Hire Me! Please!

news logosI'm 21 years old and just graduated from college two months ago. Despite my college degree and extensive work and internship experience, looking for a job in broadcasting is all the nightmare it's cracked up to be. The jobless rate in our country is at a nine-year high. That's what the Wall Street Journal says anyway, and it's a discouraging figure. But what really matters to me and to the rest of America's unemployed is these words: I don't have a job.

I can complain all I want, but I know I have it better than some people. According to the Wall Street Journal, two million unemployed Americans have been on the job hunt for at least 27 weeks. I've had two interviews (and two job offers) in the past eight weeks. One was an on-call, part-time production assistant job at a small TV station that paid $10 an hour. I didn't like the idea of working on-call for a company that I didn't really identify with all that much (they were owned by the uber-Christian Family Television Network). So I declined. The other is an offer I am actually considering: a part time television news-writing job in San Diego. Broadcast Journalism is what I went to school for (I have a B.A. in Radio and Television from San Francisco State University), but the job pays $8.50 an hour. I was making more than that when I was 15!

The news-writing job pays substantially less than I would like to be making, so I have spent the past several weeks scouring the Internet for a better-paying job. I wake up each morning around eight and begin my search over a bowl of Cheerios and bananas. This summer, I've probably sent out around 20 applications, complete with resume, cover letter, writing samples, and letters of recommendation. I've received two calls back (which I mentioned earlier) and zero rejections. But those numbers don't really do the job searching process much justice. From an emotional standpoint, it has been perhaps the most stressful, lowest point in my entire life.

Taking that low paying position might put me in line for a higher paying spot that might just open in a couple of months. Or in a couple of years.

In today's supremely ferocious job market (with the television field being perhaps the most competitive), living on crumbs might be a sacrifice I need to make. Taking that low paying position might put me in line for a higher paying spot that might just open in a couple of months. Or in a couple of years.

The more I think about this whole "looking for a job" thing, and the more jobs I apply for (and never hear back from), the more insight I gain. When I discovered that landing a job took a lot more than sending a resume into a random business I found listed at an online job site, I realized I should have prepared for the application process earlier.

Some recent graduates I know agree with me. "I didn't apply during school because I had this false sense of security that a degree would help land me a job," says Marion Valino, a recent graduate of San Francisco State University's Radio and Television department. "So I waited until school was over. Big mistake."

Not all of my friends waited until they got their diplomas to begin the job search. In many cases, it seems that taking the early initiative worked. "I graduated in June, but I started looking for a job in February," says Sana Mahmood, a molecular biology major from UCLA. "You shouldn't wait until you graduate to start applying because everyone else who graduated is going to be doing the same thing." Another friend of mine who graduated from Cornell started applying for jobs during the fall of our senior year. I thought that was a little early, but he wound up landing a high-paying job at Hewlett Packard.

As I learned much too late, applying early is a smart move if you want to start working right out of college, especially for a job in the media. But even in a fiercely competitive job market like broadcast news, sending in an application months in advance isn't necessarily going to get you a job. Networking is supremely important. Every job I have ever had, paid or not, was from networking. Almost every recent graduate I know who is currently working used their connections, and if they didn't, they are wishing they did. "Interning more and networking in the industry would have helped me get a job in TV," laments Valino. "I should have talked to more professors and kissed more ass."

Aside from using who you know to get your foot in the door, you're going to have to pay some dues -- at least in the field I want to work in. This idea has been drilled into my head since I was a teenager, but it's a little hard to stomach sometimes. Throughout college, I had a slew of unpaid internships. I bought and picked up pizzas for my supervisors, I filled up Styrofoam water cups for news anchors at 4:45 am, and spent 10-hour days in a lonely cubicle answering phones. And now I'm floundering in a sea of resumes and letters written to faceless employers offering me crumbs. At times I just feel like giving up and I begin to wish I'd majored in Accounting. Then I realize that I don't like Accounting, and I've already come so far.

This is the attitude that a lot of media hopefuls like myself take. "I'm finding that I'm going to have to pay a lot of dues," says Marie Mortera, a recent Broadcast Journalism graduate from San Francisco State University. "I'm going to have to work in places that I would never imagine living -- like Twin Falls, Idaho." Another classmate of mine recently packed her bags and left home for a low-paying reporting job in Colorado. I know another broadcasting major who left California to pursue a $16,000 a year reporting job in Missoula, Montana. And while it's rough, these are sacrifices that need to be made.

Still, others feel discouraged by the extremely competitive job market, especially the market of broadcast news. "There are definitely a lot of opportunities in the industry, but also a lot of competition," says Valino. "It's frustrating because it's all about who you know. As far as the outlook, getting your ideal job either requires moving or getting some type of plastic surgery. I haven't found a job in the [television] industry, but I believe if I had double Ds, there would be a whole other world of opportunities."

I've noticed that a lot of people pursue careers that have absolutely nothing to do with their college majors and that a lot of Americans absolutely hate their jobs. I don't necessarily equate happiness with a job in broadcast journalism, but I know that a sales job at a bottled-water company (yes, I got an offer) is not what I want to do. I want to be paid to write stories, and I think I'm taking steps in the right direction to make that dream my reality. Unfortunately, it just might take a while.

Mike Gadd needs a job. He has interned at Youth Radio, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, KRON TV, CNN, and Ziff-Davis TV.

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