Pandemic or not, stepping in as a fresh face into journalism has always offered curveballs. After all, switching professions has always been a daunting process, and for some, it’s not always a choice. However, since this year has thrown a global pandemic into the mix, the confidence of potential future journalists even further.
Yet while times are tough for the industry, it’s not all “doom and gloom.” There is still hope. In this weeks’ Zoom panel hosted by Women in Journalism, we spoke to numerous experts within the field. Here are ten of their top tips on how to rethink and renew your career into journalism:
1 – Self-promote, come with ideas, and tailor your application to the job description.
Jem Collins is the founder of JournoResources, a website which helps entry-level journalists break into the industry. In Jem’s eyes, tailoring your application is crucial.
She said: “I would advise you to do a bit of self-promotion perhaps. I think there’s sometimes quite a lot of panic, especially at the moment when you are looking for opportunities.
“Take your time. Less is more when you’re kind of applying for these things. And always just come with an idea – I think that’s the biggest thing I would say to you when you’re applying for something.”
2 – Embrace and recognise change.
Change can be a terrifying prospect, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that change is always on the horizon.
Louise Court is well accustomed to change, with a wealth of experience at Hearst Magazines and an established portfolio career as a journalist and media consultant.
Louise explains: “There is a temptation to think that change is scary, or not good, or all beyond our control. But, if there were no change, us journalists would have nothing to write about, as everything would stay the same. We’re creatures bred for change.”
Jane Woodson, the leader of Changing People, argues that resisting change does not always work in our favour.
Jane said: “a classic thing that happens to people in work when change is imposed upon us is we have this lack of confidence. We start to lose our self-esteem because we feel we’ve got this change imposed upon us. And if we’re not careful, we can end up feeling a bit like we’re buffeting around on the waves, like we are victims of change.
“In my experience, there is always something we can do, we can find it – but we need to kind of recognise that that’s happening to ourselves, and that it’s interesting.”
3 – Invest in people.
Lola told listeners that the greatest advice she would give any fledgeling journalist is to become interested in your audiences.
Lola said: “I know this sounds like this is the most no biggest no brainer…but I’m interested in people, you know – I’m interested in what makes them work, I’m interested in what makes them tick.”
4 – A lack of communication and direction leads to unnecessary stress.
Jane told listeners: “The most common thing that people say on the research axis up about when they’re going through change is that managers, and I would say, in this case through government, don’t actually communicate very effectively with people and tell them properly, what’s going on.
“When that happens, stress levels rise exponentially…not knowing what you’re doing is a significant factor in knocking down your confidence.”
5 – Still, if you don’t know where you’re going, that’s okay – and ease off the pressure.
Excessive pressure can be the enemy of the best of us, but Jane urged listeners to be kind to themselves.
Jane said: “Take the pressure off yourself to feel that somehow during this period of lockdown you’ve just got to achieve something remarkable…just take the pressure off yourself and stop thinking: “I must achieve, I must do something.”
6 – Understand and appreciate your worth – especially if you are a woman, or from an underrepresented background.
Lola was eager to highlight the importance of proactivity, and how persistent self-confidence can shape your development, even when you do not necessarily feel that way yourself.
She told listeners: “Sometimes we just make assumptions that things won’t happen. I think we need to just kind of push out, but we do understand ourselves. […] Women tend to wait, and certainly, my experience of being a manager and interviewing is that women tend to wait until they feel they know their current job inside out before they’ll go for something else. And, and that’s where we fall behind because it takes longer.”
7 – Network, network, network.
While the lockdown may have closed traditional means of reaching out, Jem argues that the shift to the online world has opened windows of opportunity.
Jem said: “I think a lot of journalists are struggling during lockdown because there isn’t the opportunity to go out and see people and network in the same way…The truth is, we all have to keep growing our contacts. You need to keep expanding your network, online and offline, and I think often. You have to keep being out there, and staying in touch with people and it stimulates you.”
On a similar note, Lola suggested journalists at every stage of their career should seek counsel from outside of their working circles.
Lola explained: “I think sometimes we can get preoccupied in networking with people above us. I think one of the main things I would say is that it is just as essential to expand your network in all directions…I also think that, as important as it is to have that support network in journalism, there’s a real value to having people who are outside the world of journalism as well. You might want to switch things up; don’t think you always have to go to your journalism peers.”
8 – Ditch the ‘isms’, especially ageism.
Ageism still feels prevalent for Lola and Jane. Still, they urge candidates to push on through.
Jane explained: “One of the things about ageism in journalism is that you feel like you need to apologise for living a bit too long….I think you’ve got to just, not put your age on, push on your CV and push on through.”
Lola agreed. She said: “One thing I would always say to them is never, ever say in my day. Because unless you are dead. It is your day. Banish your ageism. Ageism is the last acceptable “ism” I think that people feel they can get away with, and you need to challenge it. Worse still, I think women have become quite apologetic about age. I believe that if they can stop just apologising, then something might shift!”
9 – Be open to new training and opportunities.
“You have to keep learning and moving forward, whatever stage you’re at in your career. Whether you are just out of uni with a brilliant MA in journalism, and you may be supremely talented, it doesn’t mean you know everything yet. You have to have thick skin and develop new skills.
“That doesn’t mean going somewhere and accepting people mistreating you, but you have to know what you don’t know, and be honest with yourself.”
10 – Listen to your instincts.
“We’ve all got an inner critical voice, and we’ve also got another voice. You got to think you can start this journey because it’s tough just to go, ‘Okay, I’m never going to tell myself off about anything ever again’. Just think of it as your controls – you can start to turn the volume down on it and begin to turn the volume up on a more sympathetic sort of voice.
“If you’re dealing with something about yourself, think, ‘this is my best mate, what would I tell them?’ Don’t be so much nicer to them than we are to ourselves. Think, ‘what’s going on for me? How am I feeling? What’s going on in my head? Where’s that come from?’“
Most importantly, be kind to yourself – you’re on a journey!