Against the backdrop of a global economic recession and with major job cuts across the media industry, nobody would claim that a career switch is easy – especially when you are studying in the evenings and working during the day to make ends meet.
For South African Simone Martufi, an initial attempt to study journalism ended in failure when she was refused a visa to take a course in Australia.
She says: “I completed my degree in English and Performing Arts. I quickly realised I wasn't going to make a career out of performing and I felt thi
s degree had ill prepared me to really get out there and use it in a real job world. I felt I was missing something.
“My dream was always to travel and study in a different country and being creative I wanted to enrol in a course that would allow all of that while specifically focusing on a career.
“So I chose journalism and applied to the University of Queensland. I got in but was denied a study visa and I thought my dreams were done. So I packed my bags and went travelling and got a job working for a cruise ship. I stayed for many years travelling all over the globe until I decided I had strayed from my path long enough.”
Having decided to move to London to finish her studies, she enrolled on the
nine-month part-time postgraduate course at the LSJ: “It was perfectly suited to me because I could work as well.
“I felt like I would be putting the finishing touches on my studies and wanted this diploma to give me the edge over the competition. By doing this course I not only found my career but my niche.”
The evening study wasn’t easy, however – although Simone, now based back in Cape Town, is disarmingly frank about the whole experience.
“When I left the school I was awfully proud of myself for having completed the course even though it was gruelling, highly pressurised and intense and this unfortunately reflected on my mark,” she says.
“I don't take criticism too well and would never read my notes the tutors wrote on the assignments and so during the course I wasn't taking the opportunity to improve. I did allow myself a bit of a pat on the back for the collective three As I achieved for written work.
“I stuck my head in the sand like a silly ostrich and cracked on. I honestly thought that I would never work in the industry and that my writing truly sucked.
“Then at the beginning of this year, broke and disheartened, I turned to Gumtree website, as you do when you're at the end of your rope, and there I found an ad looking for someone to write copy for a website that coaches people about getting jobs on cruise liners.
“I applied immediately, having had five years’ experience on cruise ships and a diploma from the LSJ to boot ! It was meant to be, I tell you.
“I started to dig up my old LSJ assignments as they wanted to see examples of my writing. Looking over my work now I actually see I'm not that bad and bordering on quite good with a little more talent that I gave myself credit for. I should have believed in myself more.”
She admits that her first paid writing job gave her confidence a real boost – since when her writing career has gone from strength to strength.
“They want me to write an e-book which I'm in the process of doing now and they want me to manage the site full time so I must be doing something right.
“Also a couple weeks after this all happened I answered an ad looking for a co-ordinating editor for an online youth entertainment magazine. I got the job because they were looking for someone at graduate level and my qualifications really helped me stake the claim.
“It’s an online magazine for students in Cape Town and focuses on lifestyle and entertainment with mentorship and employment opportunities and we will be moving into print soon. I basically do everything it takes to put the magazine together.”
She admits the first month was a “major teeth-cutting exercise” and a steep learning curve, but as well as writing articles, she also styled, compiled and co-ordinated two fashion shoots.
“The pay is not great but as we get more sponsors and investors on board that will improve but for the moment I am surviving and I know the experience is awesome and invaluable.
“So my message to the new students is keep trying even if you think you suck. There is work out there but it's baby steps. I’ll never forget what Lorna V said to our class – ‘Don't think you are going to walk out of here and write for Vogue tomorrow. You have to start small’.”
Simultaneously, Simone landed a two-hour afternoon slot co-hosting an online radio station (www.thetaxi.co.za) discussing issues involving South African youth.
“I'm really excited about my foray into broadcasting. It is my true passion and after all, I do have a big mouth which I’m putting to good use!”
Now 33, Simone admits that in the longer term she would like to do more creative writing – even extending to novels, plays and screenplays. But the opportunity to be
on the radio is already the realisation of one major ambition, and for the moment, she is content to be learning her craft.
“Sadly the money isn't great but because I'm starting out I'm learning and growing. When I am ready, I'll move on and then I will be paid my dues. In the mean time I'm surviving and really happy every day because I'm finally doing what I love.”