Thursday, 16 April 2009

National newspaper comes calling!

First of all, very briefly, many thanks for all the comments that have been left on my previous posts - I enjoyed reading and replying to them and enjoyed reading the blogs that were linked to them too. Please do keep giving me feedback, even if it's (constructive) criticism. I am quite keen to get discussions going too, so don't hesitate in leaving a comment. I am happy to share all the lessons I've learned, so here's my most recent one....

As with everything in life, when an opportunity in life presents itself, you have to grab it with both hands. As you move forward on the conveyor belt of life, sometimes it flashes by with only a split second to jump up and grab it. For me, this was one of those moments.

As already outlined in previous posts, once I'd drawn up my financial plan in January 2008 - and took steps to implement it - I started to take stock of what I wanted to do with my life if I wanted to leave the accountancy profession. I spent the next few months mulling this over, but by spring in 2008 I still hadn't come to any definite conclusion. While frustrating, I don't think it's entirely uncommon among people who want to change career. So I decided instead to just identify what I had been interested in at school and university, and follow those interests to see where they would lead - if anywhere at all. In order to hone my eventual career-change decision, I decided to try out any possible avenues along the way if the opportunities ever arose.

For example, two things I'm definitely interested in are writing and people, both on an individual psychological level and a socio-cultural level. Trouble is, so many people are interested in these subjects - and are a lot better than I am at them, too - that it's really hard to break into these fields. Take writing for instance, where the odds are particularly stacked against the newbie. Even if you want to just get a short unpaid placement on a local newspaper for experience on your CV (resumé), that's hard enough, so the chances of getting one in the nationals is virtually impossible!

One evening in late March, my mum happened to mention the fact that her boss regularly played football (that's soccer to any American readers) with someone who was the editor of a well-known national daily newspaper. I think he regretted mentioning it at all because as soon as my mum told me, I was ringing the poor man at work the next day and pleading with him to mention me to that newspaper editor.

His protests that he "didn't know him that well, only casually" didn't deter me as I tried to persuade him (nicely, of course!) that if he could just mention that I was available for any type of unpaid work experience placement on that editor's newspaper, I'd be very grateful. "Well, OK...." my mum's boss started, hesitantly, "but I can't promise anything...."
"There's no harm trying though, is there?" I pressed. "Please....?"
"Well.... I can try.... but he's a busy man.... national newspaper.... they get thousands of requests for unpaid work experience every year...." he said.
"But you can still mention me, right?" I persisted. "There's no harm trying, is there? The worst he can do is say no, and neither of us has lost anything if he does....?"
Eventually, he agreed to mention me, if only to shut me up: I wouldn't be surprised if he was inwardly cursing my mum at this point!

Nevertheless, he was as good as his word: the editor told him to tell me to get in touch with his PA. I wasn't provided with a phone number or email address, but fortunately there was a switchboard number on the newspaper's website, so once I was put through to her I introduced myself and informed her that her boss asked me to ring her to discuss the possibility of an unpaid work experience placement (I had to write out my little speech before I rang her; I was so nervous that I was convinced I was going to completely fluff it!)

She was surprisingly receptive: she simply asked me to send her an outline of my experiences to date, and a sample of any work I'd ever had published. The last time I'd written anything - the last time I'd actually had time to write anything, before I started working long hours as an accountant and spending my spare moments studying for demanding exams - was at university in 2002, so I emailed her a PDF scan of one of my articles that got published in the student magazine. I hoped that the fact that I'd written it 7 years ago - when I was 20 - wouldn't count against me, but I wasn't expecting to hear anything, especially as my working and academic experience since 2002 hasn't really been relevant to journalism or writing.

I was therefore stunned and pleasantly surprised when I got a response inviting me for a two-week unpaid work experience placement, starting in June! Result!

So there you are - have a go and try any opportunity, because you simply never know. I really wasn't expecting to be accepted but I am glad I plucked up the courage to try! (It's the first time in my life that networking has actually paid off. My mum's boss has been profusely thanked in the meantime, rest assured!)

While obviously I don't know if journalism is for me - even in spring 2009, a year after my initial career change decision, I'm still undecided - I am sure this unpaid work experience for a fortnight will help me find out; after all, you can never be certain what any career is going to be like until you try it for yourself.
I have to admit, though, that I'm really looking forward to it and will definitely post to let you all know how it goes. Stay tuned!
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  1. Great news- I'm looking forward to hearing all about it! B

  2. I think its lovely that you're letting yourself explore other avenues of expression. The writing field is particularly hard and many writers associate their ego with what they publish. As long as your confident and willing to learn I think its a wonderful opportunity.

    I teach at a University in the states and though I love teaching, I'm at a point where I want to explore even more of my passions. I started an online editing & proofreading business set to launch in early May and though I do feel as though its a big venture, the risks are worth the passions. Here's hoping for both of us.



  3. Hey Amandine,

    Many thanks for taking the time to visit my blog (I loved your most recent blog post, as you probably guessed!) Also, thanks ever so much for the encouragement and best of luck with the online business :-)

  4. Congratulations! That's an amazing achievement. I take my hat off to you (I would never have had the courage to approach someone like that!)

    Good luck, hope it goes well!

  5. Thanks Becky - I hope it goes well too! Am sure it will :-)