Trainee Journalist

November 10, 2021 (Updated )

The last time we spoke to Chandni Sembhi here at JR, for a previous Day In The Life, she worked as a journalist for Channel 5, where she notably upset the Twittersphere with her crisp rankings

She’s had a big step up in responsibility since, now working as Senior Producer at the LGBTQIA+ outlet PinkNews. She was also recently named as the Asian Media Awards’ ‘Best Newcomer’ for founding So You Want To Be A Journalist during the pandemic – a platform that helps those looking to break into a career in the media.

We chatted to Chandni about her new role and her thoughts on the industry.

Chandni at the Asian Media Awards, where she was presented her award by our very own Faima Bakar

My day starts at…

I don’t start until nine, but if I’m at home, which I am for three or four days of the week, I still wake up at half seven. I know if I wake up and go straight to work, I’ll be in a foul mood all day! I wake up in my own time, I don’t have to get out of bed straight away, I do a bit of yoga.

If I am in the office, which at the moment is one or two days a week, then I’m up at half six to leave my house at half seven – commuter life. Before I actually start, I use my first half hour of the day to do all of my news gathering and pitch work.

I always thought I’d be…. 

I did see something on Twitter about how loads of journalists wanted to be fashion designers when they were young – and I was one of those people! But first I wanted to be my cousin, because I thought she was really cool. She wasn’t even working at that age.

When I was maybe sixteen, I decided that I wanted to do journalism. Then I got some work experience and decided to do a degree in journalism, because I wasn’t really sure what else to do. I’ve been quite fortunate that everything has kind of worked out pretty much how I wanted it to.

Journo Resources
Journo Resources

Chandni posts advice about all aspects of journalism on her Instagram and TikTok.

The thing which surprises me most about my job is… 

People can be quite surprised about the size of the team and the size of the company. Usually the case with media careers is that it’s a much smaller team than you think it will be, and everyone is working really hard to produce a good amount of content in the best way that they can. People are usually a little bit surprised that it’s so few people putting out such a wide range of content.

My typical day involves…

I start by looking at if there’s any breaking news that we need to jump on and cover, it can be covered for the main show, [or] if there’s anything that will be applicable to any of the other video series we’re working on. Then I just see if there’s anything worth pitching, because we have our little conference in the morning every day, where everyone runs through what they’re working on.

For the rest of the day, depending on how far along I am with whatever I’m working on, I could be researching for an idea, I could be scripting, gathering footage for a video, filming, doing voiceover work. It does vary quite a lot day to day.

This is a senior role that I’m in at the moment, so there’s also some line management stuff as well – making sure that the people I line manage are able to do the work that they need to do, that they’re feeling okay and secure in their roles.

Journo Resources
"Usually the case with media careers is that it's a much smaller team than you think it will be, and everyone is working really hard to produce a good amount of content in the best way that they can."
Chandni Sembhi

I got the job because…

I asked if there was anything in the interview that made me stand out, because if I’m being honest, I didn’t have loads and loads of experience to cover the responsibilities of this job from my previous job.

They said that it was the way I came across in the interview – I tried to be quite confident, even though there were certain gaps in my knowledge. I was very open about that, and honest about what those gaps were, but made it very clear that I was willing to work on that if that’s something that was required of me. So this is a role that I’m growing into, and still learning every day.

I’m most proud of… 

On my second day, I managed to turn around and edit in quite a short amount of time. [I had to] get to grips with a new tone of voice and editing style, one I hadn’t really done before, so I was quite proud of myself for managing to turn it out. I thought that put me in good standing for the rest of the job.

If I was starting again… 

I probably would ask more questions on my first day, because I think any first day at a new job is quite slow. You’re having to read loads of stuff and find out more about what you’ll be doing. In job descriptions there’s a list of responsibilities, but when you start, that’s the first time you actually find out what it’s going to be like. Ask them more questions about how things work.

I’d be wary of… 

When I was growing into the role, I was a bit worried that if I didn’t start at 100% and get going straight away, it would reflect badly on me. But I think it’s important to know that no one expects you to be able to start and be brilliant at the role already, it’s okay to take a little while to get to grips with things. There’s always going to be stuff you’ve not done before, or that works a little bit differently to how you’ve done it before. And that’s fine.

Journo Resources
"It's important to know that no one expects you to be able to start and be brilliant at the role already, it's okay to take a little while to get to grips with things."
Chandni Sembhi

If people wanted to follow in my footsteps I’d say… 

Look for opportunities where you have them. If you feel like the role you’re in at the moment isn’t giving you those opportunities, don’t be afraid to explore other options. I loved my last job, but the growth that I would have gotten in that role and the career progression that it offered wasn’t exactly what I wanted. For me, I felt like the best option was to leave, and that’s fine. If it’s not giving you what you want, don’t be afraid to look at other options.

The thing I’d most like to change about the industry is… 

Image credit: Chandni Sembhi.

Giving more young people a chance. There’s a role on the team I’m on, a content and research assistant, and they say on the job description because it’s an entry level role you don’t need experience. They’re not expecting you to have anything, which I think is such a great way of doing things.

There are so many people who want to be in these sorts of careers, but find it so hard to get any experience because other places will ask you to already have experience for an entry level role, which doesn’t make sense. I think more places should be open to hiring people who haven’t been able to get experience because otherwise, how are they going to learn?

After work… 

It depends! If I’m in the office, because I’m in London anyway, I’ll see if anyone else is walking around and wants to grab dinner or something. Everyone’s so lovely, and it’s so nice that it’s quite a social team as well.

But if I’m at home, the first thing I do usually is turn my laptop off and go make dinner. I like to eat as early as possible so I have the whole rest of the evening to chill out, which usually just involves watching Netflix.