Saturday, 16 April 2011

Glad Game - Forging a Career in a Dying Industry (during a recession)

Every so often, I read an article by someone who ought to know better, and I die a little bit inside at the thought that they were paid to write it purely because they have all the right contacts and not because they have the intelligence, work ethic or talent that means they deserve a platform for their work.

Jobs in journalism seem to be based entirely on who you know, and apparently I have yet to meet the ‘right’ people. Sorry, people I know. You guys do not cut the career mustard. Whatever that is.

I am hindered in this networking malarkey by two key points. 1) Neither of my parents are eminent satirists, social/political commentators or media darlings. 2) I haven’t the funds (or the certainty it would do any good) to complete the journalism MA that might secure me at least a few contacts through mandatory work placements.

This means I really do have to do it all myself, which is difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Not impossible, I grant you, but not straightforward in any real way. The need to be networking my arse off to find someone to read and pay for my writing conflicts with the need to pay rent, which in turn conflicts with the time actually spent writing.

The upshot is that I spend the vast majority of my time commuting to and completing jobs that are largely unrelated to what I want to do, but I can’t jack it in and go full time freelance because journalism pays me only sporadically. I get paid work sporadically not because I can’t write, but because I don’t have enough contacts who know me well enough to understand that I will deliver on their commissions.

It’s a circular arrangement that I am gradually spiralling out of, one pitch at a time. The fact that I only know about three people doesn’t stop me pitching to strangers, but I gather that editors have been known to ignore pitches from people they’ve known and loved all their lives, so it’s no wonder 90% of mine go ignored.

‘But what is there to be glad about in all this,’ I hear you wonder. ‘Or is your memory so short you have forgotten that you’re supposed to be playing Pollyanna’s glad game?’

Never fear, gentle readers, I had not forgotten. There are a multitude of gladnesses to be gleaned in my situation.

One thing to take from all of this is that when I do finally claw my way towards a full time freelance career, I will have done it all by myself, like a career orientated little red hen. This will surely prove a worthwhile achievement, a bit like making a really good cake.

Another is that it inures me to rejection, of which there is a lot in the industry and indeed the world. It also helps me to continually hone what I am doing and to learn from my mistakes. Feedback helps in such situations, but in terms of pitching to strangers I would surmise the chances are that if they don’t reply, it wasn’t a very good one. That or I sent it to the wrong person.

And finally, all the trauma stops me taking things for granted. The fact you can do something doesn't mean it's all going to fall into place, but when it does I really appreciate it.

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