For the second time in my academic career, I am coming to the end of a degree qualification. Come June, I shall be graduating from student life for the last time, as I finish off my Masters in Science Journalism.
As I prepare to take the promotion from student life to working life, I am faced, for the second time, with the same question: what next?
Yet unlike the first time I asked myself this, I am not looking at deciding upon my next degree qualification. Rather, this thought is now about me choosing how to embark on the first step of my career path. With the shifting focus of this question, comes a second, slightly more paranoid question: am I now more qualified for tackling the world of job hunting?
I came from a zoology undergraduate degree, and having always been involved with my student newspaper during my time at St Andrews, I decided to combine my science background with my love of the written word. The Science Journalism course at City University presented itself to me, and I was very lucky to be offered a place on the programme. I didn't hesitate to accept.
I have spent a year honing my journalistic skills: I have been taught by those who have spent a lifetime in the industry, I have able to network with some incredibly talented individuals, and my link to the university has opened the door to some great internship opportunities. As an individual wanting to become a journalist, I can think of a no more privileged introduction to world of media.
There is no doubt in my mind that this Masters course has enabled me to grasp a true understanding and insight into what the life of a journalist requires and consists of. This is the kind of exposure that I don't believe I would have been privy to, had I not undertaken the course.
However, as my time on this course draws to an end, I find myself dreading the job hunt that waits for me. So far, my applications to graduate schemes and graduate-level jobs have been largely unsuccessful, and this leaves me disheartened and confused. I had been sure that my Masters qualification would put me in a strong position with these applications - does not a Masters equip you with heightened skill-sets, industry experience, and an added flair?
And yet I have not even made it to interview with any of my endeavours. I have good friends who are just completing their undergraduate degrees, or who have decided against further Master degrees, who have been offered the exact jobs that I have been so desperately vying for.
You may argue that they were stronger candidates than me, more suited to the specific job in question. Or it may be the case that the skills that I so proudly associate with my Masters degree are out there are ready to be seized by savvy, intelligent, and hard working individuals who are as eager to break into the world of journalism. If this is true, what are the redeeming factors left in choosing to commit the time and money into a Masters programme?
I don't honestly believe that I am skeptical; in fact I like to think that I really am quite an optimistic person. However I can't shake this niggling feeling that has been creeping upon me that I am not standing out above the thronging sea of job hunters.
In this rather frustrating internal debate I have had raging in my head, I think I have come to a rather underwhelming conclusion: I guess no one can ever be certain whether or not a further degree helps you in this instance. And that is for one reason: people tend to choose one option and simply go with it.
Perhaps my self-doubt stems from comparing myself to my very successful friends who have chosen alternative routes. Perhaps then by that logic I shouldn't compare myself with those on the same route either. I have to be (and am, truly) happy in the route that I have chosen for myself.
All that I can endeavor to remind myself is that, in this year, I have become a better journalist, more skilled in my approach and appreciation, and that I have been given a deep and intimate understanding of the job that I wish to commit to.
Maybe I could have inherited these traits by way of another route, but I chose to obtain them this way. All I can now do is take these skills forward with confidence and conviction. Carpe diem, and all that.