Unless you are Buddha, or aspiring to become one, it is almost impossible not to be affected by news that a former classmate, who did the same journalism course as you, has landed a job….
Every classmate who finds work and leaves the boat behind – the boat of miserable unemployed whingers – triggers mixed feelings of joy and sorrow. Why him? Why her? Why not me?
I never expected the perfect job to fall from the skies, but I wasn’t prepared for 10 months of doom and gloom either. The more time elapses after graduation, the harder it is to keep the motivation up to even continue looking.
“[A] recent graduate told me that only three of his coursemates from a year of 75 had jobs lined up – two of them in PR.”
This doesn’t surprise me. Out of 23 classmates in my fast-track course, I reckon four to five people (approx.20%) found employment during or shortly after the course, one in PR. That was last year. I guesstimate their average success rate for journalism jobs now at two to three students each term, and not always working as reporters or subs.
For the school, even one journalism student with a job is worth two in the (unemployment) bush. Because it makes excellent PR, you will hear those success stories being trumpeted again and again by your tutors, along with any news on NCTJ student awards and nominations.
No one will give you an update on how the remaining 20-odd jobless graduates are making ends meet.
When you are unemployed, skint, with a stash of unpaid bills piling up on the kitchen table, facing the dreary early evenings as winter sets in, those two or three annoucements feel like a dagger to the heart.
You know what I mean. Even though it was one or two in a class of 25, it still sounds as if everyone else in the world – but you – has got a job and is living happily ever after. Your mind plays tricks on your perception of reality, making things look bigger than they are.
Don’t believe the trickster. The truth is the majority of journalism graduates are not managing to get their foot in the door.
A youth-friendly path
I think we all agree journalism is elitist and those with private education and financial means to do a few months’ work placements in Fleet Street end up having the edge over the rest of us, working class paupers.
So who is getting the jobs? The Oxbridge graduates? The ones with flats in London who did internships at the BBC and the Guardian? The WASPs? The ones with the right accent? The younger ones?
Certainly the younger ones.
In a way, being young and fancy-free is an advantage. If you haven’t got a mortgage, or a partner/children to take into account, you could move from Brighton to Manchester, if necessary, for a first job. You could live on lower wages, just because it hasn’t been long since you left school, and you still have those “shoestring budget” survival skills. Overall, a younger person has fewer restrictions to tie them down.
Too old to be a journalist?!
For mature students like myself, who have already been working for a good many years, built up a career in a different field, achieved a certain level of income and social status, going round knocking on journalistic doors for a first job, with wages that may not even cover your rent, is a much tougher call. We have neither the time nor the recklessness of youth on our side.
I am not using age as an excuse for my status, nor do I regret my mid-life choice to pursue journalism over a cushy jet-setting managerial job in publishing until retirement. At 22, I would not have been as ready and determined as I am now.
Never a right time
Former accountant Nigel Barlow decided to move into journalism at the age of 42. Last June he wrote in Journalism.co.uk:
“For me it’s the right time to become a journalist.”
I agree. It is not about whether there is a recession or not. It is about being the right time for you. In your life, was this the right moment? And if your decision came from the heart, the answer will most likely be yes. You can read Nigel’s full article here.
Back in the boat, like in a circle of spinster friends, where everyone dreads being the last to marry, we all long to catch that bride’s bouquet and turn luck to our side.
With trepidation I too await my Darcy equivalent of a job. When I find him, my schadenfreude says he might just be a little bit richer and better-looking than my classmate’s catch.
…If you are an older journalism graduate, please share your thoughts on this with us by leaving a comment below.
- A job for the wealthy and connected by Peter Wilby (Guardian)
- Greenslade on working-class journalists (Student Journalism Blog)
- Too old to become a journalist (Journalism.co.uk blog – at 28?! Surely not…)