When I graduated high school there was little question as to what I wanted to do with my life. And so I went and got a degree in journalism at the University of Sheffield, getting some student newspaper bylines, a lot of knowledge and perspective along the way. Of course, I was more optimistic than I should have been and thought I would have a job to look forward to when I graduated. I was wrong.
Even though months of a painstaking job search have eventually landed me a job as Admissions, Marketing and Communications Assistant in my old school, I am determined to plan for the definite future where I am a paid journalist and a good writer: I am applying for a master’s degree at NYU. I am very excited by the prospect but I can still hear you say why, Nicole? It’s expensive, why would you do that? You already have a degree and you don’t have the job you wanted, why would this time be any different?
I hear ya – why spend more money on something I’ve already done and expect different results? Well, my friend, I will clarify why I am doing this and why you who are considering applying for next year should do it too. I know Masters are expensive, but if you’re considering doing one here are some positive reasons that could (maybe, perhaps, probably not) counterbalance the cost.
Reason 1 – I don’t know many journalism postgrads without a job
This is absolutely true. And most of them are working in pretty good places like the Daily Mail, the Guardian, Evening Standard, and many other places that I would love to work for. I will probably never know if starting with a journalism undergrad was a mistake – sometimes I feel interviewers see journalism graduates as too young to trust – but I can definitely tell you a journalism masters is not something you will regret if you are serious about writing.
But make no mistake: it is hard work. When I was Forge Press News Editor one of my fellow editors was a masters student and she had classes 9 to 5 – and still managed to make time for the student newspaper. Until today I am convinced she was superwoman or something, but all the hard work she did resulted in her succesful application to the Daily Mail Graduate Scheme. So if you are willing to have a year of your life with very little fun and a lot of work, this is the way to go.
Reason 2 – A clean slate from your irresponsible undergrad years
We all start our undergrad degrees when we’re 17 or 18 which simply means we are not responsible enough to get everything out of it. I definitely have some regrets – giving too much attention to the student newspaper, and not that much to essays I should have worked on harder. Getting up at twelve because I was up late sorting out the Forge Press layout. Turning an essay in when it was not my best work because I was sleep deprived.
Whereas I don’t exactly regret doing these things (I do think I learned a lot from student media and would not be the hack I am today without it) I believe I could have organized myself a lot better than I did. I have learned many lessons from my uni years – and I want to use what I have learned and prove myself again.
Reason 3 – In journalism, everything is an experience
Of course, if I do get into NYU it will be a new experience no matter what. But in journalism, everything is an experience. Even if you are just moving a few miles away from where you currently live, it’s a community you are not familiar with, with issues you haven’t heard before and crevasses that haven’t been explored yet.
So even if, like me, you have already done a lot of journalism and now plan on doing a masters in politics, for example, keep in mind that learning is the key of writing news.
As an international student I have found my moving around an inexhaustible source of blog posts, world views and opinions. This can be the same for you – what’s different about this new place? What’s similar? What am I really learning?
Reason 4 – You will be older and wiser when you come out the other side
You might change the focus of your career, you might find another style of writing you fell in love with, you might find the perfect job for you. Point is, we are never fully formed human beings and this could help you find more specific goals for your future.
As for right now I know exactly what my goals are, but that might change. And that’s awesome.
Reason 5 – Why not use your time as an unemployed undergrad to increase your employability?
Getting a job is difficult right now, there’s not questions about it. Well, why not increase your chances? For me, this is the ultimate reason because I have nothing to lose if I do a masters, in fact I will definitely get wiser if not employed by the end of it. I will have new things to pitch if I find myself going the freelance path later on, I will have a clearer mind about what kind of job I want to do. And what employer would say no to that?
It might even be a good idea – if you have already done a journalism degree like me – to study something different so you can be a kind of specialist in the subject. This gives you an advantage over people who haven’t got that degree. And we all need advantages right now.
So if you’re considering a masters and you’re not sure, please do yourself a favor and apply just in case you decide you want it in the end. It’s important, as journalists, to keep our options completely open.
Picture on the home page courtesy of MonotonousSarah