Last week I jumped out of an aeroplane at 12,000 feet. I also quit my cushty full-time job in PR to go back to uni to train as a broadcast journalist. I’m still trying to work out which was the biggest leap of faith.
Sure, jumping out of a plane was pretty bloody scary! But as I looked out of the window of the small, cramped propeller plane as it banked heavily to climb from 0ft to 12,000ft whist remaining over a tiny airfield, I began to wonder whether it was really much worse than plucking up the courage to ask my boss for that ‘private chat’.
There was no doubt that free-falling through the sky at 120mph for 50 seconds before the parachute kicked in would be stomach churning. But at least it would be over quickly. A career change is an entirely different proposition. Made even harder when you’re not quitting to go to another job but to go back to school.
I don’t blame those who have told me I’m mad. After all, why would I give up on a situation where I get paid thousands of pounds to turn up to an office every day, to one where I will be paying thousands of pounds to turn up to a classroom every day? On top of that, the amount of jobs available to broadcast journalists has decreased over the past 15-20 years – with far fewer local radio and TV stations, and existing media groups pooling their news provisions to save cash.
Despite all this, I can’t wait.
Like most classroom crushes, my lust for broadcast journalism started as an undergrad. The truly alternative community and politically explosive atmosphere on offer at Sussex University made it a fertile ground for a student journalist. After uni, I went onto freelance at local radio stations around Brighton. But I lacked experience or any formal training.
So, like many would-be journalists, the reality of having to pay the bills with the uncertainty of occasional shifts meant I had to take a full-time job in PR. And while there are many similarities between press office work and journalism, I have always longed to be the one researching the issues, hunting for the facts and telling the story, rather than simply shaping a corporate message.
So, while working in PR, I moved back home and began saving up a big slice of my monthly pay cheque. Unlike with undergrad courses, there’s no student loan system and, apart from a handful of scholarships, you’re left to find the cash yourself. More than a year later, I finally had the thousands required and had resisted the overwhelming temptation to blow it all on a backpacking holiday or new car.
I applied to City University London and was offered a place after a news test (which they insisted wasn’t a test), an interview (which they called an ‘informal chat’) and a screen test in a super high-tech green screen studio! A tour of the facilities took me down the ‘hall of fame’ corridor in the broadcast centre clad with photos of notable alumni. Perhaps it was the beaming white smile of Sophie Rayworth, and the allure of one day joining her behind the BBC News desk, which made me finally quit the job, kiss goodbye to my savings and say hello to a new journalistic adventure.
Whatever it was, it certainly felt like a bigger gamble than jumping from a plane with a parachute. I start in under a fortnight and I can’t wait. If it’s even half as much fun as skydiving, I’ll never regret it for a second. KB