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Ask Brian- Should I Give Up On My Job Search?

January 10th, 2008 · 10 Comments

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Reader Dee Writes:

I am in/trying to work in the print journalism industry. I graduated last spring from college and worked for the school paper. When I began college, the newspaper industry was vastly different than it is now. The Internet hadn’t crippled the industry like it has now, where vast amounts of people are being laid off every week. I have been applying for jobs since I graduated and am not having much luck. Even some of my mentors in the industry are facing layoffs and other issues. Should I give up now? Part of me wants to keep trying because it’s what I went to school for, but the outlook is bleak. When do I know I should just walk away?.”

Brian Sayz:

I got a flood of Ask Brian requests today, but I wanted to get this one posted quickly because I’m hoping you the readers will help me with this one:

There’s no hard and fast “right” answer to this, that’s why I’m hoping readers in similar situations will chime in.

Do you want to be a writer or just a writer at a newspaper?

In general, I hate to see someone give up on a career path because their industry is in a rough patch. If you’re skilled and committed to a job, then you can always find your place… if only through sheer force of will. Newspapers might not be hiring a lot of journalists now, but if you’re the best journalist in the world, you will get hired by someone.

Also, if you believe in your career, then don’t give up on it so soon. I don’t think you should keep trying to be a journalist just because that’s what you went to school for… but if you really believe deep down that you want to be a journalist, then a few more months of trying will be worth it in the long term.

I know, sometimes it can seem like the tides of history are against certain careers. I wouldn’t want to be a telephone booth repair man right now anymore than I’d want to be a horse and buggy mechanic. Still, newspapers aren’t going to go away completely. Magazines aren’t going to go away completely. They just aren’t. There might be less of them and they might hire fewer journalists than in the past, but some of them will always exist and a good journalist will always be in demand at those venues that survive.

If the internet is the future, why not write on the internet?

I’m wondering if you’re not seeing the forest for the trees here. Do you ONLY want to work at a newspaper, or do you, bottom line, want to be a journalist? Perhaps you really want to write for a living? If so, then why limit yourself to this image of a newspaper reporter? You can be a writer and make a living as a professional writer in any number of ways.

Here’s food for thought: if the internet is killing the newspaper business, why not look into being a writer in some capacity on the internet? If something else is the wave of the future, why not try to jump on that wave? The words might be on a screen instead of printed on the paper, but someone had to type them. Dare I suggest you even consider something like blogging?

Bottom line answer to your question: you know you should walk away if (1) you absolutely need to for monetary reasons or (2) you feel like this career path is not for you anymore. But you can only decide that in your heart, and I’d hate to see you let outside forces make the decision for you. If it really is your dream job, you should fit for it a bit longer.

Readers, this is your queue. Jump in with some comments and lets see if we can help Dee out.

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Tags: Ask Brian · Job Search · Job Search January

  • Rick

    Hi Dee (and Brian)!

    I did the whole bit: journalism degree, four years on the college paper, and a yen for newspapers — and I worked more than 15 years for mainstream dailies. Your assessment of the industry is spot on. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon the notion as long as you understand these points:

    * You need to be conversant on the Web as much as in print. We’re being inundates with information from different sources: newspapers (which will never die as a business model), radio, TV, and “new media” provided via the Web. For instance, you may write a story that appears in print and online, but you may need to go that extra mile and be available to provide additional commentary by way of blogs and podcasts, for example. Bottom line here: If print journalism is your passion, that’s fine, but it’s best to diversify your skills beyond writing. It just might make you more marketable in a few years.
    * Be open to the possibility that life changes in a few years may cause you to rethink the type of medium in which you want to work. Much of the work on daily newspapers takes place outside the usual “9 to 5″ time bracket, and sometimes, you’ll need to work a longer day if you’re working on a big breaking story. But down the road, it might not work for you (something I realized when I reached my mid-30s). That’s when you want to look for something that can accommodate those changes. In my case, I left newspapers for a “9 to5″ job at a technology trade magazine. It was a great job and I grew immensely.
    * You can always freelance after gaining some industry experience. The Web, of course, makes this easier.

    There are many possibilities to consider given your skills. If your passion is for newspapers at this time, hang in there and go for it.

    Hope this helps!

  • Joselle Palacios

    I’m an editor and writer. The best advice I can offer someone trying to break into print is, if you want to write, just write. Don’t wait to get a job. Send out your clips, submit queries and pieces to your small local paper and magazines, start a blog or comment regularly on the ones you visit. All of this is more about connecting with people and honing your craft rather than solely focusing on getting someone to give you a job.

    I’m on the editorial staff of a medical journal, a job i found through a newspaper ad. Sure, when I envisioned my life as a journalist, I thought I’d start right off at a big glossy, writing Very Important Stories in cute shoes but the reality is, that kind of media is hyper-competitive, challenging to break into with little experience and a weak network, and not all glamourous. Where I currently work, I’ve learned more about writing and editing from my boss and peers in under 2 years than in all of college. I’ve built tremendous skills and experience. Meanwhile, I write what I want to write in my blog and have started work on a cookbook and continue to read and create for the love of it.

    Consider looking for work at publications you may not have considered, such as trade mags and journals, small papers, a communications department in a company, a fledgling web site. Whereever there are words, there is a place for a writer.

    To build and nurture connections, stay in touch with your college paper peers and see how they’re navigating their early careers. Join your alumni network and attend events. Take a writing course to meet other writers. Visit

    Finally, consider the fact that you haven’t been on the job market for that long to lose hope. Last spring is just several months ago, right? I didn’t get my editorial job until I was almost 2 years out of college. I was unsure of (well, fearful, really) what I wanted to do and unsure how to go about it. Keep plugging way, be imaginative and open, take risks, and you won’t find the perfect job but you may be surprised where you go and find something you can love.

  • Dee

    To Rick, Joselle and Brian:

    Thank you all so much for your responses. They are thoughtful and very helpful. I will work on developing my Web skills and branch out into some of the smaller papers and journals.

  • Brian

    And thanks to Rick and Joselle from me as well. That is exactly what I was hoping for: someone in the industry to offer their own advice.

  • Pingback: Career Change Considerations | TheJobBored

  • Rick

    You’re welcome Dee!

    I’ll be curious to know how you make out.


  • http://None Michael

    Good luck on your job hunt. I graduated in May 2009 and haven’t found anything despite graduating with two degrees(economics and finance) and a 3.8992. After seeing the reality of the job hunt, I’ve decided to give up searching for a “real” job and go back to delivering. There’s nothing wrong with coming to grips with your situation and settling for something different. The economy will pick up in a year or so and that “dream job” you really wanted will reemerge. Like in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men: “You should admit your situation. There would be more dignity in it. “

  • rick

    i’m an experienced journalist with more than 15 years of experience. I got laid off and have not been able to find a job in a year of searching. i am in the country’s 2nd largest market. I would advise a different career path such as health care, but if you are set on journalism, it would probably be better to get a few contract positions writing for web-based media companies. that’s probably easier than getting one job with a major organization since they are all laying off or in bankruptcy.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t work in this industry, but I’m giving up on my job search and also on working. It’s destroyed my health and my life, and has given me lifelong lessons in how to hate people. It will be a lot more relaxing now that I’ve made the choice not to bother with the stupid American rat race anymore. 

  • JT

    By all means give up. No human looks at resumes anymore. Only computer search engines. If you can’t design a website and write keywords for SEO, then you can’t possibly succeed in the job market today. The only people who find any job are those who can “meta”tag. Lazy HR managers have pretty much destroyed the job market.