As a training fashion journalist, I cannot decide if being a student in today's economic climate is a good or a bad thing. From a selfish point of view university has, for the last 3 years, protected me from the outside world; at present I have no idea how difficult it's going to be to try and find a job, nor do I fully appreciate how tiring a 9-5 role can be.
In some people's eyes, university is simply a comfort blanket, shielding young and immature students from the harshness of everyday life. And to some extent I agree, however university is only a temporary learning option − a waiting game if you like− until (fingers crossed) an employment opportunity becomes available. It has become immensely difficult to secure a future and ascertain what key skills will set you aside from other candidates graduating from university and entering the industry. And so an important question has been posed: What is it that employers are really looking for from today's students and graduates?
I landed myself today in a rather fiery debate, which left me feeling incredibly deflated, offended and confused. A clash of journalistic opinions questioned whether the following of 'tick-box' criteria, achieving high grades and graduating from university with a first class degree or similar was more worthwhile than challenging your creative mind and exploring a thought process that may not conclude in a good final grade. I'm not saying the two cannot be combined and of course all students aim to leave university with a grade suitable enough to find employment: what would be the point of 3 years in further education otherwise? It is a difficult debate as the creative industry − fashion in particular − is renowned for being competitive and today's employers are on continuous look out for something (or someone) new, fresh and exciting. The market is a shaky one and as an outsider trying to break in, it is a challenge to know what qualities editors and such like find desirable for the few, select jobs that are available.
Journalism can be, ultimately, whatever you want it to be. Some of the most brilliant pieces I've read have spiralled out of control and founded new guidelines; they're rude and obnoxious, yet are incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time. A great piece need not be typical lines on a page: words can be scattered in an in orderly fashion, or read right to left in different shapes and sizes across multiple pages. It is true that writing is an art form and with the help of some great tutors my mind has been opened to the endless possibilities. However, what a piece of writing can be to one person may be an entirely different piece of writing to another. Opinion is a powerful emotion and ultimately the success of a piece is determined by reaction and opinion.
Fortunately as a fashion journalist, there are specific guidelines to meet when writing certain pieces. A catwalk report is a good example of this: structure, terminology and an awareness of previous collections are key components to consider and include. Even in this example however, a report needs to have character, flavour and colour to make it one worth reading and one people will remember. It's the same for news reports. There will always be a guideline to follow; it's up to the journalist however whether they choose to follow it.
Breaking the rules can be exciting: an innovative idea can be incredibly exhilarating and often leads to a great piece of work. I came away from today's debate determined to take a risk and see where it gets me. I am still unsure as to whether a great imagination or a first in my degree will make me more desirable to employers; it is a gamble that may or may not pay off. Jobs are not as available as they used to be and I'm cautious not to hinder my chances by stepping out of my comfort zone and presenting a piece of work lacking in confidence. But perhaps this is what I need to do.
Perhaps this is the gamble the industry has been waiting for?
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