The story of my life these days sounds a little bit like this; I’m due to graduate this coming summer, have I got some cushtee-salary, graduate job lined up? Nahhh.
Having studied English Language, (more like linguistics) for the best part of the last three years, I cannot wait to close the book on the University chapter of my life. It has been the time of my life but man, has it served its time. I have lost the little enthusiasm I once had for learning the entire process that the human vocal tract implements for articulating every sound a human can possibly make. I am not even joking. For this reason, amongst a handful of other contributing factors, I am not jumping on the bandwagon that provides the attractive meal ticket to so many graduates these days. This being; the trend to bag the first, run of the mill, graduate job offered to them. This 9-5 grind has zero appeal to me when its premise is for the sake of being employed.
So what is my grand plan? Ideally graduate with a respectable degree class, complete a NCTJ course in News Journalism, preferably in Wimbledon, London, secure some solid, life-long contacts.
BOOM, my foot is in the proverbial door.
Of course this is the pipe dream. The reality is worlds apart.
The last few weeks of my life have been centred around discovering the best i.e. the quickest and easiest way into the cut-throat world of fashion journalism and it essentially, boils down to one thing; that enviable fashion intern with the big dogs. A pre-requisite for most fashiony professions.
What is meant by a fashion intern? A term used flittingly, it encapsulates all avenues of the industry. The strict definition posits “a recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training”. True, to an extent but interns can often be expected to work long hours on mundane, tedious tasks for little or no profit or credit. A pat on the back may be all it takes to have your face or name cemented into the boss’ mind when it comes to discussing potential candidates for an upcoming job role. This is a priceless prospect.
Interns are especially hot property around the time of fashion week. This is where the ongoing debate - experience vs. exploitation really adds fuel to the fire. And why? It works on the same basis as slave labour; its free. For example, why should PR companies pay their existing work force, overtime to line up the seats of every room in Somerset House when they have an abundance of willing youngsters who daren’t question working an 8am till 1am day, at their disposal? It is this willingness and the characteristic ‘I will do anything to get me where I want to go’, philosophy that stretches interns to their limits.
BBC2 aired a show in February entitled; "Who gets the best jobs", I probably watched it at the wrong time as it only reaffirmed my post-university panic. The moral of the story? Be willing to work for free, no expenses reimbursed, in London. Girish Gupta carried out four separate, unpaid, journalism internships in the big city, bed hopping from backpacker hostels to gum tree contact’s sofas. Having, in total, thirty two of his articles published with not one penny to his name. He stuck it out.
What you have to remember is that with the number of horror stories comes the odd fairytale.
Girish is now a recognised and respectable, high-flying freelance journalist including the role as foreign correspondant for The Times.
Alexandra Shulman, editor of UK VOGUE, hosted a Q&A evening via Vogue’s twitter, last week. She was inundated with questions regarding internships. The clichéd advice that have echoed many a career advisor and experienced journalist resounded; be curious, write well, work hard; all pretty obvious traits to an aspiring journalist. The light of the end of the tunnel? "You definitely don't have to do internship at Vogue to get a job here. I didn't!" Read the highlights here.
Having recently attended a conference on ‘Making it in the media’, wise words were spoken by the Managing Director of “The Press”. In response to where does the line come between experience and exploitation, he said “I would be obliged to start paying an intern at the point that their copy is published, even if it is just minimum wage”. However, it is very different story when dealing with the UK’s most well-established fashion and publishing houses. The simple reason? The demand is there.
It's all about a balance, but the trouble is knowing when that balances comes. The experience and skills gained, even if this be brewing the best cup of tea known to man, being able to cement that on your CV is invaluable. Although you can’t live without money, I dare you to ask Vogue’s Chief Exec to enlist you on payroll, it just wouldn’t happen. Their reasoning? Why should they pay you when so many others are offering it, quite literally on a plate, for nada.
In my humble opinion, I honestly think that if you’re aware of the grittier end of the industry, the fact that you have to start at the bottom and have a bit of tenacity about you, then why shouldn’t you be the one making it big.
Feel free to share your stories and experiences.
Also, if you have any advice, it would be greatly appreciated.