Media recruiting tips: graduates beware

This article first appeared in Press Gazette

I have just watched BBC3’s “Up for Hire.“ Four young unemployed people were given an opportunity to show how they would work under different circumstances. I found it quite depressing: not least because it served to underline prejudices about media degrees and media graduates.

Kirsty, one of the four candidates, had graduated in Newspaper and Online Journalism. She was disappointed because she had “paid a lot of money” and couldn’t get the job she wanted in the media. She also mentioned she didn’t like being “told off” or in a team: “I like working on my own really – that’s got something to do with me wanting to be a reporter.” The inability to take direction or collaborate seem pretty large barriers to entry in any career – especially journalism.

In the second episode, the audience were asked if they felt their degrees had been a waste of time. Three volunteered: one speaker had studied Broadcast Journalism and another Multi-Media Studies. They had struggled to find jobs in their chosen careers – perhaps more to do with their attitude than their courses. Like Kirsty, these speakers felt the media industry owed them a job because they had a degree.  But in a country where 1 million 16-24 year olds are unemployed, journalism graduates are not the only people facing a tough time.

The wisest words in the first programme came from comedian Russell Kane: “Go for the job you trained to do, but continue to work in whatever you can find.” In other words – and here’s one of the most key media recruiting tips – take whatever job you can get and use that as a platform to work towards your ideal career. Real life models are close at hand. My sister worked for several years in an insurance company before becoming a successful critic and author. A researcher in my last company leveraged her experience in headhunting to become a prominent journalist. A close friend – now an Editorial Director – taught English in Spain.

In the many years since, little has changed other than that a degree is usually a minimum entry requirement. Journalism has always been an oversubscribed profession; as a graduate, you still have to work your way up. If nothing journalistic is forthcoming, you should continue to write, blog and post while you take whatever paying work you can get. It does not mean the end of your hopes of journalism. Indeed, it might actually provide you with a direction for your career.