From creating a documentary in Norway to producing a 10 week radio show, we spoke with Joel Smith about his study experience at Monash and how he landed his dream job at Tennis Australia.
So how did you get to Tennis Australia?
You have to put yourself out there for your first job, and in doing so I have been able to steer my way back to what I am doing today.
The skills I learnt from my journalism degree at Monash certainly built the foundation for choosing a current career path of social media. This not only included how to write articles but also how to conduct yourself in front of a camera.
I recently wrote an article for ausopen.com which appeared to millions, and I’d like to thank my degree at Monash for things like writing style, editorial style, and the basic structure of an article.
However, there was more to journalism than the above. We learnt about journalism conduct and ethical practices. I guess you could say a boring subject at the time, but I’m very grateful for having this knowledge now that I am in the media industry.
What drew you to study journalism, marketing and PR at Monash?
Good question. I think, going through high school, like many students you’re not that sure what you want to do. However, my interests and passions in sport and media swayed me towards the idea of a career in journalism.
There’s no doubt it’s a long hard slog to find exactly what you want but the thing is I didn’t know what that thing was. Therefore, I chose to study journalism, but kept it open with a major in marketing and a minor in PR. My course allowed me to discover all the elements of journalism and the different avenues you could go down, but I certainly didn’t know at the time that I would find myself smack-bang in the middle of the two [journalism and marketing]. The media landscape is rapidly changing and I guess I’m changing with it.
Lucky you studied the perfect mix. What were some of the highlights for you in it?
There wasn’t one semester that was the same, which kept things interesting. We heard from various industry guest speakers including the one and only Mike Sheahan (Former Chief Football Writer at the Herald Sun) and we had classes with industry people like Jay Mueller (Former 3AW radio producer) and a journalist from The Age.
The course was really hands on too, especially radio and TV which included creating a 10-week radio show, a 90 second news story and a 5 minute current affairs story. We were basically asked to do what you would be doing out in the real world – the media world.
A whole radio show?
Yeah, in second year we had a radio subject which required us to be part of a 10-week radio show with Monash Radio. This was a 60-minute time slot which included everything from music, interviews as well as news breaks. If I had to pick a traditional medium – radio would be my pick. It’s a more relaxed environment, you can talk about anything and it’s not down-the-line editorial. We had a lot of fun doing it.
Talking about fun, I heard you got a scholarship to live in Finland and Norway studying journalism for a semester?
Yes! This was certainly the highlight of my time at Monash. I was lucky enough to be selected to go over to Finland for three months as part of the Global Environmental Journalism Initiative. This involved completing a number of units within their Environmental Journalism course at the University of Helsinki. It was an unreal experience!
I was actually over there for about six months in total. Three months at the University of Helsinki, followed by 6 weeks in northern Norway where we spent some time at the Sámi University of Applied Sciences, where we were asked to put together a documentary piece on any local issue. My fellow student and I did a video piece on how new technologies like the snowmobile was taking over traditional transport. Through way of research, we spent a week with the local people called the Sámi people. This was such an eye-opening experience; seeing how they lived and worked.
Sounds amazing. It’s always interesting to see how people have reached their dreams, can you tell us a bit about your first steps?
For sure. I guess that first job is always the hardest because you are lacking in experience. No one in the big wide world knows about you. Your networking is limited and it’s so competitive, so you have to think about what is your point of difference, what will get you across the line?
My first job was at a media agency, and to be honest I didn’t know media agencies even existed but it was just about putting myself out there and giving it a crack. However, I sincerely believe that the only reason I got a look in was because of my university degree. As a result, securing the job basically launched my career. Yes, it was in media, but at the same time it certainly was not what I was expecting first job out of university. But I was up for it, and I knew if I just got my foot in the door, who knows where I could end up and look where I am today!
What advice would you give students or young alumni looking to get their dream job?
Firstly, don’t be too selective when seeking that first job immediately after graduation. It’s very competitive out there and if you become too picky you’ll just find yourself applying again and again. From not knowing media agencies were a thing to six years later in my dream job. Therefore, take a risk, get out of your comfort zone and you never know where that’ll lead you.
My second piece of advice is that if you want something enough, you’ll find a way to get it. Previous to Tennis Australia, I was working at the Salvation Army as their social media coordinator. Although it was such a rewarding organisation to work for, it wasn’t where I wanted to be. After many thoughts and conversations, I took a leap of faith and actually resigned without having another job to go to. Three months passed before I was offered a job to work for one of the biggest sporting events (Australian Open) in the world. You may say luck was on my side but I was prepared to do whatever I had to secure my dream job.
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