A job: The elephant in the room

The end is almost upon us; nine months of City blur into a mixture of deadlines, bars and desperate attempts to escape pretentious Camden hats.

More precise highlights include: interviewing a heart surgeon, a Boston marathon runner, the voice of six Bond Girls (complimentary faith healing included), and being sent hate mail by the BNP.

But now is not the time for reflection, far from it. For the next challenge -  securing the job - lies just around the corner, waiting to beat me up. Some are already lucky enough to have employment in the bag. Others, like myself, face the twilight zone. As it approaches, a number of thoughts have been swirling around my mind.

The first is that I think it unwise to jump for anything that moves. For example, earlier this year, I took the failed step of applying for a certain national newspaper, seduced by the allure of its big name and industry prestige. To be frank, I felt pressure to put my name forward. In some ways I am pleased I didn’t get an interview, I mean, I didn’t get into journalism to peddle that agenda.

It drives to the essence of what being a journalist means. Do I write for the highest bidder, or focus whatever talent I have on strengthening the ideals I hold close? Of course, I’m not naive enough to believe I’ll be able to control the news agenda or bias to my liking, but equally there must be some limit to how far I’ll bend.

Still, if I were offered a job there I’d probably take it, even though sixteen year-old-me would sit disgusted and demand I go back and read the Communist manifesto. It is a paper renowned for its training scheme, offering good money. Realising this, I hold nothing against those who did get on the graduate scheme, applaud them and wish them the best.

My second point is that this selective approach to job hunting needs to be countered by an appreciation of what makes you unique as a journalist: your niche. In my case, there is a caveat to this. I am increasingly faced with a pressing dilemma; anything I write about disability or my life as a wheelchair user gains massive traction compared to my other articles.

A piece I published in February on the wider significance of the Pistorius scandal gained 58 Facebook likes, 14 shares and 11 tweets. By contrast, my interview with a Boston marathon runner who escaped the bomb and MIT shoot-out by seconds, received 11 Facebook likes and one tweet – my own.  Admittedly, I secured the interview when news interest was in its dying embers, but the vast difference in virality stands for something.

Why is this a problem? The truth is, I wish to carve out an identity in mainstream features, and arts and culture writing. I know I am a good music journalist, capable and willing to learn. Whilst I am happy to write about disability, since I understand I can give a fresh perspective – it is other people who view this as my niche.  I’ll write about it when appropriate, but I can’t let it define me. Quite simply, it doesn’t push me enough.

And yet I can’t ignore that it works. Another wheelchair user I know recently got published in Prospect, at the age of 18, writing about poll station inaccessibility. Were it on another topic, it is highly unlikely she’d have ended up in print. A national newspaper recently asked if they could come to me for comment on disability related issues, given my position as an NSPCC ambassador for disability. Of course I accepted. Perhaps if I do well enough, I’ll get the opportunity to comment on other issues too.

In all of this, there appears one firm constant. As we progress onto the next stage, we should consider all options, but keep our personal values and long-term ambitions at the forefront of our actions.

In the words of one wise colleague, “you’ve got decades ahead of you”.