Careers in Writing: From English Graduate to Travel Journalist

”What do you study?” – English Literature. ”Oh right… so you’re going to be a teacher then?”

The conversation that every English student encounters at least once during their years of study. As you draw closer and closer to the big finale, the simultaneously dreaded and excitedly anticipated G-bomb, the big G-R-A-D-U-A-T-I-O-N, the intensity of this conversation inevitably increases to almost shocking levels – because let’s face it, if you’re not set on being a teacher or getting into a graduate scheme, just what are you going to do with a degree in reading books?

I for one, did indeed ponder just this. About half way through first year, I knew that I had a vague interest in the field of journalism. A little research into how exactly to be a journalist however, took me back a bit. It certainly wasn’t going to be an easy road. Should I have chosen an easier career path, a more vocational degree? Was it worth it?

Freshly graduated and writing this post in the middle of Milan on my company laptop, three weeks into a four month travel reporting job around the world for SPAR international, I would be inclined to say yes – the harder, less cut out path has definitely been worth it.

Although I have been very fortunate to bag my current job, it’s not luck. Luck is a matter of chance, and after deciding that travel journalism was what I was passionate about, I wasn’t going to leave anything to luck. I did more research into journalism as a career, plunged myself into Red Brick as best I could, and decided to apply for an internship with a newspaper abroad rather than in the UK as the experiences were longer and generally more practical.

6 months later and I was off to Honduras for a one month placement with Honduras Weekly, an English speaking publication based in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. It was make or break for me career wise, I knew I would either love every second of a journalistic work experience, or despise it. 2 days in and I didn’t just love it, I relished it.

I started a blog, and after a few months of  vague, unfocused posts, I finally got the hang of it, and invested time into decent posts that were focused on exactly what I wanted to write about – that, of course, being travel. Perseverance and many hours later, and my blog started getting followers. Not just my mum and dad (who, come to think of it, actually don’t follow my blog at all…), but people from all over the world who were interested in what I had to say. I also visited the CAL careers team, who stressed the importance of social media to the success of the career path I had chosen.

This visit to CAL careers made me feel a hell of a lot better about what I was doing. Even though I knew that the journalism route was a tough one, it’s pretty hard to gauge if what you’re doing is going to get you where you want to be. The support the advisers gave me during my appointment and in the weeks following was fantastic, and took a bit of the pressure of career/life/end of Uni off for a while.

After being assured that I was going in the right direction, I gained the confidence to enter the SPAR international travel reporting competition. I knew that I could be a travel reporter, and so I went for it. One embarrassing video, an interview and an assessment weekend in Amsterdam later, and that was it – I had won! And now I really am living every wannabe travel journalists dream – a four month all expenses paid trip around the world.

Not every English graduate wants to be a teacher, and not every Arts student fancies a 9-5 graduate scheme. An arts or media based career is increasingly difficult to crack, but this shouldn’t put anybody off. Perseverance and a clear, focused aim really is key and to use the tired but ever relevant cliche, ‘nobody ever said it was going to be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.’ It makes me cringe to type it, but I couldn’t agree more.

Find out more about Gemma’s adventures on her blog www.gemmafottles.com, twitter @gemmafottles and SPAR app  https://apps.facebook.com/seetheworldwithspar/?fb_source=search&ref=ts

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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