Reading a piece on Wannabe Hacks a few weeks ago, on staying motivated and remaining connected to journalism, made me practice what she preached.
I have, for a long time, been insistent on not accepting unpaid work placements. Two separate stints at a regional newspaper, a national magazine, maintaining an unpaid position with a website for more than two-and-a-half years, along with countless unpaid freelance spots, and I was done. Especially after successfully graduating my Masters in August, I had had enough. However, with a distinct lack of paid gigs being offered what hope did I have?
Several interviews had been attended, and I was still struggling. It was time to get forceful. Following one meeting with a magazine publisher I was politely emailed with those familiar words; there were more suitable blah blah blah. Unsatisfied I called the office to tell them they'd made a mistake. This is not usually in my nature, but my tether had ended long ago. The interviewer said he would discuss the desperate phone call with the other editors and get back to me. When I called again a few days later, he offered me an unpaid work placement to see how well I worked.
Reluctantly I agreed. My hesitance was to do with being disgruntled at the prospect of putting in thankless hours, only to be turned away after two weeks, with nothing but another line on my CV, which despite what friends and family said, felt like it had lost all meaning. Part of my frustration stemmed from the fact that the only copy I had produced in the previous six months was regurgitating meaningless crap about my life, my valued experience and my now failing ability to stay focused.
The truth of the matter is, the work experience saved me. By the end of my first day I had written news. News, ladies and gentleman. Something new. Can you imagine? Later that week, the editorial team headed to the pub and invited me, and we spoke about journalism. Journalism. We debated, argued, agreed and disagreed. Had it been up to us, we would have solved every ruddy problem in the media industry today, including the issue of unpaid internships.
I still don't entirely agree with the idea of working for free, but during this unpaid work placement I had managed to unwittingly complete five different tasks I recently read.
1. News, News, News
I had written original content for a published magazine and checked into a creative part of my brain that had become very dusty.
2. Argue with everyone
Leveson wouldn't have taken so long if he heard the discussion we'd had down the pub.
3. Guest post, guest post everywhere
I may have written for this site once or twice before, but it's damn good to be creating content for Wannabe Hacks again.
4. Set yourself goals
Writing new content for a magazine has refreshed my creativity, and I have plans for new content featuring world-conquering insight.
5. Be extremely patient
... well I'm not perfect, but I'm working on it.
All in all, Nicole and the rest of these Wannabe Hacks know what they're talking about, but during my work placement, I learnt an even more valuable lesson; never think you are beyond working unpaid, BUT carefully consider who it is you work unpaid for. I don't plan on whoring my byline about, but for the right publication, on the right subject, it may do more than fill a couple of columns in a newspaper or produce a few re-tweets.
Since the placement, the very same magazine publisher posted an advert for a paid job. They required someone to complete many of the same tasks I was doing each day as a thankless work experience fob. I called the same editor that offered me the placement, and I have since been hired as a Sub-Editor. So maybe there's another thing to take away from it all, don't be afraid to be forceful, or break the rules a little bit.