I once spent a week doing my dream job.
It all began this past summer. I wanted to go into journalism, and I needed work experience. I emailed each and every single newspaper, magazine, tabloid and broadsheet I could think of, and surely enough, the Financial Times were the only ones to bother with an answer: no. They only took people with actual degrees. I huffed and puffed, and begged and promised enough for them to reconsider and finally say yes. I still, to this day, do not understand how I managed to change their minds.
Flash forward 2 months, and there I was, strutting my way across Southwark Bridge, with an air of self-importance, on my way to the big shiny FT building. Donning that day's unread issue of the FT in one hand and the most expensive-looking handbag I owned in the other, I made my way into the massive building. I thought I'd stumbled onto the set of The Devil Wears Prada. There were people buzzing around everywhere, marching along as if on a mission to save the world. Take-away coffee cups, photocopies and past issues of the salmon-coloured newspaper were all over the place. I never wanted to leave: it was exactly what I had hoped it would be, and so much more.
On my first day, I was allowed to sit in on the editorial meeting. All the chief editors for all the different departments and the editor of the entire newspaper were there. The Bigshot Editor of the whole thing used this time to quietly and calmly pull out the big guns to either rip people to pieces for their shit work or praise them for their genius. I sat in the corner, giggling away on the inside, as they all sat there, waiting for their turn. It felt a bit like judgement day!
I spent the rest of the day going on a tour of the various identical-looking floors, visiting all the different departments. I was given a 2-hour IT training session which taught me about the production line of an article. Let me tell you this, it's not easy. From putting in bloody hyperlinks for the website edition of an article, to making sure you keep in line with the word-limit, it was a trek and a half.
I spent that afternoon shadowing the editor of one of the departments. Now, this bit here was the most interesting of all. Although I didn't have any tasks to undertake, I was still given a desk right by the editor, with my two personal computers to go with it. Because, you know, it would be ridiculous to have one computer only... The editor was quite a character, maybe even my favourite... She was a fidgety woman, constantly chewing on a new piece of gum, and always smiling. She sat, comfortable in her swivel chair, with her five empty cups of tea. That day though, she and her right-hand man were in a bit of a pickle: they were short of stories to write about. She explained to me that the day usually started off slowly, and gradually the pace sped up, as time neared to the printing hour. She apologised profusely for my having to be there at "such a quiet time"; they usually had more stories than they could manage. I was just happy to be there, watching them struggle to get their reporters to find something of greater substance to write about. When I left the office that day, she gave me a photocopy of what the issue would look like once it was finished. It still had some major blanks in it, but I pretty much got a preview of the next day's paper. Key word there: pre. I was that important.
In the days that followed, I sat in on the recording and editing of the newspaper's weekly podcast. The man who showed me the ropes was called Rob and he was lovely. We had some good banter about the journalism industry, Rupert Murdoch, my A-Levels, his daughters, and how great the FT really was. Turns out, the FT is the greatest newspaper in the world. Its standards are virtually incomparable to any other newspaper around. Reporters get a massive bollocking if they can't back up what they write with at least 3 reliable sources. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a newspaper I hope to one day work for.
On my last day, I was finally allowed to write. I was quite surprised that they had bestowed upon me such responsibility. Obviously, they would edit and probably completely change whatever I came up with, to adjust to FT standards, but I mean still: writing for the FT while on my week-long work experience?! That's got to get me some brownie points! They provided me with the material I had to write about and the number for a man I needed to contact to get a quote I could use. So I sat at my desk, furiously writing away about new banking regulations, almost believing I actually knew all about it.
The biggest achievement of my life so far ensued: I opened up the FT the next day, and there, on page 3, was my tiny little article (having survived a few tweaks), with my name printed in block letters at the bottom.
I left the FT sad it was over, but over the moon that it had even happened.
Thank you Financial Times, I hope to be able to do it again some time.