If you’re reading this, your passion and interests align with the journalist profession. Whether it’s the desire to have an impact on your local community or the whole country or the love for writing and storytelling that drives you, you’re ready to pursue a career in this field.
Here’s some good news for you. Contrary to popular belief, journalism isn’t reserved for the selected few. Although who you know does matter, your skills and experience alone can land you a job.
But how do you start preparing yourself (and your resume) for applying? And how can you get the real-world experience that employers want to see? Here are 6 tips that answer these two questions.
If you’ve ever scrolled through a job search website, there’s no need to tell you: most employers want candidates with experience. But in order to get the said real-world on-the-job experience, you need to land a position in the first place, right? It’s a vicious cycle.
There are ways around it, of course. You can spend months waiting for that mythic truly entry-level job – or get non-paid experience. But it’s still challenging. Here’s why:
- Existing workload. Students already have assignments, projects, and exams to tend to. That’s not even to mention attending classes!
- Finances. Most likely, you’ll essentially be working for free. That means you’ll have to juggle gaining experience with making a living, too.
- Cutthroat competition. Most entry-level jobs and internships in journalism have it. So, it may take a while before you land even an unpaid job.
At the end of the day, if you want to gain experience, especially in journalism, you’ll have to compromise. It can mean hiring a write my essay service to help reduce your studies-related workload. It can also mean becoming a freelancer or settling for a less demanding job. The choice is yours.
Journalism is one of those fields where what you’re capable of always trumps your certificates and degrees. So, if you don’t have any experience to show, for now, there’s only one solution: gain it.
Back in the day, there were only two types of journalism: print (newspapers and magazines) and broadcast (TV and radio). Now, there are many other mediums and roles in this world. So, first, you need to settle on your particular specialization:
- Topics. Most journalists specialize in a certain area of knowledge, like law, healthcare, tech, gaming, sports, etc. What are your favorite topics to write about?
- Mediums. Do you want to write for online publications? Work on a TV channel or a radio station? Create videos? Record podcasts? Be a photojournalist?
- Roles. Do you see yourself working as a reporter for years or move up the ladder and become an editor in the future? Would you prefer to dedicate your career to investigative journalism or become a news anchor?
That said, most likely, you’ll have to start as a jack-of-all-trades first, and it’s fine. Don’t turn down opportunities that aren’t fully aligned with your interests.
This is the first place where you should start looking for opportunities to get the oh-so-desirable journalistic experience. Find the student organization that manages your school’s or alma mater’s newspaper, radio station, YouTube channel, podcast – whatever you’re interested in.
But what if you want to become, say, a news anchor, but there’s no YouTube channel where you could practice being in front of a camera? Why not make one? Find other students interested in the idea, and work on it.
Student organizations have a low or no barrier for entry, but that comes with a tradeoff: you might not actually learn a lot there. That’s because their journalistic projects might be done at an amateur level – so, you won’t gain the experience applicable in a real workplace.
What’s the solution? Look around for news outlets where you can volunteer or land an internship. Focus on local, small-scale organizations. You have more chances to get accepted there than at news organizations like The New York Times.
Here are 4 tips on how to make the most out of your volunteering or internship:
- Present your story ideas from the get-go – and keep coming up with new ones;
- Be proactive. Finish the initial, more boring tasks (like fact-checking) fast. Then, ask if you can follow up on some press releases or chase down your own story idea;
- Shadow professionals. That means just following a journalist around for an hour or a day to see how they work;
- And always ask a lot of questions!
This is how many freelance journalists begin their careers. They pitch their story ideas to various news organizations – from a local newspaper to the likes of The New York Times. And, yes, if their pitch is successful, they get paid!
However, not all pitches are created equal. Here are 3 tips on how to make yours more successful:
- Make sure you’re pitching a story. Just saying “I want to cover that topic” won’t get the editor’s attention;
- Check the archives. Your pitch should be unique – so, make sure this story hasn’t been featured in this outlet;
- Do your research on the news organization. Double-check whether the story would fit its editorial policies and overall direction – and whether you’re writing to the right editor.
Yes, if you’re not online, you don’t exist. So, if you’re not active on social media yet, there’s no better time to change that. Otherwise, it might be tough to network.
Besides that, it’s highly recommended that you start your own blog. It’ll help you polish off your writing skills, as well as experiment with different styles and formats. It’s the online equivalent of carrying a journal with you (but you should probably do both).
Once you can say with confidence, “I have enough journalistic experience to look for my first job”, it’s time to take care of your portfolio. It’s a highly curated selection of your best works. Here are a few tips on making it outstanding:
- Focus on published works. No editor would be interested in a portfolio that contains only texts from your blog. Your published works serve as a vote of confidence from other media organizations.
- Add variety – and/or show your specialization. For entry-level jobs, it’s better to show that you can write in different styles and on different topics. But you can still highlight where your interests lie.
- Customize your portfolio for each application. For example, your portfolio for a news organization should showcase a set of skills that’s different from the one for a TV channel or an online travel magazine.
Gaining enough experience to go straight to tip #6 isn’t an overnight feat. It’ll take a long while – and you’ll need to invest a lot of effort into it, too.
Besides, keep in mind: journalism is the field where a story can present itself at any time. So, it’s best to leave your schedule as open as possible and prepare to be busy even at odd hours.
But if a career in journalism is your dream and you love the process, go for it. After all, there’s nothing more rewarding in this life than having a job that you enjoy doing.