Posted on August 31, 2011
Getting that first job in journalism
Internships. Portfolio. Real work (not work assigned in a class). Not necessarily paid work — but journalism work that some respectable organization saw fit to publish, with your name on it.
Lacking these, a new journalism graduate is behind the curve. There are not so many jobs out there that you can afford to make excuses for why you didn’t get it done.
I came across a recent post by a young journalist: The Future Isn’t the Present: A J-School Grad’s Roadmap to Journalism. He says:
I did more-or-less what ‘the industry’ told me to do at the time. I was on all the social media sites, concentrated on multimedia/visual production … built my own arsenal of photography equipment, interned (granted only once …), worked with student media and generally did my best to reach out and start making some contacts in the industry.
So what’s wrong with that list? One internship. That’s the first glaring deficiency. And the other one, from my perspective, is a lack of emphasis on achievement.
If you want to tell me you’re good, you’re better than all the rest, then say something about what you have accomplished. Won any awards? Published a three-part series? Worked on a team with reporters, data journalists, graphics people, to produce a complex story package?
Show me that you have:
- Taken the initiative, gone out of your comfort zone, hauled your butt out of the chair and went out to dig up something original and fresh.
- Learned something all on your own that no one required you to learn for a grade.
- Made sacrifices to ensure you are better prepared to get a journalism job than all the hundreds of others who have applied for the exact same job as you.
To be fair, the paragraph I quoted was not the young man’s “hire me” pitch. I’m just trying to point out that when you tell people how you did everything you were supposed to do, you don’t get any points for explaining that you were too busy to get more than one internship (for example).
There is some good advice in the post, and journalism students can learn from it. My favorite item:
Don’t wait until graduation to make connections – My biggest regret is letting graduation sneak up on me as quick as it did. It’s easy to do, but the earlier you can start networking the better.
From my observations as a j-school professor, a lot of students have this problem. Graduation seems to sneak up on them suddenly, and then they feel a terrible panic.
Start reading all the journalism job ads right now — even if you are a freshman this year! These three sites are really great for scoping out the available jobs in our field:
Smart idea: Make it a habit to visit at least one of these sites once a week throughout the school year. Browse for about 15 minutes, and make some notes about what the employers are looking for — especially for the full-time jobs.