Zara Janjua 1600x600

Zara Janjua

Digital Journalism (MLitt)

What made you choose to study at the University of Strathclyde?

A friend of mine who was a student at the university recommended it to me. I was looking for a university close to home and that offered more than simply a degree on a piece of paper. I wanted to sign up for a complete masters experience.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

I was impressed by the background and experience of my lecturers and the variety within the course structure. I wanted lecturers who had built careers in the field I was entering, people who could demonstrate the application of theories and offer advice for placements. I wanted a course that didn’t just teach theory but taught skills and delivered hands-on experience.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

I really enjoyed getting to know the people on my course. I was fortunate to be surrounded by a really talented and creative group of students. We learned from each other and motivated ourselves in group projects.

I enjoyed the team challenges, particularly creating a weekly newspaper and magazines because it simulated the work I hoped to find once graduating. It also helped us apply theories and experiment with ideas.

The lecturers I had were inspirational; they helped to drive us towards goals and entertained us with anecdotes from their careers.

What is your fondest memory of life at Strathclyde?

Having one-on-one time with some lecturers and hearing anecdotes from their careers or being offered advice from people who had success within the industry. They still had a real passion for what they did and as someone entering media, I was being dissuaded by the low salary expectations and long thankless hours.  Meeting people with a passion and willingness to help you ignited a fire in me.

How did your course and time at Strathclyde help you to get where you are professionally today?

There’s no getting away from the fact that a media degree is very much a pre-requisite when employers are sifting through applications. Being able to demonstrate a firm choice to move in a direction and commitment to an industry, is always preferable in the job market.

Showing that you’ve excelled in the degree will also make employers sit up and take notice. Above all, the contacts you make are invaluable. I am still in touch with the lecturers and my classmates five years on; I continue to cultivate their expertise and advice.

The work experience placements led me into paid work eventually and provided the first step needed to continue on up.

How did you find the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study?

I had taken a few years out to travel before embarking on my MLitt. I was ready to commit to it and do the hard work that was required. It was certainly more intense than I remember my undergraduate being. We had a fuller timetable and volume of independent study increased significantly.

What three pieces of advice would you give to someone about to begin postgraduate study?

  1. Commit. Be ready to give yourself to it for the duration. It’s worth doing, so do it well.
  2. Financially it can be difficult if you don’t have support. I saved for two years to do the course but I saw friends struggle to juggle work and family commitments.  Have a financial plan in place.
  3. If you are able to get work experience at a local paper in evenings or weekends, grab the opportunity. Much of this is unpaid but if you can gain experience in addition to your degree, it will make you a stronger candidate for most roles.

How did you get your foot on the career ladder post university?

Within my time at Strathclyde University I undertook a placement at the Scotsman newspaper. I also volunteered with Dr Eamonn Oneill at the Innocence Project.

When I finished university, it was this experience in addition to my degree that assisted my application to the Scottish Human Rights Commission, where I undertook a work placement for several months before finally securing my first role as a technical journalist in Aberdeen.

I was prepared to do a lot of unpaid work but it paid off in the end.

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