1) Accept that there are no guarantees
If you decide to pursue a career in an ultra-competitive industry make sure it’s an informed decision. It’s not my place to say what you are (or aren’t) capable of achieving – I just want you to be aware that when people say it’s tough to get in, they mean it. Things may pick up after the recession – or they may not. Nobody can make you any promises.
2) Give your industry a health check
Be realistic. Is your chosen industry competitive – or declining? Industries have a limited lifespan – and some are pretty sick right now. Listen to what people are saying – and sniff out where the new opportunities lie. For example, if you’ve set your heart on becoming a print journalist but every print journalist you speak to says they’re moving into online journalism, consider your options. Is there a related, growing – or even brand new – industry where your writing skills will receive a far warmer welcome? Not only will it be easier to find a job in a growing industry – but you’ll also find it easier to sustain a career in one too.
3) Don’t give up your dream – expand it
We’re not suggesting you abandon your goal – just that when everything’s up in the air it’s smart to stay open-minded about alternative opportunities that could be opening up around you. If a temp job takes you into a surprise growth area in your industry and you enjoy the work, why not stick with it and see where it goes? Likewise, become an expert in who’s doing what. Ask questions. When most companies are doing badly, who is doing well? Who seems to ‘get’ online – and is known to have a long-term plan for their business? Can you work for them? These could be career paths you’d never thought about before – or even heard of. Perhaps you always saw yourself as a print journalist – but is digital media a better place be a writer these days? When EMI are selling Abbey Road, could Spotify be a better place to work? When new industries are springing up all the time, the key is to be flexible on what your ‘dream might’ look like.
4) Network, work experience, network, work experience…
Prepare for a long slog. Chances are, you will need to work for free, at least for a few months. Unfair? Yes, but that’s just the way it is right now. You won’t get anywhere applying to advertised vacancies unless you have experience. You will also need to become an expert networker, constantly expanding (and keeping in touch with) your group of contacts. You should prepare to do short-term, casual work – you’re highly unlikely to bag a permanent job any time soon. (If you’re organised, you can plan better paid temp work around this). Keep your mind open to possibilities you hadn’t considered before and keep your ear to the ground for anybody needing help. Good luck.