It took me four months and five days to get a journalism job in New York.
This isn’t an exceedingly long time to be jobless, but it is enough time to:
- Start to wonder if you might, in fact, be worthless to the world
- Make some observations about the job climate for journalists
So, since I’m over the other side and again feeling like I’m on the fast-track to editing The New York Times, I think I should impart some wisdom like a real jerk.
First of all, it’s useful to know there’s a lot of really unappealing jobs out there that you will probably get desperate enough to apply for.
Jobs that literally advertise for people who can “churn out’”10 to 15 stories per day.
I picture myself hooked up to a computer by the nipples in some lightless news barn, eyes pegged open, “churning” out copy until I run dry.
But you know, after four months of joblessness and four months of only just scraping together rent, this doesn’t sound too bad.
In light of that, here is a highly abridged list of the jobs I have been rejected from:
- The Brooklyn newsletter that seemed to be exclusively filled with content from wellness blogs and guest columns by local pastors
- Floor Covering Weekly magazine. Literally a magazine about various floor coverings. Cork, lino, wood, I could go on….carpet…okay I’m done. And I didn’t apply for a job here. I applied for an internship.
- Reading to an elderly woman twice a week. I can read, I thought. I phoned her to set up a time to meet. She said 3 p.m. Then she got a person to call me and tell me she’d found someone else.
But then on the side of the many rejections, there was life plodding along, and luck and good friends.
A friend from New Zealand had connected me with a lovely Kiwi guy living in New York who edits for the BBC (thanks John, thanks Kieran). Got a contract there. My uncle knew someone who knew someone at a music website. Started writing for them (thanks Kirk, Sean, Confusion) . Old faithful editors back home continued to send me work (thanks Ben).
Then I decided to go to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. I pitched a story to The Spinoff that got published (thanks Duncan), but even more fortuitous than that, I made an American friend.
Yessenia Funes was the gorgeous journalist sitting on the train preparing for an interview with a woman whose mother had been assassinated earlier in the year. We became fast friends and Yessenia started keeping an eye out for me. She saw a friend post on Facebook about an upcoming job, she passed on my details, I got in touch.
Long story short, I got the job. It was never advertised, that I know of. Now I work for the NBC 4 New York website, which I like to think of as The Dominion Post of New York.
In a recent induction day at NBC Universal, I was told that 83,000 people apply to work at the company each month. Only 347 get hired.
Luck, good friends, persistence. Stick at it, guys, keep doing what you love. And if you find yourself applying at your equivalent of Floor Covering Weekly, it might mean that perfect job is just around the corner.