|Example of an exposure note. Don't print these at home. Seriously.|
"You'll be getting so much exposure, you won't know what to do with it all!"
"If you work really hard, you could move up the ladder and onto other opportunities."
Stop me if you've heard this before. I can imagine anyone that has joined the work force in any capacity has heard some of the above statements or similar derivatives, but it's a bit different in the new media world. There are literally hundreds of web sites and outlets that offer writers the chance to submit their materials for consideration, but most of them offer no actual pay whatsoever. There are promises and language about potential payment down the line if certain conditions are met, but it's all thinly veiled in the text. In my career, I've written for different sites that offered the promise of payment at some point, but it's never been actually fulfilled despite my best efforts.
Granted, if this was my only job, it would be very different. However, a big reason why I was able to write for those sites was the fact that I have a full time job at a financial institution. With being paid on a regular basis, I had the ability to then do other things I enjoyed in my free time for whatever rewards that came up because I had a safety net. I've met several free lance journalists whose sole income is for writing for whatever site will pay them for articles, and their submissions are subject to review and approval. It was rough enough at some points to be writing for no reimbursement except for "exposure", but I couldn't imagine the pressure of having to write and hope the final product was good enough to be accepted.
It's not that I have anything against internships, because I understand the struggles of people trying to break into business. Often times, job decisions are made by two factors - what you know or who you know. The who you know factor is something that is beyond most of our control, but it's true that we see nepotism quite often when it comes to filling roles. So if that doesn't end up being an option for getting a job, it falls into what you know. I loved my 4 years of college and I learned a ton of valuable skills, but there were things I wasn't prepared to deal with in joining the corporate world that didn't come up in college - interacting in an office environment, staying on a schedule for example. Internships give people a great opportunity to get a taste of working in an environment and while the job checks them out, the intern can do the same thing in deciding whether it's a good fit.
The problem is simply being paid what you should be for the work. Nearly everybody I know would love to be paid more for their skills, as nobody would say "I didn't work hard so please pay me less." We need money for goods and services, so many of our choices center around ensuring money continues to come in. As much as I loved working hard and researching for hours on each of my posts, there was no way my creditors would accept the "exposure" to pay my bills. They deal in tangible currency, which means that many of us have to make tough choices in terms of our career. It would be great to dream big and shoot for something huge, but the reality is that money makes the world go around.
I did have some great experiences in my media time, and I met some wonderful people who work very hard to entertain and inform us. The hours are long, the demands in time are huge, yet each of them love what they do because it's their calling. I got a chance to taste that regularly, and while it was one of the most amazing experiences ever, it was also one of the most emotionally draining. It was great to do this for the love of team or sports as well, but honestly, this could have been much worse if I didn't have a secure job to fall back on. Dreams and promises are wonderful and I don't want anyone to stop striving for the stars, but there has to be a dose of reality filtered within that. I may write in sports again at some future point, and I'd be honored if that really happened. But this time, I need real currency instead of this exposure...unless somebody knows of a bank or store that will accept it for goods and services. I'm waiting.