Sometimes it’s hard to shake that nagging sensation in the back of our minds – where do we go from here? We’ve exhausted every avenue, walked down seemingly every path that our ambitions and hopes tell us will lead us to work. And yet still, we find ourselves shut out in the cold – a knowing sense of dread rising up from the pit of our stomachs; will things ever work out for us?
It’s fair to say we’ve probably all felt like this at one point or other. With the papers tolling a perpetual litany of increasingly depressing employment figures, it’s hard not to lose heart in the search for work in the media industry.
I’ve lost count of the number of young graduates I’ve seen on Twitter, broadcasting their woes about how they can’t even secure a single internship and are thinking about jacking in their dreams of a media job and resigning themselves to years of call-centre drudgery. And then there was the story on the Guardian last year of the woman who had been rejected from 200 job applications.
A bleak picture, all in all – but it doesn’t have to be like this, and aspiring writers certainly don’t have to give in to dispiriting belief that they’re ‘just not cut out for it’.
I see so many young people keen to ‘get into journalism’ as if it’s something that can only be done once you’ve left education, something that you can slip on like a new pair of clothes and suddenly become. The truth is, the people I’ve seen fare best in the cut and thrust of the journalistic world are those that have plugged themselves in to the media-sphere since before they even began university – they’re acting pre-emptively, ingratiating themselves with fellow journalists and striking up rich contact networks.
It’s this, perhaps more than anything else that provides that solace when all other avenues seem to be turning up as dead ends. With a friendly face in the industry on hand to offer advice, you’re provided with a springboard to hurdle onwards, rather than hitting brick walls again and again.
Last summer, after three months of job-searching with nothing much to show for my efforts (including one placement application where I’d been declined for failing to include a celebrity’s age in my sample article), I was feeling pretty low.
But tempted to a drinks do by a PR pal, I got chatting to a writer, who when I explained my situation, was eager to offer me a month-long placement at their magazine. Shortly after that, a friend on my university newspaper also introduced me to the editor of a popular review blog, and I began writing regularly for them to.
Sometimes, opportunities present themselves at the most surprising of times, even when you feel like there’s nothing out there for you. The key is to never give up hope – if you’re serious about working in the media industry, you need to be in it for the long haul.
If I could give one piece of advice to youngsters keen to get into journalism, it’d be that you absolutely need to be moving in these circles before you even find a job. Without that contact network, you’re out on your own, with nothing to separate you from the hundreds of others all gunning for the same roles. You need those fall-back opportunities, you need to be constantly writing, never stopping, never relenting.
One of the simplest, yet truest aphorisms I’ve ever read regarding writing is from Stephen King, who advises; ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.’ And in the age of Twitter and an internet populated by a galaxy of high-quality blogs; that’s never been easier.
There will always be opportunities to write for an audience, and if you’re able to immerse yourself in that process on a regular basis, the rest will follow naturally.
Laurence is currently serving as the Music Editor of The Book Magazine and as a writer for Music OMH. He has also interned at Popjustice, Q, NME and We Love Pop magazine. He runs his own music blog, and Tweets here…
Photo on front page courtesy of Event Photo China
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