This is what I know now

Recently, I was asked for advice by a young man who’s about to finish a politics degree and is keen to be a journalist.

reporter looking at map in crowd

He wanted to know about insights, regrets and aspirations I had as a young journalist and the expectations I had at the outset of my career.

He asked whether a master’s degree in journalism from a good institution was more important than building a profile and a portfolio.

He also asked whether being gay and not ‘blokey’ was something he needed to grapple with. After pondering the questions, I decided to write this:

If you want a career badly enough, persistence is the only option. Persistence, practice, feedback (criticism) and life experience leads to mastery of the craft.
There has never been enough feedback in my career. Many organisations are surprisingly poor at this and I used to be too frightened to ask. My bad.
Always ask for a position, a role, a project that you want. Don’t wait for the invitation. If you ask and you don’t get it, ask why. Then try again a few months later.
Challenge yourself, even when others don’t.
Don’t fear being outside the pack but more relevant perhaps, why define yourself by what others think?
The thing that stops many people is self-sabotage. “I can’t do that or be that,” says the internal voice rather than “What do they want and how do I give it to them?”
Networking, building a profile and a portfolio or studying for an MA: further study is great once you’ve had a bit of experience. Mid-career, an MA – or fellowship – is a great opportunity to down tools, take stock, absorb and grow new branches.