Here’s to taking chances: my journey into journalism

Current student, Siddharthiya Pillay and winner of our Creative and Cultural Careers Festival #CCCF19 writing competition, provides a great insight on how taking a chance can open up new career areas to explore…

This year the Creative & Cultural Careers Festival gave students the opportunity to enter a competition hosted by Scottish arts and culture magazine, The List, with the prize being a published piece in the online magazine, and an opportunity to interview and shadow the editor, Arusa Qureshi. Although I am involved in the Arts, and have a passion for writing, it was daunting to think I’d be entering a competition along with students who most likely studied journalism, fine and performing arts, or something that involved literature and studying how other people wrote. But here’s my first tip: take a chance and bet on yourself. I went in with the attitude of not knowing if I’d win, but wanting to push myself all the same — even if I did not win, I still had an 18% chance of getting feedback and developing my skills. More than that, there was an inner voice, late one evening, nagging me to try; listen to that voice, always.

To my pleasant surprise, I was chosen as the winner, and it turns out that it was probably my non-academic background in the Arts that helped me. I did not write in an academic manner as one would in an essay on the Arts; I actually mimicked the style of The List because I had no clue where to start. So I read a few articles to get an idea of their tone, style and what they considered relevant content. Armed with this, I got to writing on a production about which I was passionate. So my second and third tips would be: know your reader and know yourself — find a synergy between the two and communicate through this.

This was also useful when I did my work experience because the editor entrusted me with two articles for the online magazine. It was easy to mould myself to the type of writer they wanted because there was that synergy; it also helped that the other writers and the vibe of The List were attuned to my own slightly eccentric, nerdy/geeky self. This was a really valuable insight because I realised that I could not work in a place that did not align with my interests and work ethic. The List was an excellent fit for me, and suddenly a whole new avenue in my career journey opened up.

Had I not taken a chance and explored something new and intimidating, I would still not know a part of myself and my capabilities. And the wonderful thing is that throughout life, those things develop and change, so it is always good to push yourself a little further and listen to that voice that pulls you in a direction. I also learned that being a journalist is wildly exciting and somewhat similar to academia — there’s going out in the field to collect information, there’s desktop research, and there are also moments of ‘I have no idea what I am doing’. It is scary to think someone will read my reviews or recommendations and not agree. I always felt that with my previous academic work, but I suspected my readership was exclusive and tiny. Knowing that this magazine is widely and freely distributed (also as my articles were online), and that my articles could potentially have a large audience was terrifying. But the last thing that was cemented throughout this experience, right from the competition through to the work experience, is that if you let go of all the stories about what may be in the future, you may create something beautiful, powerful and interesting right now. And that’s a chance worth taking.

Read the two articles which Siddharthiya wrote during her work experience and were published in The List:

Discover more about CCCF here:

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons


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