Recently, I was asked for some advice by a young man who’s about to finish a politics degree and is keen to be a journalist.
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’d have to grapple with. After pondering the questions, I decided to write a kind of 'this is what I know now.'
- 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. Some 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 not and take note.
- 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 people the most 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.