The Death of the Entry Level Job

2009 is a terrible time to be young, if you're the type of young person who wants a job in the media, as opposed to the drug distribution industry. The "entry level" is...closed.

The Observer today profiles the sad lives and shattered dreams of the NBC pages, who were told that being an NBC page would start you right up the ladder to the Life of Tina Fey, when in fact, these days, it amounts to a bottom-level tour guide job with unlivable pay and far fewer prospects for advancement than ever before. Welcome to the media's recession years.

The combination of factors took a toll on morale. Some pages bristled at a series of disciplinary crackdowns. According to one source, pages were regularly asked to keep an eye on their colleagues for possible infractions. "It's a culture of fear," said the former page.

Those who gave voice to the grievances felt they risked being blacklisted. "You've devoted a year of your life to doing it," said another former page. "You're so expendable that you really can't complain about anything. If you voice feedback that's remotely negative, you don't get recommended for jobs."

Wow, television is even worse than print. Which is not so fantastic itself! Unpaid internships are still around, but where is the payoff? Where is that entry level gig with real promise of advancement? It's been "given away to a nice farm family," that's where. Just getting out of school and dreaming of a fancy magazine job? Instead, why not put that dream on the shelf, in a jar, and show it off as a curio at parties to your friends, who are also drug dealers?

Once upon a time New York Times execs were all former copy boys, New Yorker fact checkers could move up to staff writers, and if you were the assistant to the editor, you were almost guaranteed a decent gig after your indentured servitude.

Now you are not. Budgets are cut. Jobs dry up. Old timers hold onto theirs at the expense of yours. All you have to offer is your cheap, cheap price tag.

There's no real comfort to be offered. Just ride out the bad years, sell your drugs, and bide your time until all the ad money comes flowing back in (6.5 years). At least you're no longer in danger of becoming the pooping intern.