I admit, this would be much easier to write without a cat laying her head on my hand and walking back and forth over my laptop like it’s her job. But what can you do, cat life.
A few months ago, I published a piece about the pros of going to journalism grad school. My sweet grad school friends shared their best advice and experiences on the matter and now, I’m here to talk about all the pros and cons of jumping right into the journalism job market after college. Lucky for all of us journalism enthusiasts, there is no set path any of us have to take. Some of us will be swayed into news reporting, some to features and magazines, others to digital media, and some will even be lucky enough to start their own projects to capture peoples’ stories.
From my own experience, jumping right into the job market was anything but easy. Coming out of college, you’ve probably only had a couple internships — which are so valuable! Aim high with your internships and try to make contacts! — and a small portfolio of published works. The creative field is incredibly saturated with talented writers, graphic designers, photographers, and editors and it can feel impossible to stand out among the crowd. But don’t give up hope! With a bit of time, perseverance, and yes, possibly writing for free, you’ll build a portfolio and reputation before you know it. So here is my advice on why you should choose the job market over grad school!
5 Reasons to Enroll in Real-Life Experience Over Grad School
1. You’re able to hit the ground running earlier and work your way up.
When you first start applying to jobs, apply for everything — things you’re under qualified for, things you feel overqualified for, freelance, full-time work. The important thing is you’re continuing to be published and developing yourself as a writer. If there is any bit of journalism advice I can share with you, it’s this: The journey is as important as the destination. 99 percent of the time your first job will not be your dream job. For the first couple of years, you’re probably going to be working for magazines that you’ve never even heard of! My first internship I wrote for a nail magazine, limo magazine, and police magazine. They were so random but gave me the experience of seeing how a magazine worked and getting to experiment with diverse writing styles. The more well-rounded and confident you are in your writing and professional abilities, the more qualified you’ll be for your dream position. So push yourself and say yes to everything your editors throw at you*, you never know what jobs will open up.
* Within reason of course.
2. Time to build a kickass portfolio.
After graduating, the first thing I was instructed to do by my sweet mentor Traci Lee was make an online portfolio and website. I personally used WordPress because I was already familiar with the site and included links to my published articles, social media accounts, stories from Voices, and even a link to this blog. It’s important to include numerous writing examples, in many different styles, to show your depth as a writer, so start writing! No job is below you as a writer — unless it’s actually in an underground cave. For the past couple years, I been writing freelance profiles of popular YouTubers because one, I have many contacts in that field, and two, it’s giving me the foundation to later pursue my dream job of traveling the world to collect peoples’ stories with organizations like Story Cops or Internews.
3. There are some tips and tricks school just doesn’t teach you.
Mostly because all these tips and tricks will come from trial and error. Lets just say, your first time misquoting someone will hopefully be the last time too. In the journalism field, the most minute details matter such as punctuation, fact checking, editing, and organization. Tricks to getting interviews, networking in a way that you’re comfortable with, and working a story differently than every other news outlet are all experiences made easier over time. Going right into the job field, I’ve constantly found myself humbled as a writer and interviewer, and reminded that it takes hard work and persistence to get anywhere. Plus you’ll learn the best ways to talk with people and that is something that only comes after hundreds of interviews.
4. You don’t have to pay for two more years of school.
Grad school is expensive! For me, I knew if I wasn’t a hundred percent sure I wanted to go to grad school, it was within my best interest, or my bank account’s best interest, not to apply. Going right into the job market, I did put in a lot more time at the ground level but I didn’t have years of extra debt hanging over my head. And the beautiful thing about grad school is, it isn’t going away. You might put in time at a magazine and realize in order to get ahead, you need to go back to school. At that point you know it’s a hundred percent right for you and you’ll have no regrets later on.
5. Your experiences help you figure out what you actually want to do.
There is always a pressure to know what you want to do early on in life. Am I in the right job? Am I taking the most direct path to get there? Did I miss out on something vital that will put me ahead? The beauty of choosing the job market over grad school is you’re able to test drive numerous types of writing outlets. You might try out entertainment writing and realize it’s not for you, onto the next thing! Along the way you might dabble in social media writing and graphic design, and each of these experiences will make you more of a well-rounded candidate than before. It’s my belief that no one is inherently a great writer but by writing everyday and being passionately about your craft, you can become one.
That was all the advice you never asked for but I insisted on giving you anyways! You’re welcome. I can honestly say, I’ve never regretted pursuing the job market in place of grad school applications. My journalism path as taken more twists and turns than I ever imagined but ultimately, it’s given me the chance to explore the evolving world of digital media and pursue freelance with the Daily Dot. No one is going to hand you your dream job so it’s vital you make opportunities happen for yourself.
At YouTube Nation, I started writing three to four articles a week on top of my other duties and in my spare time, I write freelance for the Daily Dot, dabble in blogging, and continue working with Voices. Sometimes it gets to be too much and I have to take a step back and breathe. But ultimately, each of these experiences is making me a better writer and giving me a better idea of what the future might hold. So if I can make it — and by that I mean, I am able to support myself and two cats on a creative person’s salary — so can you. Now go grab a pen and start writing, the best is only yet to come.
^^ Wait, put the pen down and watch the beauty that is Bee and Puppycat. Then start writing! ^^