[Psst -- here's my professional resume as of Jan. 31, 2009!]
Everyone knows the journalism job market is exponentially shrinking.
I’ve known this since high school, when it was time to begin applying to colleges and my mother realized just how serious I was about pursuing journalism. She wanted me to look at in-state colleges with communication schools or journalism departments, but I refused to consider them seriously.
Shortly after I told her I wouldn’t go anywhere but the University of Missouri-Columbia, I found a newspaper clipping next to my dinner plate. It basically detailed how the journalism job market was beginning its downslide, and how internships are a must for anyone interested in pursuing journalism as a career.
My mother later asked if I’d found and read the clip, and if I was still thinking clearly about my future. She then informed me that, following my graduation from the higher education sector, she would not be financially responsible for me nor allow me to live in the house.
So, thanks to my encouraging and ever-supportive mother, I have long been aware of a) the job market, b) the importance of an internship and c) how I really need to get a job after college.
Thus far, I have applied to more than two dozen internships. I will be applying for more in the coming weeks. The following is an assortment of thoughts, lessons, observations and insecurities I have derived from this painstaking process and from others who are in the same boat as I am:
- You know the job market’s really in a rut when you’ve received three times as many notifications of internship program cancellations as actual rejections.
- I might be wrong (and biased), but photojournalists are really stuck. We’re often expected to know how to do video in addition to basic reporting, and our internship applications cost more to send because we have to enclose our portfolio on digital media (CDs) and make sure it arrives safely (special mailing packages). The multimedia aspect doesn’t worry me so much, but the addition of digital media and mailing packages is really putting a dent in my wallet.
- If I don’t get an internship this summer, how does that reflect on my skills (?) as a journalist? Am I simply not qualified, or am I not qualified enough? Am I doomed never to pursue journalism as a somewhat lucrative career if I can’t even get accepted into an internship program?
- Maybe I should establish myself as a freelancer. But I don’t even know how to start that process, especially since I don’t have any longstanding credentials to which I can refer contract employers.
- Is it such a bad thing that, for some newspapers, I am applying for both their reporting and their photojournalism internship programs? I did enter college with the intent of doing reporting; it was only in the middle of my first semester that I decided to switch to photojournalism. I daresay I’m about equally qualified in both. Does applying for both at the same newspaper hurt or improve my chances of being accepted? Am I expanding my hireability, or am I not focused enough?
- This whole process is quite possibly the most demoralizing thing-whatever I have ever been through.
I do have options, should a summer internship not work out. That said, I do have options should journalism as a career not work out. I could work as a spokeswoman in some political office. I could be a wedding photographer. I could be a contract/commercial photographer in general. I could get a graduate degree and teach. I could work PR/marketing for some company/firm/political office. I could wait tables, shine shoes, groom dogs.
I could run a lemonade stand outside of my parents’ house.
The catch is, journalism has been my greatest and longest-lasting passion. For nearly 11 years, I’ve been in love with journalism.
After I graduated from “Barney and Friends” and “Sesame Street,” I immediately moved on to “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings,” “Jeopardy!” and “Nightline” — at age 6. Four years later, I told my mother I wanted to be a journalist (that was the turning point). Five years after that, I joined my high school newspaper’s staff. I’ve since happily and rigorously given everything I’ve got to furthering my journalism career, learning more and refining my skills.
The low pay, long hours, constant competition, extreme pressure and all else — they don’t bother me. The only thing that bothers me and could possibly keep me out of the journalism job market is the job market itself.
If that happens, so be it. I can do something else with my life. But right now I can’t even consider not going to journalism as a possibility.
That said, if someone could please hire me, that’d be great. I promise I am a hard-working, responsible journalist who adapts quickly, has a fast learning curve and a high threshold for patience, can multitask very well and can operate effectively/efficiently even when deeply sleep-deprived.
You can view my professional resume here. (Please note: I have removed my cell phone number and mailing address, but kept my references and their contact information, as well as my e-mail address, blog URL and Twitter username.)