Sydney Writers' Festival takes Claire Keenan from intern to industry professional

| 14 Oct 2020

Have questions?

We’re here to help. Get personalised advice from our friendly Future Student Advisors. Connect with us by phone, chat with us online or send us an enquiry.

Ask us a question

For UNSW alumna Claire Keenan, the opportunity to work for the 2019 Sydney Writers’ Festival “ticked all the boxes in terms of internship dreams.”

Claire completed a three-month internship at the Festival while she studied a Bachelor of Media (Communication & Journalism). UNSW is proud of its long-standing partnership with the Sydney Writers' Festival, which was built on a mutual commitment to exploring big ideas, creating new knowledge and tackling social issues. As one of world’s leading literary institutions, the Festival attracts hundreds of renowned writers, journalists and public figures from across the globe. It was the perfect internship match for Claire, as it covered all the things she loves: literature, creativity, politics and popular culture.

To secure a job in the media, you need industry experience – and lots of it. This was the advice Claire’s lecturers emphasised from day one of her degree. But with so many qualified graduates competing for the same roles, it’s the quality and depth of your industry experience that can truly give you a competitive edge. As Claire discovered, not all internships are created equal. She searched for an opportunity that would be engaging, fulfilling and ultimately make her more employable. She took on a role as a junior publicist at the Festival, where she gained valuable exposure to the media industry. 

“I started the job with no experience as a publicist, let alone for Australia’s largest literary event. However, I learnt quickly that I had to diligently ask questions, and that this was definitely a ‘learn as you go’ type job,” she explains.

Bustling bookshop at the 2019 Sydney Writer's Festival
Festival bookshop brings a flurry of readers. Photo: Prudence Upton

Claire managed to strike a balance between full-time study, working in the office twice a week and being in constant contact with 35 rural partners and external local media outlets. She credits her media courses for developing her writing skills and preparing her to communicate in the media sphere. These foundational skills proved crucial to her role at the Festival, which involved writing media releases and coordinating interviews with journalists and radio hosts. She quickly picked up the ins-and-outs of interview bookings, mastered the art of efficient emailing and refined her professional writing skills. Working for a high-profile literary event taught her what it takes to be successful in the media industry: confidence, organisation and adaptability. 

The Sydney Writers’ Festival was Claire’s first step into a big industry. With that step came newfound confidence, motivation and a clearer picture of her future career path. The internship solidified Claire’s passion for writing and connected her with journalists, giving her insight into the career she wanted to pursue. Empowered by the experience, Claire started sending articles home to Griffith, where they were published in her local paper. She was able to start building an impressive CV and become a versatile media professional, all before she’d even graduated. 

Claire’s internship paid off and she was hired as a publicist for the Festival the following year. She then landed her current role as a producer and host of The Junkee Takeaway - a daily youth news show published by Junkee Media on Facebook and Instagram. Claire’s industry experience and career-focused education equipped her with the tools she needed to launch a successful media career. Where could that combination take you next?

Explore UNSW's Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities