Nimo, a 21 year old journalism graduate living in Coventry, shares her story
“I think that in March, I did not realise how catastrophic it was going to be,” Nimo tells us from her parents’ living room in Coventry; she says she had no choice but to move back home after completing her journalism degree this year. “By May I realised that everything was going to hell.”
Nimo has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. When she started getting interested in politics she realised that journalism was a career which would allow her to combine her two passions. At the start of 2020 she was living in Manchester, finishing up her dissertation and applying to any journalism internships or traineeships she could find.
“I think I had a fairly ambitious idea of what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. “I went to university and I got involved with as many things as I humanly could. The next step was to get some kind of entry level job in journalism and start building my career.”
Entry-level journalism jobs are incredibly competitive and hard to get, Nimo tells us, but after she passed the first few interview rounds of a couple she started to feel hopeful. But by then the COVID-19 pandemic was pushing the country into lockdown. Media groups, like many other businesses, started to put big plans on hold and freeze any new hiring. The companies Nimo had applied to eventually told her they were cutting all their internships and training programs for the entire year.
All Nimo’s plans instantly went up in smoke. She couldn’t even stay in Manchester as she had wanted, because she didn’t think she’d be able to find any job that would cover her bills living independently. “I’ve been in situations where money has been a very, very big problem in my life,” she explains. “I don’t want to go back to that.”
So Nimo moved back in with her parents and siblings. “The only way that I kind of accepted that I was going to move home, was like, it’s only going to be a year. By 22 at the very, very latest, I’m going to have moved out again and I’m going to have a job. My idea was work yourself to the bone for the next year. And something has to come up.”
With no in-house journalism jobs available, Nimo turned to freelancing. It’s been tough, she says. “Lord of the Flies. That’s what being a new person in journalism feels like. We are all being pitted against one another and it’s like we have a crumb of a byline and have to fight each other for it.”
Working from home during a pandemic also makes it easy to blur your work-life boundaries in an industry that is already notorious for long hours, she tells us. It can also be exploitative, with young writers being expected to work for free, especially if, like Nimo, they’re black women.
Although Nimo feels she was “pushed” into freelancing by the pandemic and lockdown, she’s found the experience of being her own boss enriching. “I’m learning invaluable skills,” she says, “and I’ve been working on projects that I feel really passionate about and I feel really confident in.” But she thinks that’s only been the case because she hasn’t had to worry about bills or rent while living at home. Otherwise, she says, there’d be “pressure to be pitching insane amounts” in order to make ends meet.
“My home situation isn’t necessarily the easiest and I really value my independence.” Nimo says. But moving out seems like too much of a financial risk. “Rent isn’t a joke. If you can’t pay, you get sent to court and it’s just a mess. I just don’t think it’s a viable option for me to be without any kind of assistance from anyone and completely demolish my savings. I already have really bad financial anxiety, even when things are OK.”
What new grads like her really need right now, Nimo reckons, is some good career advice: “Should I freelance? Should I do this? What are the ups and downs of this and all this kind of stuff… that would be such a help right now and would be really useful.” Even pre-pandemic, it can be hard for career starters to find their footing. Nobody yet knows what that process will look like in the ‘new normal’.
For now Nimo is trying to stay busy and positive, although she admits that’s hard to do. “I think I just feel kind of incredibly vulnerable, like my life and my future is kind of out of my hands a little bit. COVID-19 definitely has impacted my short-term future. My long-term future, I’m not sure, but, I don’t know, I just feel a bit robbed.”