Five tips for new journalists from recent grads
Whether you’ve just finished journalism school or are trying to make that anthropology degree work for you, breaking into the news industry today is hard work.
Luckily, taking your professional profile to the next level isn’t rocket science — it’s good practice! Here are five steps you can take to start the process:
Update your resume today
Once you’ve met with your careers adviser and fine-tuned your resume, you still have work to do. Keep track of your accomplishments — a record number of views on your story, a graduation honor or new freelancing gigs. Have a friend with flawless grammar proofread your resume each time you make changes. Actually, make that multiple friends. Don’t presume to know what a recruiter is looking for: Your experience with InDesign might earn you a copy editing job, or your Twitter following might get you a digital role. And if you feature your resume on a personal website, make sure it’s searchable by actually entering it in as text instead of just uploading it as an image file.
Save your clips routinely
It’s easy to lose track of old work, so follow a routine to help you save any clip-worthy articles or designs/photographs. Maybe you gather links every Wednesday — maybe only once a month — but put it in your calendar or wherever you need to remember it. The Pocket app will let you store article links and Pinterest is a great place to store visuals (plus your work could get more exposure from other users). When someone wants to see your best work it’ll be at your fingertips. Literally, you just need the apps on your phone.
Then build a clips guide
Your best work is (hopefully) going to be impressive at first look — but a clips guide will give every article and design the context to make it more impressive. Take the time to write a short blurb for each clip that lists the story basics, your role and any awards/recognition it received. And think critically about which clips to send. Applying for a job on an education beat? Pick work that reflects your qualifications.
Know your industry
When someone asks what’s the best story you’ve read or your favorite publication to look at or who your favorite journalists are, you should have an answer at the ready. Being prepared on this front requires resourceful news gathering. Listen to the radio and podcasts to understand better how audio works and where its strengths lie. Watch video clips — online and on TV — to get a sense of timing and what makes a visual impact. Hone your sense of how best to tell a story because, chances are, your job in the newsroom will require a little bit of everything.
Networking as a student or recent grad can be daunting; you’re new to the field, and it feels less like networking and more like begging. But people are keen to help. Reach out to others and see if they will meet you for coffee. Take advantage of family connections and referrals from friends. Maintain relationships with professors who can serve as references — but always ask to use their names. Even if a meeting doesn’t result in anything concrete, it will serve as practice for the next coffee — or interview. And if you are in a position to help someone else, do it! It’s never too early to pay it forward, especially in a small industry.