Three Career Tips from the Bottom/Middle of the Masthead

Most of us strive to make it to the top of our chosen professions. It’s not easy to get there, however, so it never hurts to take some tips from those that are already at “the top of the masthead.” This past week, The New Yorker profiled Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of the New York Times.

Based on that interview, Forbes blogger Victoria Pynchon came up with this great list of “Ten Career Lessons from the Top of the Masthead.” She lists items such as, “don’t hide your creativity under a bushel” or “be a black belt infighter.”

Pynchon’s list made me think of the other end of the spectrum: Those of us who aren’t at the top of our field, but are either in the beginning or somewhere in the middle. Here are five things I think would be included on that kind of list of career tips.

1. Get to work early, leave late
Even if you don’t have a job yet and are just interning, getting to work early and leaving late always looks good.

Punctuality is important. You may not be a morning person, but really try and force yourself not to hit the snooze button on your cell when the alarm goes off so you can get to work earlier. For those after-work hours, why not make plans for a bit later than you normally would so that you don’t rush out of the office right at 5?

A note: Make sure you have enough work to do that warrants staying late. It will become obvious to your boss if you’re just surfing the web or sending Facebook messages. Coming up with couple of new and exciting projects will not only demand some late nights but also showcase your ingenuity.

2. Network like crazy!
As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know that’s important. If you already have the skillset and are producing good work, then your career may just need a little jumpstart from someone higher up on the career totem pole.

Joint Twitter chats on subjects that interest you, preferably ones that other, well-placed journalists also attend. Sign up for journalism meetups (I particularly like Hack/Hackers and they have chapters in almost every city); if you can afford it, attend conferences like the one put on by the Online News Association.

You never know who you’ll be standing next to in the drink line. It could be someone who refers you to your next job.

3. Maintain faith in yourself
This point also comes up in Pynchon’s piece. She retells a story of how NYT columnist Maureen Dowd and Abramson were long-time acquaintances who shared compliments on each other’s stories. At one point, Dowd emailed Abramson, asking her if she knew any good potential female hires for the paper. Abramson responded with, “Yeah, me!”

Why should someone hire you for your dream job if you don’t have faith in your own abilities? If you don’t, why should anyone else? Of course, on some days, it’s easy to feel down. As a reporter, the hours are long, the pay isn’t what your friends in finance are earning, and readers are not shy about sharing their negative thoughts on your last piece. But if you’re keen to report for Mashable, you need to remember you have the right skills for the job.

What else would you add to this list?