From Fresher To Mid-Level Expert: Hard Lessons The Media Industry Taught Me

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What I Learnt About The Media Industry As A Mid-Level Employee
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The thing about being a mid-level employee in 2021 is that organisations hire you for your experience but don’t utilise it for their benefit.

I wanted to enter the media industry ever since I was a teenager. So confident I was in my choice that I skipped all of Delhi University’s entrance exams and went straight for a dynamic and practical graduate course from a fairly well-known state university. Nobody in my family had ever chalked out their own career path, let alone one in the news and media. It was a risk that I took unhesitatingly.

A graduate degree, a gap year, a part-time job, and a postgraduate diploma from a prominent J-school later, I finally started out my professional journey in 2016 with a leading (and fading) lifestyle channel in India. 

Joining The Media Industry During The Cusp Of The Digital Content Revolution

The industry was extremely competitive. It was difficult to get an internship at any media outlet, let alone a full-time job! Experience is all that mattered. There were very few positions available for freshers in the media industry, and if you didn’t have a strong referral, it’d be difficult to get in. 

Working with seniors was equally difficult as there was little moolah or respect but a lot of learning to get around, for which you had to be grateful.

Apply the demand and supply theory and you’d know why freshers were a dime a dozen back then. 

The year I graduated was also the time when India’s start-up scene was sprouting and booming. If you asked me what a start-up was back then, I would have asked you the same question back!

The teams were elaborate ー a producer, a director, an editor, a presenter, a DOP, and a motion graphics artist would together run a lifestyle show on TV. Just as I was getting used to it, making my way up the ladder, ‘digital media’ happened; before I knew it, everything changed.

mid-level employee

From 30-Minute Content To 30-Second Content

I quit my job at the broadcast TV channel in 2018 and decided to join a digital-first news organisation to also get with the times. TV and broadcast professionals know how difficult this was, especially when you paid in lakhs to get that specialisation on your resume. Though I never claimed to be a far-sighted visionary, did I? 

Anyway, vlogging, capsule videos, and ‘rants’ were becoming the ‘it’ thing on the internet. People were consuming short video content over long-form television serials. A person who would watch a 30-minute episode of a serial a day was watching 10-15 cat and dog videos on Facebook, which meant more demand for a low-production video over a production-intensive, 30-minute TV serial.

The demand for lower-salaried, less experienced freshers over higher-salaried, experienced employees accelerated. The ‘content’ industry — which was not quality regulated —  was going to set new trends every day (I’m talking to you, Instagram Reels). 

Organisations were now preferring freshers over experienced professionals for positions that were agile and undefined.

Start-ups, now the rage, had a big role in shaping this fresher vs experienced narrative because they benefited the most from it due to more work at a lower cost.  Content and digital marketing were the two professions that required skills but no experience. Enter freshers with abundant space and opportunities to take over. 

Content creators or influencers that were a one-person team also set the trend of less experience and more exposure; as they were doing everything, right from writing scripts to filming vlogs, and also editing them on software.  

So, who needs an experienced professional anymore? Nobody. Thanks, dear capitalism.

mid-level employee

Being A Mid-Level Employee In A Fresher-First Industry

I was now a mid-level employee with almost 5 years of experience, which nobody cared about. What luck, I thought to myself. I felt dominated by my bosses as a fresher and overshadowed by freshers as an experienced professional. I, too, had to upskill and offer the skills of an entire team alone (I do everything end-to-end for my videos now). I’m aware that if I don’t offer these skills, a fresher would be there to replace me. 

This doesn’t mean freshers get the money or the respect now — that story is still the same and is a separate conversation to be had. Circling back to mid-level folks, as it turns out, it’s not just me. My peers and I have the shared experience of not feeling fulfilled enough in our careers because of our timing.

The thing about being a mid-level employee in 2021 is that organisations hire you for your experience but don’t utilise it for their benefit.

I call them ‘bad hires’ solely because nobody is tapping into their potential. They are given fewer tasks; their work goes unappreciated despite handling multiple tasks with fewer resources; they are treated unfairly in comparison to freshers and senior employees; and most importantly, they feel a lack of purpose with respect to the goals assigned to them. Freshers have a lot to offer and end up doing more than they get remunerated for. 

Organisations tend to forget the value mid-level employees bring to the table. It’s time to remind them of that! 

  1. We know how to deal with stressful situations and crises
  2. We can mentor/train younger employees
  3. We form the culture of the organisation
  4. We contribute to the long-term growth of the organisation
  5. We are experienced in people management
fresher to mid-level employee

How To Make Yourself A (More) Valuable Mid-Level Employee

It’s very easy to slip away into the rabbit hole of jealousy or unhappiness in a mid-level position. Here are some things that have helped me stay true to my work and goals as a professional.

1. Learn from freshers

It’s true; they have had access to technology from a younger age and have the upper hand to acquire more skills in less time. Don’t hesitate to call up a younger member in the team to learn about trends, concepts, and working styles. In return, you can enrich them with your experiences and learnings.

2. Upskill

Don’t be stuck up and say you will only do so much because of your limited skill set. With everything changing rapidly, you need to upskill yourself constantly. 

3. Be agile

Being flexible and on top of things is the key to success in this evolving world. Don’t say no to tasks. Instead, prioritise tasks and see how you can move your calendar around to fit in last-minute tasks.

4. Speak up

Speak up if you feel your potential is getting wasted and is causing you to feel less fulfilled with your work. Talk to your manager and share your thoughts with them. Be assertive and tell them the tasks you’d like to take a lead on. Speaking up over bottling up, always.

If you feel you are a cog in this wheel, then I hope this article provided you with some comfort and perspective. Don’t forget, you are important!

As a mid-level employee, upskilling will do wonders in staying updated and proving your value to the organisation. Who better than industry experts to guide you along this journey? Join the Kool Kanya PowerPass, a micro-community that gives you access to experts in content and digital marketing, immersive modules, worksheets, and more. Click here to know more and sign up!

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Sakshi believes that creation is the only act of salvation for humans. A basic instinct that kicks in for survival and evolution. Narrating a good story happens to be her form of expression and creative outlet. It's her way of feeling closest to herself. She can't get enough of keeping up with the burgeoning digital landscape, watching explainers, and trying to be an informed person (read feminist). With almost 5 years in the content business, she has donned several hats and worked in digital ads, branded content and docu-fictions, only to realise that she's meant to produce audio-video content to uplift the oppressed.

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