In November-December of 2016 I did a full-time four-week editorial internship at Broadsheet Melbourne, which was a real kick starter for my passion in writing. It was the first time I had been involved in a newsroom, and working at a high profile publisher such as Broadsheet Melbourne was a huge confidence boost. Not everyone has positive internship experiences (and I would urge any intern to speak up if that is them) but this one was great for me. Being full-time for a month meant I could feel the day-to-day rhythms of the office and business. Although it was tiring and I wasn’t paid very much, it was fantastic to have on my resume.
From August-October last year I completed a casual social media internship at the Carlton Football Club. I worked in the office for two or three half days a week, replying to Facebook messages received by Carlton and conducting research for the media team. This internship was extremely helpful in advancing my social media skills and was valuable in me securing my first full-time job as a sports journalist.
Both these internships equipped me with various skills, which I would encourage young people in the media to seek out. Learn a variety of skills from different internships.
What did you do at SYN?
I certainly wish I had been involved for SYN throughout my entire degree, but I only discovered it last year during my final year of study. In the middle of the year I started off being involved with Panorama, which was great fun. It was my first experience of radio work, and I loved interviewing and creating audio packages.
Then, me and my friend Julian create our own radio show, Front & Centre, for SYN Nation. This was fantastic as we were able to learn skills involved with creating a whole radio show – producing, interviewing, paneling and audio editing just to name a few. We met so many great people during the 12-week show, and although it took up a lot of time, it was the perfect way to be exposed to radio for the first time. SYN was a very inspirational place to be around.
What are you doing now? Where are you working? How did you get your job?
I am working for the Wimmera Mail-Times as a sports journalist. The Mail-Times is a tri-weekly newspaper and online media publication owned by Fairfax Media and based in Horsham, in the west of Victoria (basically half-way towards Adelaide!).
Towards the end of my degree, I was applying for so many jobs, many I didn’t have a chance of getting. This including applying for many advertised by Fairfax Media. I had actually applied for a job in Warrnambool when one day I received a phone call by the Victorian manager for Fairfax Media. He asked me if I was interested in applying for the sports journalist position in Horsham because I had interned at Carlton. I then had an online video interview with him and the editor of the Mail-Times. A few days later the editor rang me and she offered me the job. I had six weeks then to move and furnish a house in Horsham, and at the same time I was finishing off my final university essays for my degree. I started work before I had received my final results – luckily I passed and graduated!
What does a typical day look like for you at the Wimmera Mail-Times?
The great thing about journalism is that you don’t know what is going to happen each day or who you will end up talking to. Each day our newsroom has a conference from about 8.45am-9.30am, where we all talk through our planned stories for the day. Then I will be making phone calls or organising face-to-face interviews, writing stories, reacting to any breaking news and creating a newspaper. We print each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so the days before those we will be focusing on meeting our 2.30pm print deadlines. We also aim to be uploading online content at regular intervals during the day, and promoting our content through Facebook and Twitter. My days will often also involved taking photos and recording video interviews.
On Saturdays, I will most likely be out at a football ground, reporting live from the best game of the round. From the ground I would be live Tweeting, as well as gathering video and content for my articles.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about finding a job in journalism?
The best advice I received was to try and not be fixated on what your idea of a perfect job is. That doesn’t mean don’t dream high, but you will be disappointed in your first job if you are totally focused on being, say, a foreign correspondent.
Great advice I received was to take the opportunity to move to a regional area to start your journalism career. You will meet so many people, learn a lot of skills, write on so many different events and start building a great resume.
What’s your experience been like moving to a regional area?
Moving to a regional area has presented plenty of challenges. This is also the first time I have ever moved out of home, which has actually been the harder challenge. Six months in, and I have learnt a lot about myself and have developed independence.
Regional areas are fantastic. Every day I talk to new people and form relationships with people in the local sporting community. People are so passionate about a variety of things in regional areas, and with dwindling populations in regional towns there are a lot of people passionate about seeing these towns thrive long into the future.
Getting involved with the soccer club in Horsham has helped me settle in, and I would recommend to anyone moving to a regional location by themself to look for a club, sporting or otherwise, to get involved in.
You’re having coffee with a SYN volunteer who wants to do what you’re doing. What advice would you give them?
Interning and writing as much as you can before you finish university is an absolute must in my eyes. Make sure you aren’t being exploited while interning, and also seek feedback and a reference letter after your internship.
Apply for jobs, even if you think you won’t get it. People look at job applications and you need to get eyes on yourself. LinkedIn is another great way to do that.
Also, explore freelance writing. It’s hard as a young person to freelance, but give it a shot. My first freelance writing was published in The Guardian Australia and it gave me so much confidence to keep pursuing my passion of journalism.
Don’t be disheartened by emails to editors/media professionals that go unanswered. Your experiences, opinions and work is important and can make a difference. Keep writing/making great audio content and build confidence with every little career win you have. When you land that first job, all the hard work and unpaid gigs will be worth it.
I actually wrote an article about this for Junkee, click here to read it.
Find Sean on LinkedIn.
Have a job application you want proofread? Got an idea you want covered here? Are you a SYN alumni who wants to give back? The Job Blog is updated monthly and you can get in touch with the Content Development Coordinator at content @ syn.org.au with any ideas.