Welcome to the Real World
June - a beautiful time of year. The sun is shining, the summer is still fresh, young and full of promise.
And, for newly minted college graduates - particularly in journalism - it's a time of dread.
This is when you realize that investment of $100,000 and four years of your life has come down to this - a piece of paper with some fancy letters on it, handed to you at a Hogwarts-like ceremony where everyone is dressed in traditional caps and gowns and an endless chain of serious-sounding words are intoned. Now you take that paper and trade it in for a career in journalism, right?
I could go on endlessly about the challenges facing J-school graduates in a job market where the only thing anyone talks about is how Journalism as an industry is dying. But you knew all that going into this, didn't you? Besides, that's wrong. Journalism isn't dying. Like all other industries affected by the unprecedented revolution in Communications that is the Internet, it's in a period of transition.
Consider this: according to the website ExpandedRamblings.com, there are 300 hours of original content being uploaded to YouTube every minute! There are six billion hours of video being watched each month by more than a billion viewers - 1/7th of the entire world's population. If you don't see opportunities there, then you're blind.
The trick is making money at web video. You probably already know that you can choose to monetize your videos on YouTube, in which case the company will stick an ad onto the beginning of your video and pay you a few cents every so often. People have been tremendously successful creating YouTube channels and uploading videos to them. One friend of mine built a little YouTube empire around a channel that so far has racked up more than 700 million original views and generates somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 per month in income.
But it ain't easy. Not only do you have to shoot and edit the content, but you have to create the YouTube channel, upload the content to it, add metadata like descriptions and tags, and promote the channel vigorously on social media. It's a full-time job, and then some. Expect twelve-hour days to be the norm, so you'd better love what you're doing. The fact that most successful YouTube channels are successful because they exploit some particular niche dovetails nicely with this requirement that you love what you're doing. Here you can make money off your obsessions.
If you're looking for more traditional, structured routes to success, they still exist as well. Your school most likely has an internship office - my advice to you would be to have already made yourself a familiar face at this place by the time you actually graduate. The big-name schools like NYU and USC trade on those names to hook up their graduates with some sweet internships. When I was at NYU in 1986, they got me an internship at Miramax when there were still only 12 full-time employees at the company and I shared an office with the vice-president of distribution.
You can also try websites like www.internships.com. Like any other job-search site, they break internships down by industry and geographic location.
In the end, it's best to remember that nowhere is the sea-change transition to a gig economy more apparent than in journalism and the media. Instead of landing a job with one company and spending your entire career there - like your parents and grandparents probably did - you're more likely to patch together a living out of multiple income sources and find yourself responsible for things like health care and taxes in a way that you wouldn't in a more traditional employer-employee relationship.
Working like this can be challenging and scary, but it can also be tremendously liberating. If video journalism was your major, don't let graduation be the end of your career. Keep making videos about the things you're interested in and accept the fact that, in the beginning, you're probably going to have to do something like take on a part-time job to make ends meet. Keep making videos, keep building a portfolio, keep making a name for yourself. Now's the time for you to explore. Be fearless.
You can email Steve Janas at Stevejanas@yahoo.com.