By Jessica Borten
At the ripe old age of 20, I already have a list of things I wish I could tell my younger self. Don’t care too much about what other people think, embrace your differences, break free from the status quo and do more of what makes you happy. Read: spoil yourself, life is short.
Nearing the end of my third trimester at Bond University where I am currently studying a Bachelor of Journalism majoring in Criminology, I was interested to find out what advice leading women in media had for start-up journalists like me.
So, I asked them: if you could turn back the hands of time, what advice would you give to your younger self about pursuing a career in the media industry?
CAROLINE JONES AO
WOMEN IN MEDIA CO-PATRON
Be really good at what you do. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and apologise for it. There’s always more to the story. Wherever possible, follow up. Although the pressure is always on to report on what has gone wrong, search for stories that contain solutions to the problems of society. Social researcher Hugh Mackay says that, in anxious times, when people feel powerless to change anything much, they love to hear solutions.
If you need it, do some assertiveness training so you know how to stand up for yourself and how to say ‘no’, and how to ask for what you want. Back yourself. Find a trustworthy mentor. Be ready to encourage and help your younger or less experienced colleagues. Seek out women’s voices to feature in your stories to help to raise the status of women in public discourse.
Don’t be afraid to change direction in your career. Have interests and gain qualifications outside work because a wide experience of life informs your journalism and increases your range of contacts, and also is probably good for your wellbeing. Don’t envy anyone else. You don’t know what’s really going on in their life. You will probably make some serious mistakes in your life. Have the humility to say sorry, and to learn something from them.
THE WALKLEY FOUNDATION CHAIR
The media industry is exciting and compelling but it can also be difficult for someone without networks to get to the top. To succeed in sustaining your career you will need to be flexible, take measured risks and remain focused on your goals and self-worth because there will be hurdles.
The challenges will be worth the rewards if you take a strategic approach.
HEAD OF FEATURES AND PUBLICATIONS AT THE COURIER MAIL & SUNDAY MAIL
I was knocked back several times for a newspaper cadetship and I’m so glad I persisted until they let me in the door. So, my advice would be – don’t give up. Particularly in this current media industry, where opportunities for new entrants are becoming harder to come by, be persistent.
Make contacts wherever you can, reach out to people who sound interesting in the media industry and ask to have a cup of coffee, write for whatever publications you can to boost your CV and find ways to network and get to know other journalists.
It’s a very rewarding profession, so it’s well worth the effort!
WOMEN IN MEDIA CO-PATRON, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR
You have a keen curiosity about the world, you like writing and broadcasting so keep pursuing a role in journalism even if the opportunities seem elusive. If you are persistent, polite and competent, something will come up.
Make a pact that you’ll commit to two things from the outset.
First, ensure that you record information and people’s names as accurately as you can because it’s basic stuff.
Second, if you find someone more experienced from whom you can learn things, ask them if they would mind it if you ask for advice now and then. Join your union. Eventually work out what broad fields interest you, select a couple and try and follow the news, build up contacts and note political events in that area, whether it’s science, rural affairs or aged care.
JOURNALIST AND NEWS PRESENTER
Fasten your seat belt, pay more attention, read more and never stop being curious!
The seat belt’s required because the media can be a wild and unpredictable ride with breaking news and a hungry 24/7 news cycle. Pay more genuine attention to people and places around you and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of good stories.
Read more in order to learn and keep up with events, and never get tired of asking the right questions.
EDITOR OF BRISBANE TIMES
While the media industry will radically transform and doomsayers will be plentiful during your career, journalism will always have a place where strong storytelling is valued.
Fiercely protect your reputation which is one of a reporter’s greatest assets, seize opportunities to work with people who inspire you, have a long list of story ideas, and always carry two pens and a spare notebook just in case you drop either in a flooded creek.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF ABC LANDLINE
There may be some people in positions of power who don’t believe you will succeed. But there are others who will believe in you.
Seek them out for feedback and help. Seize opportunities, even if it is scary – that’s how you build your skills, your versatility and make your own luck.
If a job does not feel right and fit with your values – change it. It’s holding you back from finding the one that does.
Success is the best revenge. This is how you show the doubters you were right.
WALKLEY AWARD WINNING PODCASTER
If I could somehow claw my way back a decade or more, I’d tell my younger self not to wait to be ready to take on bigger, more ambitious projects, or to do the kind of deep, immersive reporting that fills your soul.
Nobody is ever ready.
You just have to leap in and trust that you’re passionate and resourceful enough to work your way through the challenges that inevitably come up.
And, while I’m at it, I’d also tell my younger self to: say no more often, expect to make mistakes (and enjoy the things you learn from them) and that there’s no rush. You don’t need to be and do everything at once. There’s time.