…or anything creative as such? I hate the stereotypical job roles that career advisors at schools and colleges pin you down into: ‘teacher’, ‘doctor’, ‘carpenter’, ‘retail’… ? I didn’t want to do any of those, and they didn’t help with anyone who wanted to be creative.
I don’t know if it has changed now, but knowing when I was around 14/15 that I wanted to go into magazine journalism, I was pretty certain come our Year 10 work experience that I wanted it to be on a magazine. The teacher had a ‘long list’ of work experience placements that had been completed over the years, with places that were happy to take students on so, one by one, we had a meeting with her to try and get one sorted.
“I want to go for work experience on a magazine, any type of magazine.” I said to her. She looked through her long, excel-spreadsheet list, and said “I don’t have any magazines on here, or newspapers.”. She continued to tell me it would be too hard for someone under 16 to get any sort of experience on a publication, and asked me if I wanted to work at my primary school for a week… no thanks.
After spending my evening sending off some (probably awfully punctuated) letters to magazines in London (Heat, Closer, Glamour, Cosmo), I kept getting the response back that I was too young. But spending the next week searching for smaller, independent magazines in London proved successful. I found a small dance magazine in London, Farringdon who were willing to take me on. They paid my travel, lunch expenses each day, and even took me out on the Friday for lunch to say thank you. That’s when work experience really works… because I loved it and I confirmed that it was my goal to work there one day.
In college, it was no different. I don’t think our ‘career advisor’, who wasn’t really that at all, knew what to say when I asked if doing an English degree will help me with journalism. She asked if it would be better to do a journalism degree (I don’t know, would it?), she didn’t even know about the NCTJ, she proceeded to tell me English is about words and so is journalism so perhaps it was a good fit.
At the university I went to, they took pride in their management school – the business-related degrees and career options for them were huge. In our third year, when the daunting prospect of finding a job and the ‘real world’ came upon us, we had numerous graduate job talks, fairs, seminars, you name it. I attended some, hoping I would be able to get some sort of advice. Our MASSIVE graduate fair, where companies came to advertise their graduate schemes had ONE tiny journalism stall. And I was surprised to see even that – it was a London-based journalism training course hidden away in the side hall. I didn’t get much out of that fair, apart from some free pens and post-it notes.
With exams looming, I booked an appointment with our extremely busy careers department (that’s not sarcasm, they were busy, which made me think it would be useful). “The first thing you should do is try to get some work experience in journalism,” he said. Well, duh. I asked if the NCTJ qualification was worth it and looked as he began typing NCTK into Google – “No, it’s the NCTJ” I said. He wasn’t aware of that. He proceeded to ask me if I’d thought about doing a Masters in English Language. No, I hadn’t. And with that, I decided a trip round the world would be much easier than finding a job.
Luckily enough, without the help from careers advisors throughout my education, I managed to find one anyway.