Have Your Words Heard

June 4th, 2022 • 4 min read

Read the Latest LinkedIn Article for June

There won't always be signposts to where you want to go or where you end up, but know that choice is not limited to the present options–sometimes you might be the one to put up a new signpost.

Experience is Free

Published on June 13, 2022 on LinkedIn

It has been decades since I first began a career I always knew I was born to do: work with words. Surprisingly to most professional writers I have met, my first actual job was as a journalist, while I was still in secondary education, on a freelance assignment for a local cultural magazine. The job wasn't advertised, and I did not get introduced to the editor. Instead, I combined a school assignment and interviewed students about their thoughts on celebrities, such as the late-Rock Hudson, having their sexuality being outed in the news, especially after death. There were two sides of the camp, pardon the pun: those who thought it was disrespectful and those who thought it should be front page. The story eventually was spiked when the publisher decided that a story was too suburban with only one school of random interviews. I wanted to start the conversation, one that didn't eventually take place elsewhere. (I should have taken it to the weekly news magazine instead.) That experience didn't hold me back - it made me more determined to try other stories, other publications. The world didn't limit me to one local rag.

Fast forward to a local pub in the outskirts of London, where I was paid in pints to write a gig review of a small time band. It led to my first by-line and future commissioned gig reviews on the circuit, with small but regular cheques, as well as the pints. I was young, loved music and the pub atmosphere in South London was not unfamiliar to me. Yet I knew this was only the start. Before long, I was in central London gaining 'work experience' at a national weekly music magazine I knew well that wasn't hiring but was keen to have an enthusiastic volunteer shadow the editorial news-desk. Networking takes place any and everywhere, working or not - remember that.

This led me to meet an arts editor at the publishing company's premises working on a more mature music monthly and who was willing to have a look at some of my budding features ideas. I eventually earned his trust. This slightly upmarket music magazine became one of my regular pay-cheques as a film critic (again note, I changed the gears here), and I no longer needed cuttings from free papers to add to my portfolio. Although I still enjoyed being a regular arts critic, contributing actor interviews, theatre reviews in coverage. Anything I was interested in, I managed to work out a way to add it to my profile; paid or unpaid - it still helped my career up each rung in one way or another. If we look only for the paths pre-paved, we miss out on the opportunity to trail-blaze for ourselves and others.

I soon crossed from working contracts to writing and sub-editing shifts while full-time positions were competitive and my cuttings book was rather limited, but as it was always growing, it was finally making an impact. I had carved out my own career as a professional journalist familiar in all areas of publishing long before publishing became the free-for-all world it is now. Only 'the qualified' were printed, whereas now it seems the loudest of many voices is heard above the sea of others. Had I waited for an 'in' rather than creating one, my career and attitude today might be very different. As it is, I am not daunted by challenges, but excited by and rise to them. Being able to give back to my community of fellow writers by encouraging them is nothing short of icing on the cake, as my career path has always remained sweet!