After two years of full-time study, gaining a deeper understanding of the world and an impressive set of multi-media skills, I face a very big question. What next?
Now, so close to graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism, I feel I should be proud, relieved and excited to confront the real world. Instead, for the first time in my life I feel fearful and cautious about finishing my studies, and I know I am not alone.
With only three months until I graduate, my fear of finding work in the new year is growing. How long will it be before I can walk into a full-time position? How long will I have to rely on payments by my mum so I can afford to live day-to-day? When my concession card runs out, how will I be able to afford to pay for full-fare train tickets?
Recent statistics show only 68 per cent of graduates will find full-time work
within four months of finishing their studies, the worst it has been since the 1980s. Youth unemployment levels are 13.68 per cent and a study by Crikey in 2013 found that a glut of would-be journalists: an estimated 1750 students studying journalism at various universities. With journalism degree enrolments increasing steadily, I have to wonder, will I become just another statistic?
In a constantly changing media landscape where print journalists and staff photographers around the world have been laid off and modern newsrooms have to produce more content with fewer staff than ever before, how will I make it?
The last time I worked was in May 2014, five days a week as a cook for a small restaurant. Since quitting to focus on my college studies and complete crucial internships, I have failed to land a part-time job through lack of experience and time, so I was left relying on a fortnightly Youth Allowance payment of $280.
Then Centrelink cut that off in June because my mum and her partner earn too much – even though I don’t live with them! I was left struggling to pay for groceries, electricity, my phone, trains to the city, petrol, and insurance and registration on my car. I had to cut back on already minimal expenses. I had to change to a cheaper phone plan and have had to rely on my mother to give me just enough money each week for transport. I have also had to rely on my brother, who works full-time as an apprentice, and my mum to pay the bills at home.
Unemployed – and no Centrelink benefits
I don’t buy lunch or coffee when I go out with friends, I pack my own lunch every day for college and I have been resorting to two-minute noodles for some time. I know I am not the only one this has happened to: a group of college friends join me at lunch eating instant noodles or homemade sandwiches and drinking the instant coffee and tea provided by the college.
For the past six months I have applied for jobs in retail, cafes and of course the media. More often than not I hear nothing back. Finally, this November, I turn 22 and become eligible for Centrelink’s Newstart allowance.
This was definitely not where I would have pictured myself, and it is certainly not the situation that I want to be in: I don’t want to rely on government allowances like Newstart. I don’t want to delay my chances to get my foot in the door. I want to walk straight into a job after graduating, and I want to work in the media industry and be a journalist – but if welfare is my only option I will have no choice.
Like every other journalism graduate I dream of working as a journalist, finding and reporting the news, capturing and embedding photos and video in the multi-media packages demanded by the modern media. Will I become one of the incredibly few lucky ones?
If I qualify for Newstart how long will I have to rely on the government? Looking further ahead how long will it be until I earn enough to move out of home and rent in the city, where property prices are at an all-time high?
As my course comes to an end these things are at the top of my mind. I have always been comfortable studying and not having to work full-time – almost completely reliant on my mum.
I had never worried much about what would happen after I finished studying but now… The future is bearing down on me far too quickly. – Daniel Walker is a senior writer in The Newsroom
Top photo by Jessica Heckley.