Why won’t they hire me….?

So I keep up with Joe Grimm’s “Ask the Recruiter” blog, now on the Poynter site. He answered one question recently that has gotten a lot of feedback from readers:

I graduated from one of the top-three graduate journalism programs in the country about six months ago, and I can’t seem to land a decent entry-level job to save my life.

I have had about four internships, two of which were quite prestigious, the first at the Rome bureau of a major news weekly and another at a top newswire, also in Rome. I have done research and reporting work in California, Turkey, Sweden and France. I speak fluent Italian and basic French, have traveled extensively, have strong clips, and still, nothing.

I never imagined that getting an entry-level gig at a major magazine or newspaper would be this difficult. I have networked like crazy, and while this has yielded informational interviews at reputable publications and gotten me very close to snagging a job at one, I remain unemployed.

I have no desire whatsoever to cover local news at some tiny paper in the middle of nowhere, and I feel my clips, education and experience are more than sufficient to break into the big leagues.

Heehee. Does that not sound familiar?

September 10, 2002

Things are definitely different from how they were in January, though. This time around, I’ve got all sorts of stuff under my belt – Hearst, Pulliam, the Register, the Republic. On my part, there’s no lack of honors and accolades and no lack of experience or passion – at least, I think its apparent that I’ve got what it takes. But I’ve been waiting on answers from the Irvine office of the Register, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and now the North county office of the Register. I’ve sent out dozens of packets and resumes via email. You would think at least one out of three would give me a call, but its more like one out of ten. Life sucks. It’s just the sort of thing to make you doubt yourself, you know?Anyway. Rita, Sam and Trinity keep telling me to shut the hell up when I whine about how I suck. So does Marc. So I have to shut up. But it doesn’t mean I don’t think it. But honestly, I don’t think I suck. I really don’t. But I have to wonder why I’m still unemployed……argh.

September 12, 2002

So I’ve been interviewing for a bunch of different jobs that have been open in the Los Angeles area. I interviewed with the Irvine office of the Orange County Register while I was still living in Phoenix. Two weeks ago, I interviewed with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Last week, I interviewed with the North County bureau of the Register. I gave out 14 resumes while I was at the AAJA Job Fair, and I sent the rest out to various job opportunities here in the L.A. area. I have one more left – I’m contemplating making copies of it, or just camping out at Trinity’s store for a few hours so I can make more copies of my clips in one fell swoop (He works at Kinko’s). Honestly, I’m at a point where I’m thinking I might have to just get another clerical/receptionist job. And I so, so, so, so, SO DON’T WANT TO DO THAT. I swear, I’m tearing up here just thinking of it. I put so much energy and time and tears and passion into this career path, I don’t want to admit defeat and just get a secretarial job. I keep thinking – I need to stick this out, I need to hold on, my break will happen – but at the same time, I’ve got less than $75 in the bank, my car payment is due this Saturday, my cell phone bill will be huge, I’ve got some hold over fees my phone bill at my mom’s house, and I have to do traffic school. Geezus. What am I going to do? And see, its not so much the money that I’m so worried about, even though I’m extremely worried about it. It’s my sanity that I’m afraid I’m about to lose. I haven’t been doing anything lately – just driving back and forth between La Puente and Santa Monica, working a few hours a week at the gallery (which pays for my gas), and trying really, really hard not to go crazy. I almost wish I was back in Phoenix.

September 22, 2002

My sister keeps telling me that college graduates generally find a job within six months. Sam keeps telling me I will find a job. Not-so-new guy pinky-sweared that I would find a job by his birthday. Rachanee from the Orange County Register says my writing is good, but she’s sure I know that. Kat is telling me to keep my head up from New York City. (From my guestbook: “darleene my dear, just wanted to send my love, even if i’m not one of your fans… i think i’m more like an air-conditioner. These days i’m just a total spaz, but I have to say mad props for sticking it out in the Real World of journalism. keep your head up and if you ever need a moment’s diversion, think of my cartoon character face. Scrunchy!” ) Even perfect strangers are telling me they understand my plight. I just hate being so….idle.

My sister told me I should enjoy it while it lasts, because when I get a job, there won’t be many days where I can just come home at noon, take a nap, watch a movie, and basically veg the entire day. I know this is true, but still. I feel so unproductive!

Yesterday, I went to an AAJA critique. It was kind of nice – I saw some people that I hadn’t seen in a while. Quyen, a broadcast major from Fullerton whom I met in Dallas, Annaliza whom I met two years ago at the New York convention, Angela one of the broadcast students from the project in Dallas. I make myself laugh sometimes though. As freaked out and stressed out as I am about my own unemployment status, I still try to help everyone as best as I can. In the midst of my job searching, when I see stuff that I think will fit for Kat, Melanie, Sam or Rita, I’ll send it on to them. The other day I met an editor of a Hispanic magazine who mentioned during a workshop I was at that she was looking for stories about indigenous Mexican tribes, I immediately thought of Mayra and got the lady’s contact info for her. Sometimes I wonder why I do it. I mean, I don’t expect anyone to pay me back in any way, shape or form, and even if I did, there would be no guarantee of it. But I still do it. It’s always been the way I’ve been. *shrug* I don’t know.

I’m so totally despondent about being unemployed, but it didn’t stop me from going to the critique. It was nice – Anh Do from the Register gave me some really encouraging advice about my job search, about sending out packets, how to rank my clips, what to say in my cover letters….I guess its pretty evident what I was there for. See, I never had any qualms about my skills or my talent. But dammit….why am I still unemployed?

I totally understand where that question asker is coming from. I felt the same way s/he did about reporting in small towns and all that. I remember getting pissy every time my college adviser, Jeff Brody, would say I had to pay my dues, I had to pay dues. I would always mutter afterward, “Sheesh! How many more dues do I have to pay?!”

But now I look back and I value the time I had at the Glendale News-Press, especially after four months of working City News Service overnight cop shifts, freelancing community news (talk about podunk) to the SGV Tribune, working at Coffee Bean, the art gallery and for my mom, all at the same time. Talk about community news — let’s just say I’ve had my fill of police and fire department features about training (don’t forget the art!), school board and town council meetings.

Sure, the GNP could have treated us better than indentured servants, but I think may be how all great passions start — you start it by doing it for free or close to free, and as you get better, learn more and become more confident, then the better paychecks start rolling in. It’s just hard to wait on those better paychecks with car payments, school loans and phone bills knocking on your door.

I went through the same thing the writer went through, except not at the end of graduate school (I don’t have that kind of money to throw around) — I thought with all my awards and my go-getter attitude, OH! and plus I’m a minority female!, I’d be sure to get a job at the LA Times right away. Heh. You live, you learn. Plus, I think that everyone graduating college, not just journalism school, has that whiff of arrogance that Joe and the commenters were talking about. It just comes from graduating college, I think. They all come back to earth upon or during their first real world interview.