Showbiz journalist Joanna Abeyie has a lot to say about young people from diverse backgrounds making their way into the creative industries. It’s tough and she relates strongly to it.
As a result she founded Shine Media, a talent agency helping to place people from diverse backgrounds into jobs. Here Joanna, 28, shares her story with us and gives us some incredible advice.
1. How did you get into journalism and broadcasting?
I started applying – via letters – for work experience at all my favourite magazines when I was 16. After getting a number of rejection letters, Now Magazine gave me a chance and I did one week’s work experience with them. Once I was in I had a brilliant time and decided that I only wanted to be a journalist. I networked at the magazine and bought chocolates for the whole team and they allowed me to come back for one more week of work experience. Then it kind of snowballed. I was relentless; I applied for more and more work experience and managed to get a lot. By the time I graduated I’d written for around 40 publications.
2. Why did you decide to start Shine Media? Could you talk us through what your company does and who it helps?
Coming from a low income, BAME (black, asian and ethnic minority) and socially quite challenging background, I could identify with the challenges that those from diverse backgrounds face to gain an opportunity within the journalism and creative industries. I launched Shine Media in 2009 and to begin with we provided careers events, accredited training courses and mentoring opportunities to young people from diverse backgrounds. Five years later we’re a recruitment business for diverse talent and have placed thousands of diverse people within jobs across the industry.
3. What kind of services does Shine Media offer?
At Shine Media we have developed a number of bespoke services including confidence building, one-to-one pastoral care, CV and employability workshops that have seen a considerable increase in diverse talent being recruited within the media industry. We’ve placed talent in Hearst Magazines, the Mail Online, the Sun, News UK…the list goes on. We also provide a live production programme with KEO films which gives young people the opportunity to put on a live production with a famous face. In the past we’ve had Sir Trevor McDonald and Alesha Dixon.
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4. What do you think are the biggest struggles facing ambitious young people today?
This is a difficult question because in the context of my company Shine Media, the people I support have really specific individual needs. Generally speaking I think one of the key struggles that young people face is accessing free opportunities for funding for their business ideas. Some people are not in a position to take on business loans for a number of reasons, but quite often due to their socio-economic circumstances. I think that there should be more opportunities to help young people get started because it’s such a crucial requirement for their growth.
5. What would your advice be to aspiring journalists?
Ideas are your currency. Jobs may not always come around in abundance, so you might not always hear back from busy journalists when you enquire about employment, but if you have a good idea, that gets attention. Editors always want to hear ideas. This goes for print, online and broadcast journalism. Never underestimate the strength of an idea. Don’t assume that because someone currently works at a sexy title that they know it all. Also from my own experience – I hope I can be forgiven for saying this – some in-house journalists can become weighed down with their day-to-day jobs because they get into a routine. Someone fresh, eager, new and a real self-starter can shine in an environment like that. It’s not to say you can’t learn from a very experienced and talented journalist but they are experienced NOW – they didn’t start off that way.
6. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Always be yourself as there is only one you. There is an innate and individual talent in you, so don’t pretend to be anyone else because you’d be hiding away from the real treasures you have to share. Never forget your value and worth. Remember what you bring to the table so don’t be afraid to eat alone.
Finally, take it from somebody who knows; confidence is the only thing standing between you and your goal.