Journalism, Life in general, Serious stuff, topical, what I think, work

Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums…

Pens in hair by Evil Erin via FlickrWhile the UK trend towards rising unemployment for young people has been building since 2000, I have to confess to being a tad unsympathetic.

“Lots of young people are downgrading their aspirations and taking second best. We’re seeing graduates who take on possibly not the job they hope to achieve,” says Paul Brown, director at the Princes Trust, in this article.

And when I left college I wanted to be editor of the New York Times, live in Manhattan and sip cocktails after an exciting day on the news desk. It was never going to happen.

So young people shouldn’t be defeated when they don’t get the job they aspire to straight away or if they have to settle for second best; we all have to start somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. That’s certainly how it was for me.

What’s missing in this day an age – a time where school sports days are seen as stressful and unnecessarily competitive – is the sense of reality, the bigger picture. That if you want to become a fashion designer, a corporate director, a banker, then you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And you have to start early.

Walking out of university with an English Literature degree and saying “hey job market, I’m reading for that career in publishing now” isn’t going to work. What experience do you have? What qualifications do you have? And best of all, have you got a combination of experience and qualifications that absolutely support the path you’re choosing to take?

I’ve read CVs from people who say they’re desperate for a career in media, yet their qualifications and experience say they’re more interested in marketing and sales. The two need to tie up.

And experience is a must. 14-year-olds should be working in some capacity, whether it’s sweeping up hair in a local salon, serving customers in the mini market or waitressing in a café; it adds to your perception of the world of work and teaches you valuable skills, whatever profession you choose to go in at a later date. And it teaches you the value of money, that sometimes you have to work quite hard for not very much.

Yes, it’s potentially stressful to think about a career when you’re just 14 but if getting onto the job market is becoming increasingly competitive – and figures seem to suggest that’s the case – then it’s so important to make sure you stand out.

This isn’t a an attempt to blow my own trumpet but read my CV and you’ll see that all I ever wanted to be was a journalist. From work experience on the Kidderminster Shuttle when I was 14, to the subjects I studied at A Level and to the trainee reporter job I started out in when I was 19, and everything I did in between to support that ambition. No one reading my CV could misinterpret that I wanted to be anything else – so not only is it about qualifications and experience but there needs to be an element of passion there too.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from very early on – after dismissing the idea of being an FBI agent and then an Olympic runner, of course – and did everything possible to make that happen. And I didn’t see it as stressful at the time, or pressured, or even unrealistic – not even when the careers advisor almost fell off her chair laughing at the fact I thought I could become a journalist, rather than the dog groomer role a useless careers-type survey had predicted for me.

So, I made sure I did my work experience (arranged via school) at two local newspapers and, despite being painfully shy at 14 I asked the reporters there what to study at college, whether to go to university or not, and the best options for getting a job. And that’s what I did.

I also whittled off letters to lots of local newspaper editors and asked them the best way to get into journalism. And I got lots of feedback, from the people who knew, the people who’d already been in my position and were now doing the job. You can’t get any better advice than that! And I’ve been working as a journalist since I was 19 – so it worked.

It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, and I’m not suggesting every case is as cut and dried as I’m making it sound, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance and that means making connections, creating opportunities and gaining experience as early as possible. And social media is a great enabler.

PS I know this doesn’t apply to all graduates and that there are some super talented folk out there who can’t get a job and it utterly sucks. And I’m only referring to journalism here because that’s the career path I chose. It’s tough deciding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and I am lucky, I knew from an early age and followed a path. For those who don’t know what they want to do, it’s even tougher.  So maybe the title of this blog is harsh; my lack of sympathy is only towards those who expect the world for very little effort. If only.

Picture by Evil Erin via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

PS Be grateful for opportunities presented to you, make the most of them and be prepared to start at the bottom. And NEVER get your mum to write your work experience letters for you!

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7 Comments

  • Reply Oliver Pelling November 23, 2011 at 3:12 am

    With all due respect, I think you’re missing the point. I’m a recent graduate myself and believe it or not, we’re not thick. We know the job market in the UK is – for want of a better word – fucked, and I don’t think there’s a single student out there that honestly believes they’re going to roll straight out of their journalism BA and into the job of their dreams.

    We’re told at university to set up websites for ourselves, to start blogging, to get published in as many places as possible and to start stacking up those crucial internships. The majority of my classmates who did those things are still struggling to get their on the journalism ladder. As far as I’m concerned, finishing uni and going into ANY journalism role, no matter how far down the ladder it may be, is still a dream scenario.

    We’re not talking about people dreaming of editing NME but having to settle for MoJo, or even winding up as a staff writer for either. We’re talking about someone hoping for an entry-level journalism job (I’d quite happily make tea as long as I was in a journalism environment) but having to wait tables or work in retail while they apply for jobs relentlessly.

