Staying positive while looking for a job in journalism

I’ve been applying for journalism jobs since April and to be honest, I never thought I’d be in this position. With all the ‘necessary’ qualifications (BA, MA, NCTJ) and a decent amount of experience under my belt, I had always hoped that I’d be one of the lucky ones who landed a job pretty quickly. Needless to say, still being unemployed after nine months has not contributed positively to my confidence or self-esteem.

And although sometimes I feel like I’m totally alone in this, I know that I’m not, and that there are many of you out there who could also seriously use a morale boost.

There are no quick fixes to feeling better about your plight, but aside from turning to class A drugs as one Twitter user suggested, here are a few things I have found to help me feel slightly more positive in this bleak, bleak world.

(For added effect, listen to this snippet of musical sunshine while reading.)

Give yourself a break

It’s often said that applying for jobs is a full time job in itself. You spend hours on a single job application, you trawl every job website possible looking for the next round of positions to apply for, and you read every article under the sun looking for new nuggets of advice that will set your application apart from all the rest. And even when you’re not doing any of this, you’re constantly thinking about it and feeling guilty that you’re not doing it.

“How can I possibly have a cup of tea and settle down to watch Coronation Street when somebody, somewhere may have posted a new job I need to apply for right this very second?!” Sound familiar?

Seriously – and I say this with every ounce of emphasis I can muster – you need to give yourself a break every once in a while. I don’t just mean step away from your computer for a while every hour or so, which you should absolutely be doing regardless. You need to do something totally different.

Call it procrastination, but since I’ve been applying for jobs my ukulele playing has come on a real treat. You can get decent quality ukuleles on Amazon for around £20, and there are thousands of tutorials on YouTube to help you get started, so all in all, it’s a pretty cheap hobby to take up. I’m not saying everyone looking for a journalism job should go and learn to play the ukulele (although I have just imagined a Ukulele Orchestra of Unemployed Journalists scenario and it’s pretty epic!)

The point is that you need to do something different; find some sort of polar opposite, cheap activity that gets you as far away from your computer as possible. Which leads me to…

Go outside

Outside is great. Fresh air is good. The problem here is that going outside often equates to spending money. This is particularly tricky if you’re on Job Seeker’s Allowance or – like me – you only have a part-time job that pays minimum wage.

But try and search out things to do that don’t involve spending much – or any – money. Take a walk around your local park, along a river, or through some beautiful, tranquil meadows or something. It’ll give you much-needed time to clear your head, think about your next move, and you may even happen upon some story ideas. Go to the library and be inspired by the great literature all around you. Go to free exhibits at a museum or gallery, or go and hang out at a friend’s house for an hour or so. Get away from your computer, get away from your desk, and get outside.

Being on Job Seeker’s Allowance completely sucks. I was claiming for two months last year and I think it did more harm to my self-esteem than all of the other concerns that come hand-in-hand with being a ‘totally-qualified-but-unemployed-journalist’.

Try and get a part-time job

Now, me suggesting that you should should go out and get a part-time job may have you thinking one or more of the following:

  • “There are so many real jobs to apply for, I don’t have time to get another job.”
  • “I don’t mean to sound snooty, but I’m too qualified to be pulling pints just for a bit of money.”
  • “What if I miss the perfect journalism opportunity while I’m slaving away in a grotty pub/smelly shoe shop?”

I thought the exact same things but truthfully, I just had to get over myself and accept my situation. Getting a job, even part-time, will really help to break up the monotony of the job search, give you some financial freedom and most importantly, relieve some of the pressure you have no doubt piled on yourself.

Remember how far you’ve come

By this point, the chances are that you’ve already got some qualifications, some experience and some bylines to your name. I am aware of how clichéd this sounds, but you should be proud of your achievements and proud of the effort you have already invested. Remember that your sweat and toil hasn’t all been for nothing and that your time will come.

Keep at it

Just because you’re not being paid doesn’t mean you stop being a journalist. Keep writing, keep filming, keep recording. Aside from the times when you’re giving yourself a much-needed break, try and remain in the journalism mind-set as much as possible. Pitch stories, ask questions and read everything a paid journalist would. Basically, fake it ‘til you make it.

This article originally appeared on Wannabe Hacks.


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