Elizabeth Conway

My time at Birmingham gave me so many experiences that I could talk about in my applications. I formed a great network of like-minded people and attended alumni events of people in the industry who I kept in touch with and gained advice from.

Elizabeth poses with her head tilted to one side.

Graduation year: 2020

Degree title(s): BA Modern Languages and English  

Job title: BBC Sport journalist on the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme

Employer: BBC

What does your role involve? As part of the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme, I will work across four key areas at BBC Sport over two years including: TV, radio, online and social media. I will research news stories, pitch ideas, present news bulletins, interview athletes, edit packages for radio and TV and produce sports news.

Can you describe the journey you went on to get this role? Achieving my dream job at BBC Sport has been far from easy but it has been worth every rejection. Like many industries, the journalism industry is incredibly tough to break into. 3500 people applied to be part of the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme for only 10 places across the UK. Although I was successful in being offered the only BBC Sport trainee place, it has not been easy!  

I decided I wanted to be a sports presenter and journalist in sixth form when I realised it was a job that combined my passions of sport, writing, meeting new people and languages. I wrote match reports for my local hockey team and decided when I was 17 to write to Gabby Logan to ask for advice on how to become a sports presenter. To my surprise, she sent me a delightful reply with advice to get as much work experience as possible. I took this advice with me to UoB.  
I continued playing hockey for the University of Birmingham whilst completing my Spanish and English Language degree. I maintained lots of part-time jobs such as working as a Bramhall steward and a student ambassador, whilst trying to gain as much work experience as possible. I wrote for the UoB linguist magazine, Redbrick newspaper and got involved with Burn FM radio too. I also applied to be a media volunteer through UBSport at the IAAF World Athletics Championships where I ended up translating and interpreting for Spanish speaking athletes. As a result of this experience, I was successful in becoming the BBC Trainee Kickoff Reporter for Sport England in my summer of second year, which gave me my first experience of working at BBC Sport in Birmingham. It was a wonderful experience, and I knew after that summer that working at BBC Sport was my ambition.  

Whilst spending a year abroad teaching in Madrid as part of my degree, I continued working as online sports editor for Redbrick. I also gained work experience with GiveMeSport Women which allowed me to report at the Champions League Final in Madrid. I was also chosen as one of the top one hundred young journalists in the world for the Future News Worldwide Programme delivered by Reuters.  

On my return to final year, I felt in a strong position to apply for graduate jobs. In February 2020, I was fortunate to apply for and receive a bursary from the University of Birmingham to help fund two weeks work experience at Sky Sports News. Work experience in the media is often in London which was never affordable for me, so the bursary helped massively. I had two incredible weeks working at Sky and I felt confident and prepared when submitting my applications for graduate schemes in journalism. Then in March 2020, the global pandemic hit and the sports journalism industry haemorrhaged. Week by week, each scheme I applied for either delayed its start or was cancelled completely. By August 2020, I hadn’t secured a job and I was dismayed. Remaining positive, I decided to focus on my other strengths which were in teaching, having enjoyed teaching during my year abroad. I therefore applied to train as a secondary school Spanish teacher. For the following year, I trained and qualified as a teacher, working in a North Solihull secondary school. I loved passing on my passion for languages to younger students and learnt so much from this job.

Despite enjoying my year in teaching so much, I couldn’t shake my dream of being a sports presenter and journalist. I kept working during my holidays and weekends as a freelancer to keep my foot in the door. As the summer approached, opportunities slowly started to open again, and I applied for everything I saw. By July 2021, I had secured a summer job working as a presenter for The Hundred based at Edgbaston for Birmingham Phoenix. I presented in front of 25,000 people at cricket matches throughout the summer which was an unforgettable experience. By August 2021, I secured a job as a content creator for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games where I spent four wonderful months working with the Queen’s Baton Relay content team. During this time, I received an email from the BBC saying the BBC Trainee Scheme I had applied for over a year and a half ago was back running for a January 2022 start and I was invited to interview. After a gruelling interview and assessment centre process, I got the call I have dreamed of! “Elizabeth, we would like to offer you a job at BBC Sport!”

What do you enjoy most about your job? I love the variety in my job. I love finding new stories, meeting new people, finding extraordinary stories about ordinary people and giving exposure to sports people who don’t get the exposure they deserve.

How did your time at Birmingham help prepare you for this role? My time at Birmingham gave me so many experiences that I could talk about in my applications. This ultimately allowed me to get to interview stage. Burn FM radio and Redbrick helped me understand how to package radio shows, broadcast news and publish and propagate stories. I formed a great network of like-minded people and attended alumni events of people in the industry who I kept in touch with and gained advice from. Finally, my bursary to complete two weeks work experience was invaluable. I learnt so much in those two weeks at Sky Sports News and gained huge confidence and belief in myself that I could make it in the industry. I am so grateful for that opportunity as I know it all contributed to being able to achieve my dream.

What advice would you give to students interested in getting into your industry or role? Make the most of every opportunity that you can get at university. Make contacts in the industry and keep in touch with them. Gain as much work experience in the industry as possible. Start locally and work your way out to more national opportunities. One work experience will snowball into the next. Ask the university if you need financial or career support. They have so much to offer and it helped me so much. Finally, rejection is redirection! Every rejection I had led to another opportunity that was more suited to me. Although each rejection was hard to take, I learnt to embrace it and move on.

How did studying at Birmingham inspire you in your graduate path? I always knew that being a sports presenter and journalist was a job that combined everything I loved. But playing hockey at university, joining societies, completing work experience and attending Q&A sessions with alumni who have gone on to be so successful in the industry made me even more determined to succeed. I remember Tom Garry, an alumnus from UoB who worked for BBC Sport at the time and is now the Women's football reporter for The Telegraph coming to speak to Redbrick. I was very inspired. 

Why should someone considering their university options come and study with us at Birmingham? Studying at the University of Birmingham was the best four years of my life. I couldn’t have wished for a greater university. It has a beautiful campus, amazing sports and societies, fantastic teaching and it feels like a safe community. I learnt so much from my degree but also from the people I met and all the opportunities I took from the university. I really made the most of my experience there and I would recommend that everyone does the same.

What was your favourite thing about studying at the University of Birmingham? My favourite thing about studying at University of Birmingham was playing for the UoB hockey team. I loved travelling to different universities on a Wednesday to play in BUCS and of course all of the fun nights out at the guild that came with playing hockey. UOBHC has given me friends for life and so many incredible memories.

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