    I know a whole bunch of talented, hardworking young journalists that are beginning to get a little disillusioned at just how hard it is to make headway in the industry. This is a situation that’s make that much worse by the fact that a lot of these graduates are doing all the right things.

    After spending three years and £27k on my journalism degree, I’m currently working 32 hours a week in a cafe, and freelancing with the rest of my time. Most of the places I write for don’t pay me, and most of the ones that do don’t pay much (unless 0.5p a word is industry standard).

    Despite my day job, I am a journalist and I’m not going to give up. I don’t think anything is owed to me, nor do I think I should expect anything to come easy. In fact, I almost like that it’s so hard because it makes it that much more desirable. The trouble is, it’s not a case of journalist talent having to start at the bottom and work their way up, it’s a case of journalistic talent wasting their days working menial jobs. In the meantime, wealthier graduates have the luxury of being able to suck up as many three-month, unpaid internships as they like, which in turn helps boost their CVs miles ahead of the pack. There’s a statistic somewhere that says over 50% of those working on the upmarket newspapers/magazines were privately educated and without wanting to get political, that’s not cool man. That’s not cool at all.

  • Reply Oliver Pelling November 23, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Obviously I meant “get on the journalism ladder”…

  • Reply Matthew November 23, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Understand fully the point you’re making but I don’t think you are really looking at the bigger picture yourself.

    Sure, Journalism, like many career paths, is all about achieving position based on merit etc (unless you walk out of Oxbridge) but you do injustice to many graduates on the job market at the moment. Maybe you’re slightly out of touch with what the requirements are these days, maybe not. However, when you’re told you need a minimum of 6 months experience on your tarted up CV to gain a foothold in the most basic of roles (junior reporter/staffer), usually gained from unpaid internships, you can expect them to grumble. Plenty are working two jobs to make rent. Don’t forget after adding the £30k plus you’ve spent getting a degree (which is usually vital may I add), you may actually start to wonder whether you’re overqualified? Maybe, maybe not.

    The point is many fine young journalists are struggling in a saturated market. It’s naive to assume grads all want to jump in headfirst to a job on a huge national, or a glossy mag; what most really want is to actually gain a steady wage – something that looks next to impossible these days. Lord knows we’ve worked hard enough already.

  • Reply robynbateman November 23, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Hey both

    Thanks for your comments. What I probably didn’t make clear is that I’m talking about all jobs here, not just jobs for journalists and I do indeed recognise journalism is a hugely competitive profession beyond some others and so much tougher to break into, especially given the number of people willing to do it for free.

    My belief is that all young people striving for jobs should do their absolute best to get one by getting the combination of qualifications and experience necessary and by adding anything to their CV that’s going to help them; and this is based on my own experience of both getting on the journalism ladder (albeit a while ago now!) and interviewing newbie journalists. Some just think a degree is enough to get them in, and it isn’t.

    And obviously my post doesn’t apply to all – no doubt about it there are grafters out there who are doing their utmost to get the job they strive for, but my lack of sympathy lies with those who expect a job to be handed to them on a plate, and I’ve met a lot of them.

    What I’m not saying is that getting a job is easy but that lots of people could do more to give themselves a fighting chance.

    Certainly, it’s tougher for journalists with many people willing and/or expected to write for free – Oliver, sounds like you have first experience of this and I sympathise.

    Oliver and Matthew, I wish you the best of luck with your future careers; it sounds like you both have fire in your belly and that’s a good start.

  • Reply Sam November 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Your claim that journalism is ‘so much tougher to break into’ than other professions is staggeringly ill-informed. There are currently 1 million young people unemployed in the UK. You would be misguided to think competition is any less fierce in other professions.

    And as for your dislike of those ‘who expect a job to be handed to them on a plate’: perhaps it is more of an expectation that the degree they worked hard to gain is a qualification and would allow them to aspire to more. Doubtless this belief will be squashed after months of unemployment and/or unpaid internships so you have little to be afraid of.

    I think there is more at stake here than you being irked by a few blue-eyed applicants who haven’t brewed enough tea or licked enough boots for you to consider “experienced”. Truly, if you are in a position to help these young people to avoid the hell of having to work full-time for no pay for extended periods of time and instead are chastising them for their audacity to expect their hard work in university to have been meaningful, you are a massive shit-head.

    Perhaps, as a journalist, you should spend some time reading and interpreting the news. Maybe then you’ll be fit to pass judgement on these aspiring graduates, whose only crime was to assume that their £27,000 degree qualified them to do a job.

  • Reply robynbateman November 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I would respond to you Sam but you called me a shit-head and made it personal. We’re all entitled to our opinions and mine is no more or less valid than anyone else’s. This is a personal blog and the posts are written as such.

