A feature by Nerve writer Finvola Dunphy on her problems in finding paid employment in the journalism industry despite graduating top of her class with an MA in International Journalism.
After graduating top of my class with an MA in International Journalism and even receiving an award for highest academic achievement, I cannot seem to get even a toe into the door of my chosen industry.
Now of course, upon this realisation comes the time of self-reflection. What are you doing wrong? The first assumption is to return to the CV drawing board. However, the little correspondences I have had with employers always seemed to praise my CV, academic results and employment experiences – it seems that they simply have no place for me. I don’t fit in.
I have been trying, undeterred for some months now to avoid the inevitable, working for free or ‘work experience.’ Feeling like I’ve already done my fair stint of unpaid internships (which employers have so duly acknowledged) I, nor my wallet, can accept this feat.
Such experiences are a sure way to beat any humility out of a person. I am more determined than ever in fact. I think an employer would do well to at least put me onto a graduate scheme, to train me up so to speak. I am after all, the most conscientious and resilient person I know.
During the latter years of my studies, I was not the boozed-up stereotype that stayed up till 4 am. In fact, I have read too many articles by students who can’t get jobs who fit this description all too well. I was well-organised, the ultimate multi-tasker and yes, tired and overworked.
But I balanced playing the lead role in a professional theatre production, working as a library ambassador at the university and as a barmaid in the local saloon. I still managed to get the best results. Why then, with this verve, vigour and academic success, am I struggling so much to secure employment in my industry?
Well, perhaps I’m not contacting the right people, perhaps I do need to put in more voluntary hours. But I wouldn’t have had to work that hard during my studies if I had an abundance of money behind me. I started with nothing and worked my way through – not avoiding the mountainous debt that is acquired by most university attendees now. Perhaps I’m not building enough personal contacts in the business. I was once given advice by a successful 65-year-old journalist who said, “get down to the nearest journalist pub and offer to buy someone a drink.”
Now, I’m no Scrooge, but if I had the money to be buying those in employment drinks, I wouldn’t be writing this article. Another piece of advice was to knock on the door of the editor, portfolio in hand, and refuse to accept no as an answer. It was like something you’d hear in a 50s Hollywood movie, “Knock em’ dead kid.” What they failed to recognise is that you’d be hard pressed to get in the front door of the newspaper’s office building without a key card let along be let into the newsroom. The editor’s office would require some serious mission impossible routine.
It is difficult when you reach this point, even for a determined bean such as I, not to familiarise yourself with the abundance of literature citing this very same issue. One begins to examine the history of each article on the subject. Well, what were the political circumstances at the time? Who was in power? What was the economic situation? Where those factors to blame?
I have always avoided this rhetoric because the truth is history is ever evolving, the strongest of mankind learn to adapt. That’s what I’ve always been – adaptable and I will continue to be so. But boy, faith has to be a strong thing – or else.