Serena Smith

What is your favourite memory of Malvern College?

It's so hard to pick just one memory but the best part of Malvern was definitely meeting so many lifelong friends there. My happiest times are probably some of the simplest times - be it having a break in house or going uptown after lessons. I savoured every moment I spent with my friends at school.

What attracted you to your particular career and what do you enjoy most about it?

I like the freedom freelancing gives you as it's up to you to decide how you structure your working day. I also enjoy the creative process of brainstorming ideas for articles and nothing beats the adrenaline rush of securing a commission! Plus it's exciting how every week is different.

It's slightly clichéd to say so but I also value the fact that my job allows me to talk to such a diverse range of people. As I am primarily a features writer, this means that my articles centre around other people's experiences, and it's really rewarding (and interesting) to write up and tell other people's stories. I also often have to call on experts for their insight, and it's always fascinating to talk to leading academics and reseachers on any given subject. I learn so much with every article I write.

What part did Malvern College play in giving you the necessary skills for your chosen path?

I feel as though my confidence during my time at Malvern grew considerably. As journalism is a largely public-facing job, it's vital to be sure of yourself and have a thick skin. At best you might find that several people disagree with your opinions, while at worst, you might receive hateful comments on your articles. But I believe that Malvern instils all its pupils with the self-confidence necessary to rise above any online trolling.

Confidence is also important as with freelancing you'll very rarely receive 'formal' praise from an editor or employer. This is unlike a contracted staff role, where you might get a pay rise or have regular meetings about your career progression. Sometimes it's easy to feel demotivated or fall prey to 'impostor syndrome' as a freelancer, but I believe Malvern instils all its pupils with the self-assurance that is necessary to make it.

I think the reason why OMs are so confident in the world of work is largely down to the school's indefatigable members of staff, who provide unwavering support to all pupils. Staff provide such solid pastoral care to pupils and instil them with the belief that with hard work you can achieve anything, and I think being in such a supportive environment during your formative years really does pay dividends.

What are your ambitions?

I work as a content writer on top of freelancing as a journalist, but in future I'd like to be a freelance journalist full-time. I love the idea of being totally in control of my work, in terms of the number of hours I put in and the topics I cover in my writing. Having a work/life balance is also really important to me and there's a lot more freedom in that regard when you're freelancing full-time.

In terms of publications I would like to write for, I'd say that writing regularly for either The Guardian or The New Statesman is definitely a goal of mine. Also, as a lot of my work is published digitally, another goal is to get more of my writing published in print.

What advice would you give to current pupils contemplating working or studying in your field?
I would say write as much as possible - get involved in the student paper if possible (start one if there isn't one!) and try and sustain this after school too. If you go to university, definitely look into writing for a student-led publication. Some universities will have several different publications for you to choose from so you'll be able to find one that best suits you and your interests. Or you can start your own blog. It doesn't matter so much what you write or where you write it, it's mainly just important that you start to hone your writing skills and begin building up a portfolio as soon as possible.

Moreover, it's vital to show editors, employers and clients examples of your writing. If you've gone through school and university and chosen not to get involved on student journalism or not written a single blog post, that'll give off the impression that you're not really serious about pursuing a career in writing. Plus, you may well be an incredible writer, but you'll need 'evidence' in the form of articles or blog posts in order to back up that claim.

It's also important that you write a lot just to make sure that you really do enjoy writing enough to make a career out of it - it can be a difficult industry to break into, so it's essential that you don't feel half-hearted about it.

I would also say that if you're looking to get into journalism, seriously consider freelancing. There are so few graduate schemes, internships, and entry-level staff roles at national papers and magazines that is can often feel as though the industry is impossible to crack. Of course it's possible to land a reporter or editor role at a top newspaper or magazine, but if you don't, it doesn't mean that you're shut out of the journalism industry forever. Freelancing levels the playing field a bit - anyone with internet access and a laptop can have a go at pitching and writing an article.

What advice would you give to current pupils about making the most of their time at Malvern College?

It's important to keep in mind how lucky you are to be attending Malvern College - not everyone is afforded the same opportunities or has access to such great facilities. Try not to feel overwhelmed by everything that's on offer - instead, put time and energy into the parts of school life that you find most rewarding. It's much easier to make the most of your time at school if you focus on a few areas that you genuinely enjoy - try not to spread yourself too thin or force yourself to take part in an extra-curricular activity purely because you think it would look good on your CV. That said, try and say 'yes' to things as often as possible, especially if it's something that's out of your comfort zone.