  • Reply Careers December 10, 2011 at 9:49 am

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    Journalism, Life in general, Serious stuff, topical, what I think, work

    Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums…

    Pens in hair by Evil Erin via FlickrWhile the UK trend towards rising unemployment for young people has been building since 2000, I have to confess to being a tad unsympathetic.

    “Lots of young people are downgrading their aspirations and taking second best. We’re seeing graduates who take on possibly not the job they hope to achieve,” says Paul Brown, director at the Princes Trust, in this article.

    And when I left college I wanted to be editor of the New York Times, live in Manhattan and sip cocktails after an exciting day on the news desk. It was never going to happen.

    So young people shouldn’t be defeated when they don’t get the job they aspire to straight away or if they have to settle for second best; we all have to start somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. That’s certainly how it was for me.

    What’s missing in this day an age – a time where school sports days are seen as stressful and unnecessarily competitive – is the sense of reality, the bigger picture. That if you want to become a fashion designer, a corporate director, a banker, then you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And you have to start early.

    Walking out of university with an English Literature degree and saying “hey job market, I’m reading for that career in publishing now” isn’t going to work. What experience do you have? What qualifications do you have? And best of all, have you got a combination of experience and qualifications that absolutely support the path you’re choosing to take?

    I’ve read CVs from people who say they’re desperate for a career in media, yet their qualifications and experience say they’re more interested in marketing and sales. The two need to tie up.

    And experience is a must. 14-year-olds should be working in some capacity, whether it’s sweeping up hair in a local salon, serving customers in the mini market or waitressing in a café; it adds to your perception of the world of work and teaches you valuable skills, whatever profession you choose to go in at a later date. And it teaches you the value of money, that sometimes you have to work quite hard for not very much.

    Yes, it’s potentially stressful to think about a career when you’re just 14 but if getting onto the job market is becoming increasingly competitive – and figures seem to suggest that’s the case – then it’s so important to make sure you stand out.

    This isn’t a an attempt to blow my own trumpet but read my CV and you’ll see that all I ever wanted to be was a journalist. From work experience on the Kidderminster Shuttle when I was 14, to the subjects I studied at A Level and to the trainee reporter job I started out in when I was 19, and everything I did in between to support that ambition. No one reading my CV could misinterpret that I wanted to be anything else – so not only is it about qualifications and experience but there needs to be an element of passion there too.

    I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from very early on – after dismissing the idea of being an FBI agent and then an Olympic runner, of course – and did everything possible to make that happen. And I didn’t see it as stressful at the time, or pressured, or even unrealistic – not even when the careers advisor almost fell off her chair laughing at the fact I thought I could become a journalist, rather than the dog groomer role a useless careers-type survey had predicted for me.

    So, I made sure I did my work experience (arranged via school) at two local newspapers and, despite being painfully shy at 14 I asked the reporters there what to study at college, whether to go to university or not, and the best options for getting a job. And that’s what I did.

    I also whittled off letters to lots of local newspaper editors and asked them the best way to get into journalism. And I got lots of feedback, from the people who knew, the people who’d already been in my position and were now doing the job. You can’t get any better advice than that! And I’ve been working as a journalist since I was 19 – so it worked.

    It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, and I’m not suggesting every case is as cut and dried as I’m making it sound, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance and that means making connections, creating opportunities and gaining experience as early as possible. And social media is a great enabler.

    PS I know this doesn’t apply to all graduates and that there are some super talented folk out there who can’t get a job and it utterly sucks. And I’m only referring to journalism here because that’s the career path I chose. It’s tough deciding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and I am lucky, I knew from an early age and followed a path. For those who don’t know what they want to do, it’s even tougher.  So maybe the title of this blog is harsh; my lack of sympathy is only towards those who expect the world for very little effort. If only.

    Picture by Evil Erin via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

    PS Be grateful for opportunities presented to you, make the most of them and be prepared to start at the bottom. And NEVER get your mum to write your work experience letters for you!

    Previous Post Next Post

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    7 Comments

  • Reply Oliver Pelling November 23, 2011 at 3:12 am

    With all due respect, I think you’re missing the point. I’m a recent graduate myself and believe it or not, we’re not thick. We know the job market in the UK is – for want of a better word – fucked, and I don’t think there’s a single student out there that honestly believes they’re going to roll straight out of their journalism BA and into the job of their dreams.

    We’re told at university to set up websites for ourselves, to start blogging, to get published in as many places as possible and to start stacking up those crucial internships. The majority of my classmates who did those things are still struggling to get their on the journalism ladder. As far as I’m concerned, finishing uni and going into ANY journalism role, no matter how far down the ladder it may be, is still a dream scenario.

    We’re not talking about people dreaming of editing NME but having to settle for MoJo, or even winding up as a staff writer for either. We’re talking about someone hoping for an entry-level journalism job (I’d quite happily make tea as long as I was in a journalism environment) but having to wait tables or work in retail while they apply for jobs relentlessly.

