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March 2015 Article:
Alumni Advantage is a newsletter for current students written by members of the National Professional Advisory Board and their colleagues. It provides insider advice, insight and inspiration so that when our graduates enter the real world, they are ready to rock it.
Landing that First Job as a Journalist
Despite changes in traditional media platforms, good journalists are still emerging. Finding that first job may take time, but it’s far from impossible. Great media companies are still hiring great student journalists.
Your “body of work” (stories, copy, etc.) is very important but it doesn’t simply speak for itself! You must be an active job seeker willing to learn how to showcase more than just your skills. People are hiring YOU…not just your body of work.
Use your Journalism Skills as part of the job search process
The same skill set that makes for good journalism will serve you well in landing that first gig.
Lean into those skills:
- Creativity – Stand out from the rest of the applicants. Take a chance.
- Investigative – Companies list jobs but people report to people. Who will oversee this job? Who do you know who knows this person? More people get jobs through personal recommendations than any other way.
- Writing – Your cover letter and resume MUST be error free. Spellcheck is not enough! Personalize and have someone copy edit every cover letter. You may need to change your resume for a specific job.
Big Mistakes by Journalists Looking for that First Job
In my 28-year career in the broadcast news industry, I’ve seen more than a few mistakes from journalists looking for that first job.
Here are a few:
- Narrowing your job search to a specific city or state
- Broadcast News is a very competitive industry. If you aren’t willing to relocate for the first and second job, you will limit your career.
- Living in a part of the country/world that is foreign to you will make you a better journalist.
- Not doing your homework before you get the interview
- Don’t wait for an in-person interview to learn about the company.
- The best interviews are a dialogue, not a monologue. If you know something about my company, you are going to be able to ask me intelligent questions and show how you will fit in.
- Never say “no” when asked, “Do you have any questions about the job or our company?” Half the people I interviewed for first-time jobs would simply reply, “No, you’ve done a good job explaining everything.” Always have a few prepared questions to ask if you can’t think of any on the spot.
- Being a jerk
- After sending the application, don’t be a wimp but don’t be a jerk: apply, follow-up and wait.
- Don’t just send the resume; follow-up with an email, tweet or voice mail. Employers want to hire aggressive journalists (Should we substitute “employees”?) so a follow-up shows you know how to “go get it.”
- Be respectful in this process. Don’t pepper potential employers with a series of contacts or questions about timing. If you want to leave a voice message, call after hours and suggest, “You don’t need to return my call.”
- Always send a thank you email, card or tweet after a phone or in-person interview. Courtesy costs nothing but pays big dividends!
- Not articulating your short-term and long-term professional goals
- Never say, “I just want to get my foot in the door and go from there.” There is no job at the door for people with big feet!
- “I hope to start as a ________ but eventually hope to be a ___________.” is a much better answer.
- Saying something negative about a former employer
- Let’s face it, most newsrooms are full of drama. Good employers don’t want to bring “spoiled kids” into a professional environment. Never say anything negative about a former employer.
- Good interviewers will try to draw you into a conversation about former employers. The theory is if you talk bad about a former employer, you are probably a negative person.