Monday, 30 December 2013

Getting into journalism: a realist's guide

Call me a masochist, but I’ve spent a fair proportion of this morning (and the last six months, come to think of it) reading soul-destroying accounts of countless failed attempts to make it as a journalist in the oh-so elusive media world. In order to save you a similar time spent googling/ spiralling into misery and despair, here are what I have ascertained are the essential minimum requirements to counteract such failure:

A whole lotta luck: Whether it’s being in the right place at the right time, just happening to have seen that unofficial job advertisement on Twitter, or your new girlfriend’s Dad being the editor of a national newspaper…lady luck needs to be on your side, big time. Considering the fact that luck is something no amount of hard work/even money can ever guarantee, it is advisable to train your fingers to remain crossed as you sleep.

Virtuosity in its most famous form – patience: When I graduated in July, my cut-off date before I gave up on attempting to find permanent employment in an editorial-related field was the end of August. PAH! Aw, naïve younger self – how cute and blindly optimistic you were. Those horror stories of people working for no money, who were still without unemployment after two years that you scoffed at and vowed would NEVER be you, as an undergraduate? Yeah, that could definitely be you.

Money money money/ location location location: I read somewhere recently that while daddy used to buy his little girl a pony, nowadays, he buys her a column. Journalism is now unfortunately one of THE most socially exclusive professions. I have never once owned a pony, and not simply because I am ridiculously allergic to horses, but also because I'm sadly far from rich. I AM very lucky to live in London, however, which means that I've been able to mooch off of the continued generosity and patience of my parents, who've allowed me to be fed and watered while I commute to internships/interviews from the burbs. I also have a part-time job, the same one I’ve been doing since I was 17, and without which I certainly would not be writing this post, 6 months since I donned that silly cap and gown.  

Foolish (?) optimism: Your glass must remain half-full as long as you continue to look for a job. When reading the memoirs of successful writers who recount their first foray into journalism, for instance, you should try and draw inspiration from them, instead of merely feeling a sinking feeling at the realisation that unlike say, Lynn Barber, whose first job she gained after successfully spelling the words ‘haemorrhage’ and ‘diarrhoea’ (which HEY I also just did without using spellcheck!!!!) to an editor, you don’t actually live in the 60s.

The thickest of skins: Prepare to accept that you are the smallest of fish in the biggest of ponds, and therefore have a lot to prove. Prepare, in addition, to be ignored – a friend of mine who is also interning recently identified the general amount of time it takes for people to actually talk to you during an internship (after the initial introductions) at approximately 3 whole weeks. 3 weeks of merely carrying out orders and shrinking into yourself, and wondering if you might have some sort of social disorder which means no one wants to have an actual conversation with you.

Thinking about it, the people you’re working with probably aren’t unsympathetic monsters, but merely accustomed to seeing a stream of new faces come and go throughout the year - so you can't blame them too much for not overly investing in you. The objective then must be to make sure they remember your ugly mug! How you do this is up to you, but I’m guessing hard work and the old cliché ‘going the extra mile’ are the way to go – as opposed to the tempting alternatives of stamping your feet and yelling ‘DON’T YOU REALISE I HAVE FEEEEELINGS’ or, of course, muffled sobs in the toilet.

Courage, hard work, resilience, tenacity, talent, the odds being ever in your favour…: Essentially, yes, all of the qualities of a Hunger Games champion, short of the ability to murder someone.