There’s nothing wrong with aiming high

The Homeless World Cup 2008 in Melbourne

Originally uploaded by littlesaint_uk.

This time last week, Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski was standing outside an office in Kings Cross handing out his cards to staff as they arrived at work.

The 22-year old graduate hoped his initiative would impress bosses at the Guardian enough to hire him as a journalist. Well it certainly impressed some Guardian journalists – one actually asked him to blog about his experiences

A week later and Tom has had a blogpost in the Guardian’s money section and has been discussed by a number of other bloggers and on Twitter. He may not have a job yet, but he is certainly being talked about. And unlike one of the Guardian’s previous rookie bloggers, the infamous Max Gogarty (now what ever happened to him?), the reaction to Tom’s post has been largely positive.

However, there has been some criticism. Tom’s Guardian blog talks about hitting the nationals in a last ditch attempt to get a job. He has already done work experience at the Guardian’s fashion desk and worked on the student newspaper, but can’t afford to enroll on an NCTJ course to improve his career prospects.

His post does not mention local newspapers, or the trade press, something that many of the people who commented on the article have picked up on. I noticed that one person who highighted the opportunities in the trade press was Bronagh Miskelly, group editor of the trade mag Community Care.

So is Tom aiming too high? Initially, I would have agreed with this assessment and was planning to offer some alternative suggestions on this blog that might help him and others like him.

But then I started thinking about the last time that I was out of work. It was this time last year and I was in Melbourne, Australia. I had made the conscious decision not to look for journalism work – too many people chasing too few jobs. And anyway I wanted a break, so I decided to look for some office temping work – “a relaxing challenge” as Jeremy on Peep Show would say.

Now, what scuppered this plan was the downturn in the economy and employers ceasing recruitment over Chrismas earlier than usual. Neither I nor my boyfriend found jobs until well into the new year (in my case washing dishes!) and by that time, we only had a few months before we were due to start travelling again.

In the meantime, I made the best of the situation (and my contacts) and managed to get some freelance commissions from UK-based magazines. These all related to events happening in Australia while we were out there like the Homeless World Cup (pictured) and the bushfires in Victoria.

This taught me that maybe it would have been better to stick to what I do best – finding stories and writing them. This point was reinforced when I came back and heard of two other UK journalists who had found journalism work in Australia during a gap year.

But I also found out that when you are unemployed and have time on your hands, you have the flexibility to go to events or chase stories that staffers would never have the time to follow up. Perhaps Tom could use his time by going to a parliamentary select committee or getting a media place at a conference that could provide him with some stories?

Writing this, I am laughing, because really I should be taking my own advice. I only work part-time at the moment so I have time for freelancing. Maybe days like today when I have no work I should be out there finding some news, instead of sitting in front of a laptop with a flakey internet connection.

Anyway, I hope that Tom continues to aim high, without ignoring other opportunities, and I wish him the best of luck with his job hunt. It’s hard out there but not hopeless.

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2 thoughts on “There’s nothing wrong with aiming high

  1. Chie Elliott says:

    Lovely reflections, Rosie. I see you too were inspired to write by Tom’s blog in the Guardian. (I’ve now posted a link to your blog under mine on same topic: http://chieelliott.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/why-desperate-is-the-new-creative-in-job-hunting/).

    I guess it takes someone as bold and recklessly fearless like him to make us all start debating and looking at our own attitude in the face of hardships, in this case unemployment. I am old enough to be Tom’s mother now, but if I were his age, it’s not unthinkable I’d try something similar, even at the risk of being heckled by all.

    I am unemployed at the moment myself and, as you say, trying my best to use my free time constructively, but I am always more productive under pressure (weak self-discipline!) so it’s easier said than done. These are exceptional times right now; the market is changing, journalism is changing, no one rule applies. Even if something worked in the past, it doesn’t mean it will now. I guess the quality that can most help all of us at times like this is resilience, open-mindedness and the ability and willingness to change with the times.

  2. rosieniven says:

    Hi Chie, glad you liked the post and thank you for your comment. I’m also much more constructive under pressure – but one of my new years resolutions is to find events to attend and other ways of using my time constructively. I found a great website called Eventbrite http://www.eventbrite.com/ and next week I’m off to a couple of the seminars and meet-ups I found on there.

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