Monday, August 11, 2014

The Downside of Being a Late Bloomer

After I graduated college, I applied to a year-long volunteer program in Philadelphia. I spent abut 11 months, working for free, gaining "real world" experience and establishing myself at my place of work. After the year was up I was hired full-time.

That was five years ago. I have, exactly, 5 years of hands on, front line, social work experience. But we learned something while supporting oneself in Philadelphia. We learned (we as in I) that social work wasn't my passion. I love my kids, my clients and a select group of coworkers, but I could not spend my entire life social working. I'd burn out too quickly.

I think about four years ago I wrote a post about how choosing what you do right after college could forever impact the rest of your life. You reach a point where you can no longer experiment with a certain field, you have to take ownership of it and be prepared to potentially advance in that world.

Ok. So. I graduated college, spent a year volunteering as a social worker. This worked out because I was able to get a full time job and support myself while living in the thriving metropolis known as Philadelphia. I realized that it was, is and always will be journalism. I applied to Temple, got accepted into their Masters of Journalism program and then graduated top of my class three years later.

All is well except for one little thing. I have inadvertently groomed myself to be a social worker. I have 3-5 years experience in my field. I can get any kind of upper level social worker job I want (within reason).

Yes, I have an MJ. Yes, my reporting experience dates back to the early 2000s. Yes, I am an art columnist that publishes new articles each month. Yes, I have radio experience.

But guess who never did an internship?

If I did an internship I would be hired by now because that little internship would count as the "12 months of daily or weekly newsroom experience." I'm being rejected company after company because I don't have that "12 months of daily or weekly newsroom experience."

I'm sorry I could not work full-time, go to school part-time and somehow fit an internship in there too. Therefore, for all you baby journos out there, DO AN INTERNSHIP! DO SEVERAL! That will be the key that opens this seemingly unlockable door.

Now it is too late. Internships are only open for current students. Fellowships are geared to build diversity in the newsroom or help established journalists fund new and exciting projects.

I regret not finding time to do an internship. I thought self-sufficiency was more important. Perhaps I should have rented a small studio apartment and taken on part-time work just to do an un-paid internship. Then I wouldn't be turned down or even ignored by even the smallest of backwoods papers.

If someone gave me the chance I would prove to them I was worth it. I know I have what it takes to be a successful journalist in the media world. I know how to cultivate sources and figure out the ins and outs of my environment. I know how to write well. I know how to report. I know AP style. I get the chain of command. I am willing to work nights, weekends, sweep the newsroom at night, pull weeds out front, take the crappy beats, fetch coffee for the editors and do mindless gruntwork if someone would give me the damn time of day.

I swear I am the clearance puppy of life. That little runt of the litter you don't really want but is affordable. Yet that puppy turns out to be the best decision you ever made. That is me.

Until next time..

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