Staring down the job market during a pandemic

By Emma Oxnevad

I hear all the jokes about the less-than-ideal career prospects for post-grads. I laughed along—most of the time. But the pit in my stomach grows with every passing remark and with every thought of life after college.

In a move of extreme pragmatism, I threw myself head-first into the world of journalism, spending my four years as a student juggling positions in student media, internships, and various freelancing gigs. I even managed to get some sleep along the way.

I spent my time as a student confident that I was setting myself up for success, primed to enter the daunting realm of professional journalism with a well-equipped arsenal.

Then, the world was indefinitely shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The onset of the pandemic saw a staggering number of newsroom layoffs across the country, pausing long careers and leaving experienced reporters on the hunt for whatever open positions were left behind. Even though I still had another year of school to go, I had to shut my eyes. “This will all be over soon,” I told myself.

Well, it’s not over. As we approach one year of living under a global pandemic that has fundamentally changed life as we know it, it is high time to accept that this is the new normal.

My time as a student will end in four months. From there, I won’t be able to rely on the crutch of being a “student journalist.” The time has passed for me to laugh and mumble a joke when asked what my plans are after graduation. I’ll be on my own, and I’d be lying if I said the prospect didn’t terrify me.

The economic fallout of COVID-19 has impacted journalists at a disproportionate rate. But we are the profession best equipped to handle such a disheartening time for employment.

Journalists are, by the very nature of the profession, adaptable; working irregular hours, moving around the country, and previously facing the brunt of the Great Recession, in which media layoffs surpassed the 20,00 mark.

The job hunt amid an ongoing global pandemic is going to be a long, frustrating road, regardless of one’s career path. There are times where it may feel hopeless and one may feel inclined to give up and wait for life to “return to normal,” an increasingly abstract concept. But if there is one thing all journalists know, it’s that the bumpiest, most treacherous paths are often the ones most worth going down.

My expectations for my first reporting job have always been low, so as not to set myself up for failure and disappointment. The pandemic has shrunk them even more.

But I’m willing to pound the pavement—virtually, until it is safe to gather with others— and fight for my spot in a professional newsroom; I’m willing to hear “no” a hundred times over if it means I can hear “yes” even once. And it is the time spent as a student journalist—full of unanswered messages, getting stonewalled and spun by my university, and a few sleepless nights here and there— that has prepared me for this most intimidating endeavor.

Because reporters don’t give up.


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