    I know a whole bunch of talented, hardworking young journalists that are beginning to get a little disillusioned at just how hard it is to make headway in the industry. This is a situation that’s make that much worse by the fact that a lot of these graduates are doing all the right things.

    After spending three years and £27k on my journalism degree, I’m currently working 32 hours a week in a cafe, and freelancing with the rest of my time. Most of the places I write for don’t pay me, and most of the ones that do don’t pay much (unless 0.5p a word is industry standard).

    Despite my day job, I am a journalist and I’m not going to give up. I don’t think anything is owed to me, nor do I think I should expect anything to come easy. In fact, I almost like that it’s so hard because it makes it that much more desirable. The trouble is, it’s not a case of journalist talent having to start at the bottom and work their way up, it’s a case of journalistic talent wasting their days working menial jobs. In the meantime, wealthier graduates have the luxury of being able to suck up as many three-month, unpaid internships as they like, which in turn helps boost their CVs miles ahead of the pack. There’s a statistic somewhere that says over 50% of those working on the upmarket newspapers/magazines were privately educated and without wanting to get political, that’s not cool man. That’s not cool at all.

  • Reply Oliver Pelling November 23, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Obviously I meant “get on the journalism ladder”…

  • Reply Matthew November 23, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Understand fully the point you’re making but I don’t think you are really looking at the bigger picture yourself.

    Sure, Journalism, like many career paths, is all about achieving position based on merit etc (unless you walk out of Oxbridge) but you do injustice to many graduates on the job market at the moment. Maybe you’re slightly out of touch with what the requirements are these days, maybe not. However, when you’re told you need a minimum of 6 months experience on your tarted up CV to gain a foothold in the most basic of roles (junior reporter/staffer), usually gained from unpaid internships, you can expect them to grumble. Plenty are working two jobs to make rent. Don’t forget after adding the £30k plus you’ve spent getting a degree (which is usually vital may I add), you may actually start to wonder whether you’re overqualified? Maybe, maybe not.

    The point is many fine young journalists are struggling in a saturated market. It’s naive to assume grads all want to jump in headfirst to a job on a huge national, or a glossy mag; what most really want is to actually gain a steady wage – something that looks next to impossible these days. Lord knows we’ve worked hard enough already.

  • Reply robynbateman November 23, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Hey both

    Thanks for your comments. What I probably didn’t make clear is that I’m talking about all jobs here, not just jobs for journalists and I do indeed recognise journalism is a hugely competitive profession beyond some others and so much tougher to break into, especially given the number of people willing to do it for free.

    My belief is that all young people striving for jobs should do their absolute best to get one by getting the combination of qualifications and experience necessary and by adding anything to their CV that’s going to help them; and this is based on my own experience of both getting on the journalism ladder (albeit a while ago now!) and interviewing newbie journalists. Some just think a degree is enough to get them in, and it isn’t.

    And obviously my post doesn’t apply to all – no doubt about it there are grafters out there who are doing their utmost to get the job they strive for, but my lack of sympathy lies with those who expect a job to be handed to them on a plate, and I’ve met a lot of them.

    What I’m not saying is that getting a job is easy but that lots of people could do more to give themselves a fighting chance.

    Certainly, it’s tougher for journalists with many people willing and/or expected to write for free – Oliver, sounds like you have first experience of this and I sympathise.

    Oliver and Matthew, I wish you the best of luck with your future careers; it sounds like you both have fire in your belly and that’s a good start.

  • Reply Sam November 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Your claim that journalism is ‘so much tougher to break into’ than other professions is staggeringly ill-informed. There are currently 1 million young people unemployed in the UK. You would be misguided to think competition is any less fierce in other professions.

    And as for your dislike of those ‘who expect a job to be handed to them on a plate’: perhaps it is more of an expectation that the degree they worked hard to gain is a qualification and would allow them to aspire to more. Doubtless this belief will be squashed after months of unemployment and/or unpaid internships so you have little to be afraid of.

    I think there is more at stake here than you being irked by a few blue-eyed applicants who haven’t brewed enough tea or licked enough boots for you to consider “experienced”. Truly, if you are in a position to help these young people to avoid the hell of having to work full-time for no pay for extended periods of time and instead are chastising them for their audacity to expect their hard work in university to have been meaningful, you are a massive shit-head.

    Perhaps, as a journalist, you should spend some time reading and interpreting the news. Maybe then you’ll be fit to pass judgement on these aspiring graduates, whose only crime was to assume that their £27,000 degree qualified them to do a job.

  • Reply robynbateman November 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I would respond to you Sam but you called me a shit-head and made it personal. We’re all entitled to our opinions and mine is no more or less valid than anyone else’s. This is a personal blog and the posts are written as such.

  • Reply Careers December 10, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Careers…

    […]Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums… « Robyn's Nest[…]…

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