Working in media is becoming an ever more popular career choice for graduates, and competition is tough. UEA careers have organised the Working with Words: Creative Edge Conference on Saturday 8 February to help students discover what is needed to break into the industry. Graduates and employers from creative industries will be giving tips and insight into careers including advertising, marketing, public relations, journalism, film, television and more.

Ahead of the conference, we spoke to guest speaker and Guardian production assistant, Harry Slater, on his experiences.

How did you get your job?

By January of my final year I was well into the routine of applying to every job posting I could find, sending out applications for roles in social media, copy writing, publishing, and production.  During my final week of exams I was balancing revision and interviews for my current job, and started a month after my last exam.

Did you have a lot of experience before you started applying for jobs?

I’d written the odd piece for the Guardian since my second year at UEA and did a week’s work experience at the beginning of my third. I had a great time interning at Mixmag, too – three weeks of news writing, print  and web production, and dancing (really, really, dreadfully) was a lot of fun. That was my first proper placement and I was fortunate to work with a fun and friendly team.

I got involved with Concrete in my first year, copy-editing for two years, and then worked on developing its social media and new website in my final year. It was fantastic, I put it before my degree a lot of the time. It’s the biggest part of my CV – I’d have struggled without it.

Did having work experience help you get your job?

Absolutely. It adds to your CV and is a chance to become familiar with the basic stuff, like working in an office, or confidently introducing yourself to people you’ve never met before. Make sure you get a reference, even if you’re only there for a week.

How did coming to careers events help?

The events give you an idea of what’s out there and how you can get started. They’re an opportunity to hear from and meet people who are working in fields you’re interested in. And because it’s a careers event, you don’t have to worry about being introduced to somebody cold. It’s fair better and easier than emailing a stranger out of blue and asking for their time and advice.

How else did the careers centre help while you were at uni?

It’s very helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes look over your CV and cover letters. Likewise, if you’re unsure about how to apply for a job or what to write, they can help you plan an application.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to start out in the media?

Get familiar with online publishing. If you can show that you’re competent with a content management system, understand SEO, know a little bit of HTML and CSS, and are familiar with reaching difference audiences on different platforms, you’ll be in with a shot. Don’t feel you have to leap onto trends, like big data or listicles. Nail the basics and take it from there.