You've all seen the stories on the network. Those depressing packages that offer statistics which send fear through the hearts of those about to put on a cap and gown. High unemployment among recent college grads. Low salaries that won't make a dent in a student loan. The stories almost seem to say, "Welcome to the real world, kid. Here's a key to your mother's basement."
But recessions are nothing new, and neither is supply outpacing demand. In our 24/7 news society, it just seems like the end of the world.
It also seemed that way in 1976 when I graduated.
We had 36 guys on the 4th floor of our dorm, and by April we were getting worried. Only one guy had a job lined up. One other had a possible. Few of us even had any interviews. The job placement service was a joke. There were no jobs. Didn't matter what your chosen field was, the economy was awful. The one big difference between now and then was that no one had a student loan. My four years cost a total of $5,200. Yes, you read that right. Fifty-two hundred bucks. That included tuition, room, board, books, etc. It was easy to work summers and pay your way through school.
So what did I do? I managed to stick my nose in the business and kept it there.
I heard about a part time newspaper job, took my clips from the college newspaper, and was hired. Two days a week for 65 bucks. Obviously not enough to live on, so I swallowed my pride and went back to Dad's deli and made sandwiches when I wasn't hitting a typewriter.
One day one of our regular customers came in and asked if I'd graduated. I told her I had, and she asked if I had any job prospects. Little did I know she owned a radio station. She invited me to stop by. The News Director was a kind veteran (incredibly, he had been Dick Clark's co-anchor when Clark worked in news) who unfortunately had no openings, but offered me the chance to hang around and learn. The staff was filled with veterans who taught me a lot and I even made a few bucks selling stories to the radio network.
So now I had three jobs: one paying nothing, one paying a little, and one surrounded by cold cuts. But the point was, two of my jobs were "in the business."
The radio experience lead to a full time radio gig (goodbye, deli) and that eventually led to television.
Yes, I know, that was a long time ago when gas was 29 cents a gallon and I didn't owe the government six figures for an education.
Still, nothing has really changed. Your philosophy today needs to be the same if you want a career in this business. And since you've just spent four years targeting that, you can't simply give up because the economy's stars aren't aligning for you.
-Send your tapes everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.
-While you're looking for a job, see if you can pick up some work in a media related field. Doesn't matter if you're a part-time receptionist at an advertising agency. You'll at least be rubbing elbows with people in a creative field.
-Don't worry if your job search takes time, and don't worry that a News Director will think poorly of you if you haven't found a job several months after graduation. All managers know how tough things are out there.
-If your search bears no results after several months and no nibbles, might be time to put together a new tape. Hire a local photog and update things. It's bound to look better than what you did in college.
-Don't dismiss journalism jobs that aren't in television. Plenty of people have started in radio and newspapers. And these days, you might find a gig writing for the Internet.
-Don't be afraid to wait tables or do whatever to pay the bills until the real job comes along. Lots of people have done the same.
-Consider working in a political campaign. It is an election year, and campaigns are loaded with media types. (FYI... you might find you like the politics game... and there's some serious money to be made getting people elected.)
Bottom line, start somewhere. Even if you find something part time in media, you'll know there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and it will keep you from getting depressed.
More important, it will keep you from giving up.