The paradox of unemployed exam success

by Hugh Morris

LAST Wednesday morning, while in bed, with no firm plan for the day and no job to go to, I became a fully-qualified journalist. I became a senior reporter. I passed the final set of journalistic exams to bring my credentials fully up to date, and now the media world is my metaphorical oyster. Only, I’m not actually a senior reporter because I’m unemployed after my newspaper , Cambridge First, shut down a fortnight ago. It’s a sad paradox. But this, I’ve learned, is life in the media.

I was ecstatic and mildly shocked when I passed my NCE because, frankly, the exams were difficult. The pass rate was only 45 per cent for March’s exams and on reading the examiner’s report you can understand why. All it takes is one legal blip, one missed piece of vital information, one typo, and unlike A-levels where your grade might slip from an A to a B, the way these exams are marked makes it more likely your pass will become a fail. That’s it. Over. Gone.

While passing is obviously better than failing, if you look at the job market it might seem this additional qualification makes me overqualified and potentially “too expensive” for many of the vacancies going. Off to the top of my head, I can think of two jobs I was seriously considering where my new senior reporter title makes me unsuitable. I admit I am being a wee bit selective about the jobs I am looking for at the moment, but it’s early days and I feel there are some roles I am willing to wait for before things get too desperate.

So here I am, a senior reporter looking for a job. Let’s go on Gorkana and see what they can offer me. Oh, so Gorkana basically tells me I need to be an intern or a business journalist with plenty of experience. Well, I am neither. I represent somewhat of an enigma to potential employers because I am a senior reporter with no experience of being a senior reporter. I feel I am above going back to being an intern (though at 24 it does not seem completely unreasonable) but I obviously do not have the experience to enter into media roles above reporting.

Likewise, freelancing. I believe I could write articles and features for newspapers, websites and magazines, but I am young and do not have a strong enough CV as it stands to get my name about. This may well be something I will have to change myself and is something constantly at the back of my mind.

I have no experience freelancing so my thoughts on it are fairly speculative: in my mind, one has 10 ideas, five of them could be worth writing, one or two get selected and it is probably not the ones the creator thought were the best. Can anyone back that up?

Anyway, this piece is just an outlet for the utter mess of frustration, ambition and fear my mind is at the moment. I am most pleased I passed my seniors, but it does feel like a slightly hollow victory.

This piece first appeared at Wax Lyrical

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