Next month, I graduate from American University. I will also start my first job, as an online editor at National Journal. I feel incredibly lucky to have such an opportunity, since journalism jobs are not overly abundant.
So, how did I do it? It’s a mixture of drive, enthusiasm and luck. Here are some of my tips for students in college or graduate school also looking to start off their careers in journalism.
1. Intern, Intern, Intern
Experience counts in the journalism field. Anyone serious about starting in journalism should have at least one internship on their résumé — and preferably more. The hands-on experience you get an internship is invaluable and difficult to replicate in a classroom setting. The people you meet at your internships is a gift that keeps giving: they’re professional references for those job applications. I landed my job out of my current internship at National Journal, where I focus on social media. For a potential employer, supervising an intern is a much better indicator of future job performance than reading their résumé or calling references.
2. Join The Online News Association And Stay Involved
I attend monthly meetups of the Online News Association D.C. Chapter whenever my schedule allows. It has been a great opportunity to meet friendly professionals in an informal setting. There are local ONA chapters in other cities as well, like New York and Los Angeles.
Student ONA memberships are really cheap: $25 a year, compared to $75 for everyone else. Join today!
3. Use Twitter To Help Establish Your Credibility
Great news: You don’t have to be a veteran journalist to get people to take your Twitter musings about journalism seriously.
There is no better way to get people to listen to your thoughts about online journalism — and to build credibility — than by participating in #wjchat every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET (which I do, when I’m free). There are some really great people who are regulars, and the atmosphere couldn’t be friendlier.
Follow feeds like @romenesko, @WebNewser and (cough) @10000Words to stay informed of what’s going on in the online journalism world. Be an engager, not a broadcaster. Don’t just tweet out your clips or what’s happening in your personal life. There’s a lot more to Twitter than that.
4. Living In Washington, D.C., Has Been Nothing Short Of A Blessing
With the federal government being the hottest thing to report on lately, there’s been a need for online (and traditional) journalists to support these new and reborn operations (National Journal belonging to the latter category).
But that is not to say there are other jobs elsewhere. New York, for instance, is also a good starting point to look for online positions. A retooled, post-Aol merger Huffington Post has been on a hiring spree lately, as are other outlets.
The downside: D.C. and New York are both notoriously expensive cities.
5. Be As Open-Minded As Possible
I was not as enthusiastic as I should have been last fall when I was offered the internship at National Journal. I had my sights set on working at another outlet. But in the end, with some parental advice, I ended up taking the position at NJ — an internship that turned into a job. You never know what opportunities will come out of a particular internship, so stay open-minded about it. In retrospect, accepting the NJ internship was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Congratulations to the class of 2011, and best of luck on your job search or whatever is next!