In our university newspaper, we have just run a column entitled 'Careers are for Christmas'. I don't think I have ever read anything so depressing in my whole life.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that at the moment every single conversation I have, no matter who it is with, turns into an extended lamentation by one or other of us on the horrible state of the graduate job market. It usually starts with someone talking about their latest rejection, or the horrible numerical test they just failed, or the grad scheme they really really thought they'd be perfect for who didn't even invite them to interview, and ends with one of us re-enacting the bit from The Shining where she's hiding in the bathroom, crying. Only instead of Jack Nicholson with an axe, it's our deep rooted and debilitating fear of failure that's coming to get us.
And honestly, once I've picked whoever it is off the floor, made them some hot chocolate and sat them in front of a restorative episode of Peep Show, I usually sit for a while and just feel a bit sad. I'm surrounded by bright, idealistic, interesting, hardworking young people, and that all we're being told is that we're not good enough, and that even though we've spent almost every holiday since we were 17 doing work experience and interning for free, because we don't have that qualification, or this skill, or that type of experience on our meticulously drafted CVs, we don't stand a chance in the job market.
The pressure to try and get 'sorted' early is heavy, and it's even worse for those of us who want to work in the media. Apart from the big nationals and the BBC, most entry-level media jobs and internships seem to work on a short-term rolling basis, advertising for vacancies when they have them and no earlier, so all we can do for the time being is stock up on student media and arrange as much holiday work experience as we can manage. And all you ever hear is how competitive the industry is, and how versatile and experienced you have to be to even stand a chance.
A family friend told me that when he was looking for a job in journalism 30 years ago, having edited your university paper was a guaranteed ticket into a national. Nowadays, it seems, to even stand a chance you not only need student media experience at the highest level, endless (inevitably unpaid) work experience on local papers, and usually some experience on a national level, but also technological and data journalism skills as well as evidence of extensive blogging.
It's true that we seem to have to work harder than our parents, or even our older siblings did. More is expected of us, and we are required to work for less and for longer than ten years ago. And with the media in its current state of upheaval, no-one really even knows what kind of industry we'll be joining, or whether the media in its current form will even exist. Leveson, the decline in printed news, the increasingly blurred line between blogging and online news, and the unstoppable juggernaut that is social media in all its forms, means that there is a great big question mark over what the future holds.
I have decided one thing that made me feel slightly better. I confess that last week I briefly caved and applied for a well-known consultancy firm. I regretted it immediately, even (I swear) before they sent me a cursory rejection. It was almost a relief. Giving in to the compulsion to apply early to everything you can get your hands on is a recipe for half-hearted applications and inevitable disappointment.
Sticking to what you love can be scary, and there's always the chance that it won't work out, but it's worth it. After applying to a few grad schemes that I find genuinely interesting, and preparing some postgraduate applications, I'm taking a deep breath and steeling myself for seven months of waiting before going for internships over the summer, and actually, making this decision has been a huge relief. Resilience in the face of rejection is definitely necessary for success, but often even more important is patience, and a bloody-minded refusal to give up on what you really want. It seems that to succeed in breaking into the media, you need all three in spades.
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