Monday, February 8, 2010

MediaShift Offers Keys To Finding That First Journalism Job

In 1985, when Ronald Reagan began his second term as president, the unemployment rate hit 7.4%. There was no Internet, CNN was only five years old and the three main networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- only competed with newspapers on the dissemination of news. 1985 was also the year I started my career, after graduating from American University with my journalism degree.

Now, 25 years later, I have a career that I love and I've had to reinvent myself and how I work to remain relevant -- and employed. I decided to take on a labor of love, reviewing resumes from students and those just starting out who are members of the National Association of Black Journalists.

I had some great people help me out at the beginning of my career, so I strongly believe it's only right to do the same for these young people. Competition is fierce out there, and anything that can give young journalists an edge -- including an employer-friendly resume -- I'm willing to help out.

Which is why I really enjoyed this post -- Flexibility, Freelance Key for Journalism Grads in Tough Job Market -- on PBS's MediaShift blog. It is tough out there, and students need to really think outside the box to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

The MediaShift blog post covered how students are freelancing, volunteering and taking non-traditional jobs as ways to get in -- and stay in - journalism. I see resumes that are full of work done in school. This is a good start, but you need more. Options include freelancing or even volunteering to write for local newspapers or online news sites; starting your own blog on your beat of interest; and going to graduate school.

For those just getting out of school or are stuck in that first job and are ready to move on, research the beats you write about. Are there competing publications or Web sites that may have job openings? Is there a trade association with its own magazine/newsletter/Web site you could write for? Is there an independent online news site (like California Watch, MarylandReporter or Texas Tribune) that you might consider? Is there a way to create your own journalism-based Web site, like what former Washington Times sports reporter Mike Jones has done? These are all options that are available for journalists trying to get their foot in the door.

Do you have any ideas you can share? Let me know in the comments section. And good luck with that job hunt!

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