Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

The reality of breaking into journalism today

By Greta Hallberg, Columnist

While my friends were shopping for their spring break bikinis, I was looking for a suit that didn't make me look like Hillary Clinton. My friends were dieting and working on their spring break bodies while I was beefing up my resume.

I went to Washington, D.C. for job interviews and networking meetings. I traipsed across the city with my laptop and CV, meeting with friends, alumni and journalists in the area. Instead of fruity drinks on the beach, I lined up a series of coffee meetings, networking my way into the capital city and trying to land a job.

I left Oxford feeling confident about my D.C. trip. I had a stylish and professional new wardrobe and a positive attitude to match. I was going to get a job in journalism in Washington.

My faith in myself dipped to an ultimate low as early as my first meeting.

"I'm interested in finding a job in journalism in Washington," I said to probably 15 people. I gave them my elevator pitch: I sold my experiences, my skills and myself.

As soon as I finished, most people would give me these kind of sad eyes. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" They would say. "It's really hard to break into."

People suggested I sell my soul to the devil and do communications for Congressman or staff on Capitol Hill. They suggested I try public relations instead, and with that I'd still be able to do writing and be in Washington.

But all of these potential other jobs are exactly what I want to go to Washington to fight. I don't want to do writing with a spin or an agenda, I want to do writing with one goal - uncovering the truth.

Reporters play a crucial role in a functioning democracy. Journalism is the Fourth Estate, the watchdog of the politicians, and the ones to sift through the bullshit to find the truth politicians try to mask. I don't simply want to be a journalist in Washington because I'm a writer. I want to be a journalist because I believe so fully in the institution and the truth. I want to make sure that those in public office uphold the principles of democracy.

So yeah, I'm sure that journalism in Washington is what I want to do.

Applying for jobs and getting rejected and just generally being unemployed as a soon-to-be college graduate is a horrible process. It's disheartening. It hurts your ego. It makes you question your abilities and your qualifications. This sentiment is amplified in Washington, where everybody is already the best and the brightest.

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It's even harder to have established adults asking me if I'm sure journalism is what I want to do. I'll be honest - at times, I wasn't sure. These people had me questioning not only my career path, but considering abandoning my values in favor of what - getting a job in D.C. faster?

That's not really my style. I know I'm going to work crappy hours for little money. I know it's going to be really hard to get a job, probably harder than I think.

But as a graduating senior with the world in front of me, I'm too young to give up on my dreams and settle for easy employment.

Your first job won't be your dream job, but that doesn't mean you should let go of your passions and principles to have a stable paycheck. I would rather waitress to pay the bills than take a job as a spin artist, buying in to the very thing I want to spend my working life fighting.

Believe me, it's hard to not have an answer when people ask what I'm doing next year. I'd really prefer to be in Washington than unemployed on my parents' couch this summer. But I'm only 21. I have the rest of my life to work and build a career I love. My first job should be the right first job, not the one I took out of desperation.