Journo tips: How to deal with failure

This year, I had interviews for three graduate schemes and a six-week internship. I didn’t get a single one of them. I was extremely fortunate to be offered a five-week internship off the back of one, which I enjoyed immensely, but that’s not a clear route into a job.

I have thought about what went wrong in each interview dozens of times.Thankfully (I think) I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a slightly different thing in each one. Not enough experience in one, not enough knowledge of the paper in another – and so on, a catalogue of failures.

Does it make me feel sad that I didn’t get on a grad scheme? Of course it does. It breaks my heart to see my coursemates getting excited (and, equally, complaining) about what they’ll be doing in September – the rascals. I want to be doing it with them, I feel like I should be doing it with them. I know they really mean well when they say “I definitely thought you’d get something,” but every single kind phrase brings it back anew.

However, I’ve realised that there’s no use being bitter or sad about what happened, or wondering if I could have done or said things differently. Here are some things I keep telling myself, and that I’ll keep telling myself over and over for the next few months.

  • You did well to get interviews. Ungratefulness is extremely unbecoming, and I’m trying to eschew it.
  • Grad schemes aren’t the be all and end all. Before I’d started at City, I never even knew grad schemes were a thing. There are other ways in. Sure, it’ll be hard, but not having a grad scheme doesn’t mean your consigned to the scrap heap.
  • These failures have made me less complacent. It’s easy to say because I haven’t got one, but if I’d gone into a grad scheme straight off the bat I think I may have relaxed into it a little too much. Failing has forced me to go for riskier stories, and be more upfront and tenacious.
  • You only decided you wanted to do this a year ago. I always thought I wanted to write, but I didn’t decide I wanted to be a journalist until I applied to City about a year ago. Until then, I’d wanted to be an academic and do an MA in English at Oxford. I had done a little student journalism before, but no proper work experience. I knew practically nothing about journalism before I came to City. I’ve learned so much in only a year, and I’m so grateful to every single person – tutors, editors, contacts – who have each taught me something new along the way.
  • This is a completely ridiculous and first-world problem. I’ve had an excellent education, I really shouldn’t be sad about something that is, yes, significant to me, but in the grand scheme of life a very small issue.
  • It’s not over. Well, as long as I keep going that is. I have thought of a couple of alternative career options (Labour leader, detective, ha ha) but, for now, I’m going to stick with the journalism lark, no matter how burnt-out and bruised I feel. I’m going to take this year and run with it. I’m going to do as much free work as I can afford to do. I’m going to pick up as many shifts as I can at whichever outlet, big or small, will take me, and I’m going to come back to the grad schemes next year with a bulging portfolio and my head held high.

I’ve always wanted to be the best in everything I do. Some might say this is my comeuppance – my penance for over-reaching. Maybe they’re right, maybe I needed a big knock. Well, I’ve had it, and now I’m ready to dust myself off, pick myself up and just get on with it – whatever “it” may be.

Oh, and finally, here are a couple of more light-hearted reasons I’m not feeling bad about not getting on one of those big grad schemes:

  • My best friends on the course have. And I’m really happy for them, and I’m going to visit (terrorise) them when they’re at their regionals.
  • I can save money on work clothes. The unemployed do not need fancy suits.
  • I don’t have to explain to my nan what a grad scheme is for the seventeenth time. Seriously, she still doesn’t get it.

Wow, this post was cathartic!

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