“I firmly believe that writing is a muscle that once you build it up – the more and more you do it, if you just turn it into a habit – that it becomes something that you just inherently become quite good at or very fluid with”
With such turbulent prospects facing UCD graduates, Leanne Waters talks to Gavan Reilly about how he broke into the competitive world of professional journalism.
As yet another semester rolls around, the UCD campus is once again bubbling over with new-faced freshers. In coming here, said newbies had to go through the gruelling process of picking the right college courses. However, only at the beginning of their academic careers at third-level education, most pick their courses based on the direction they want to move towards in later post-graduation years. A big ask for such a young age, no?
Thankfully, however, having now secured their next few years here on campus, welcomed students can enjoy building their academic homestead and, for now, put future careers slightly to the back of their mind.
The same cannot be said for our final-year students, however. After years of study, extra-curricular activities and general university life, the time has nearly come for these campus-trotting veterans to complete their studies and face that daunting task of actually choosing a career.
The drop-off point from university to the workforce is, doubtlessly, a tricky endeavour. While talking to Gavan Reilly, a UCD graduate rapidly establishing himself in the world of journalism, we explore how to make such a notorious transition.
During his time here in UCD, Gavan studied commerce and German and was a prominent figure in The University Observer, rising to the post of Deputy Editor in 2009/2010. He is currently working for thejournal.ie – a website created by the same publishers of daft.ie, which explores and adds new content to current news stories. A contemporary means of news analysis and with no political agendas, the site constantly works towards adding new angles to breaking stories and ongoing headlines.
We discuss with Gavan whether he thinks his time and study in UCD has helped him in career; “I don’t think my degree necessarily had an awful lot of a part to play in getting me where I am, but it’s actually come in more useful than I would have thought it did,” he explains.
“It was more because of experience that helped me get into it…when I came to college I was really trying to squeeze every last bit of curricular life out of it…I ended up getting involved in The University Observer in second year. And that was where my journalistic experience really began.”
In journalism, name is everything. After finishing up his time here in UCD, Gavan describes the benefits of being a member in the competitive world of student media and how it has stood to his profile.
“I think you have to be realistic and I think people perceive student papers to be a lot less of the entity that they are. Everyone who I spoke to from the “real media world” were blown away with the amount of work and professionalism that does go into a student publication.”
“They knew that The University Observer was the forefront of student media. But they didn’t quite realise how (well-evolved) that student media had become – that it was there with genuine comparison to a local paper.”
On this often nerve-wrecking progression from the complacency of the campus environment to such an infamously difficult industry, Gavan offers his solid and experienced advice: “I think the real key that you’re going to have to do is just to get yourself out there.”
“So, absolutely get involved in the student newspapers. Start up a blog, get used to Twitter and start just getting used to making writing become a part of your life because I firmly believe that writing is a muscle that once you build it up – the more and more you do it, if you just turn it into a habit – that it becomes something that you just inherently become quite good at or very fluid with. The way to achieve a good quality of work is to do it regularly.”
Moreover, Gavan maintains that a necessary part of breaking the journalism world is continuously building a pyramid of contacts on which to fall back. He explains that “most people that you perceive as being kind of established journalists would actually be quite open to giving advice to newbies. Don’t have any hesitation of dropping anyone you’ve heard of a quick email asking them for their advice because all you need to do is to is get your name in their heads and from there it’s a row of dominoes.”
In such a cut-throat business that is ever-changing, Gavan’s ability in getting on the bandwagon and persisting in his journalistic efforts is nothing less than hard work at its best. It seems that it is always the determination and earnest work ethic in any career that makes all and any objectives a reality.