When my fellow Maglabbers and I finished our magazine diplomas at Cardiff University last year, we were under no illusions; getting our fledgling feet in the proverbial door was going to be a tough gig. The onus was on work experience, making contacts, pitching articles effectively. Nonetheless, with faith that our £5.5k investment would see us right, we toddled off into the industry and hoped for the best. Most of us got relevant jobs – some got great jobs – and a few remained stuck in a horrible journalistic limbo between college and working. And the latter individuals were, for the most part, talented, hardworking writers, keen to cut their teeth in the industry.
Then the extent of the economic downturn really came to light and employment freezes were implemented and editorial cutbacks were made; two maglabbers were made redundant, one has been moved to another publication and awaits the end of their contract in October, a few are hanging on by the skin of their teeth and those stuck in that horrible first job-seeking limbo are becoming increasingly deflated and apathetic.
A quick scan on Reed yields depressing results: 57 applications for a pharmaceutical editorial assistant role. On Gumtree, an ad for another editorial assistant role has been viewed nearly 12,000 times. 12,000 times. Entry-level jobs remain hard to come by, and as such any that do are being filled by over-qualified journalists prepared to take a pay cut for the security of a job in these difficult times.
And it’s set to get worse. According to Press Gazette, applications for university journalism courses are up by 24%, despite the wave of job cuts. So with a market awash with new journalists, how to stand out? Certainly an expensive diploma from one of the Big Three counts for less than it did only a few years ago. Getting some cuttings through freelancing is always an option, but in light of so many redundancies, editors across the country are swamped with pitches by similarly new but far more experienced freelancers. Work experience is all very well and good – indeed a lot of magazines are keeping afloat thanks to unpaid interns – but only if you can get a placement and can afford to work for long periods for free.
Hard work and elbow-grease were always on the cards for a new journalist, but it would seem that in order to get out there and make a name for yourself in the current climate you’ll have to bring a big stash of savings to the table as well. And after spending thousands of pounds on a journalism course to be in a position to apply for entry level roles, this is certainly an unlikely luxury.