Lauren | Streatham & Clapham High School

This month we meet journalist Lauren Windle (Class of 2004) who shared invaluable careers advice with current pupils at our recent networking event.

Lauren
SCHS Pupil

Tell us about your current role and what the job entails

I am a Features writer for The Sun Online and Fabulous Magazine (The Sun On Sunday’s glossy mag). It basically involves taking cues from the news and popular culture and putting together articles we think our readers would be interested in. Sometimes those are designed to inform or provoke thought and sometimes we just want to entertain and make people laugh.

With the focus online being increasingly directed towards video content, more recently I’ve been presenting and producing viral videos for our social media and online articles.

The fun of being a features writer is that you can literally write about anything!

Describe some of the key roles you’ve held in the past and how they have helped you in securing your current position

After my degree I went straight into the hospitality sector. I was initially the assistant to the head of events and marketing at a big London restaurant group. I worked my way up to help them set up a business development and sales department but even then I continued to write the marketing and promotional material as they liked my writing style. It was taking on this task that made me realise I wanted to be a writer.

Aside from highlighting my passion for writing, I also learned some valuable life skills while working in restaurants. It was long hours and far less glamorous than people often assumed. Especially over Christmas, when the role was more of an endurance test than a job!

What do you think are the top three qualities/skills required to be successful in your field?

1. Creativity – As a journalist you trade in ideas. You need to be able to come up with original content for the paper on a daily basis. It’s a huge challenge but manageable once you get in the swing of it.

2. Perseverance – You can send off ten incredible ideas in your morning pitch only for your editor to turn down all of them, but you can’t take it personally and you can’t get disheartened.

Sometimes that’s because we recently covered something similar or – even though your ideas were good – someone else’s were better that day. The worst thing you can do is get upset about it. You’ve just got to crack on and keep coming up with original content.

3. Excellence – This goes for all jobs but it’s so important to take every task really seriously. Whether you’re doing the tea round or going off to interview someone for the biggest scoop of the year, you need to be that person who always delivers what was asked of them. The people who moan and groan about doing the little jobs and then do them half-heartedly don’t get very far.

If you weren’t a journalist, what other career path might you have taken?

A friend of mine’s mum works as a taster for Unilever, which involves sampling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I think that’s a job I could get on board with.

Genuinely though, I have never heard anyone describe their job and thought: “I would rather be doing that”. My job is rewarding and challenging but so much fun and there are plenty of perks – I’m exactly where I want to be!

What does it mean to you to be a Streatham & Clapham alumna?

The GDST alumnae network helped me out a lot when I decided to change careers, even organising for me to have some work experience with the BBC, where positions are like gold dust.

How do you think your education at Streatham & Clapham prepared you for life after school?

High grades were expected at Streatham, and virtually everyone in my year got them. The school instilled a strong work ethic in my friends and me which has really carried us through to incredible jobs. Some of the most dedicated and hard working women I know are ones I met at SCHS!

Tell us about any further/higher education that you undertook after you left school

After secondary school I went on to study Neuroscience at University of Sussex. I had always done well in sciences and I was fascinated by how the mind worked.

What your interests and hobbies?

I don’t know if it would count as a hobby but I also run a charity programme for people struggling with addiction. It’s both the most rewarding and disheartening thing I’ve ever done.

Other than that I love to travel. I went to live in Paris while I was contemplating the career change from hospitality to journalism. It was the making of me. As a person who always heavily relies on their communication skills it was incredibly humbling to have that stripped from me and have to start learning a new language from scratch.

Who inspires you?

This is an incredibly weird combination but the two people who inspire me most are The Queen and Russell Brand.

I am in awe of the Queen’s sense of duty and, regardless of what you think of the monarchy, you can’t fault her work ethic.

And Russell Brand because of the work he does to support those struggling with addiction. He’s a polarising character and there’s no way I agree with all his views, but after setting up this recovery course, I realised how few people are speaking about the realities of addiction.

What piece of advice would you give to a current pupil contemplating a career in journalism?

If you want to be a journalist you have to read. You have to consume all types of news from social media to broadcast and broadsheets to tabloids. But also read a wide range of books, fiction and non-fiction from various eras. Writers are the product of the reading they’ve done.

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