This is a quick post.
Below is an e-mail I received from a friend about another friend of his who is thinking about going back to school to get a second degree because he is struggling to get a job in journalism.
If you want to read more, here are three related posts:
I’ve been following some of your articles on Praxis and your other channels, and I wanted to ask a quick question. A friend of mine graduated with a degree in journalism six months ago, and he wants to be a science and tech writer. He hasn’t written a lot though, and he hasn’t been able to find a job yet. Now he wants to go back to school to get a degree in one of the sciences because he thinks it will help him to get a job if he gets that.
What are your thoughts?
I’ve been trying to convince him not to go back because he really can’t afford it, but I think you might have a better answer for him.
If you have a minute or two to spare, I’d love your advice.
And here’s my response — I don’t know everything about the friend’s situation but I think there are some general things a person in his situation should do:
I’m happy to lend some thoughts. Your friend is doing what most young people do — they’re trying to remedy a problem with themselves by adding on another credential, in this case, a science degree. But I would ask your friend if he’s considered the tradeoffs of spending another 2-3 years of postponing his professional career?
And then I’d give him this advice: start writing! Most journalists don’t start off in a full time, full pay journalistic position. They spend months, even years, writing on personal blogs, writing for free or low pay for local sites, submitting guest posts to other blogs, attending conferences, making videos, writing books, and building a portfolio for themselves. That’s what publishers want — a proven ability to write timely and effectively, and your friend won’t get that in the classroom writing academic papers. Your friend’s employment troubles are not a function of not having the right degree, they’re a function of not having done anything relevant to the field he wants to enter. Getting another degree won’t solve this. If he wants to get a job as a writer, he needs to write!
And did I mention low pay? I want your friend to consider what the extra student debt is going to do to his options as journalist. Some of the best entry level opportunities in journalism start at low to no pay. Can he afford to do this if he has a loan to payoff? Most young people I know couldn’t make that work.
So no — your friend shouldn’t go back to get a degree just yet. Instead, here’s what I’d do:
1) Spend a year living in a city where he will have the best opportunity to make connections in his industry.
2) Start a personal blog on the subjects you want to cover and write daily.
3) Connect with bloggers and other publications, and make a habit of submitting guest posts.
4) Answer questions on Quora regularly and establish yourself as an expert in the field.
5) Read the top 10 books in your field and write Amazon Reviews on them.
6) Attend tech conferences as a member of the press and cover the key events on your website (It’s way easier than you think. Most places are begging for coverage) Some will even republish your coverage.
7) Get a paid or unpaid job as a writer or assistant editor at some kind of small publication relevant to your career interests and use that as a platform to develop a professional writing portfolio.
In six months, he’ll be miles ahead of where he would be if he started two years later with another degree.
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