Being retrenched at 23 with a journalism qualification was a wake up call to up my game

by: Lebohang Morake - 29 November 2016

Live Mag

I was 23 years old and at the start of my career when I got retrenched because the first company I ever worked for went bankrupt. Just this week I heard that another magazine, Grazia, also published its last issue. All this got me thinking, am I working for a dying industry?

My big wake up call

The first year out of varsity was filled with so much hope and optimism. I was a graduate, and that meant awesome job opportunities. I dabbled with writing for a music site, did freelance photography, and eventually landed an awesome editorial gig. I excelled, and was promoted after three months. I thought, “This is it for me.” But a year later, the company hit financial trouble and sold off the online publication, leaving me jobless. I was devastated. I thought this was a dilemma only the older generation faced.

Even though I had a year of awesome experience, I was still technically entry-level, and it seemed internships and learnerships were still the only space willing to receive me. I applied at many publications and the impossible requirements such as “must have own vehicle” and “English must be first language”, were a subtle reminder that my race was constantly left by the way-side in a predominantly white industry.

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 The magazine industry is shrinking

The more I looked around, I realised publications and newspapers were no longer employing writers with a singular function. Jobs for just journalists are fast disappearing on job websites, and in their place people want content producers who can write and do other things like social media.

Looking at the recent ABC statistics is disheartening because it seems the only guarantee is that sales will go down and more publications will close. In the past few years alone, we’ve seen FHM, In Style SA , Top Car, Seventeen, Heat and O Magazine get pulled off the shelves.

Toughen up

I have realised the qualification is what you make it, and I’m taking this time to upskill myself. I have stopped being sad and now view myself as an entrepreneur, because being tied down to one publication does not appeal to me anymore. I am learning more about social media, video and photography while also producing content. It’s quite exciting not having a singular function anymore. After being retrenched I realised that I must toughen up and upskill myself to beat the dying industry.

Photography: Sithembiso Xaba