How To Start Your Journalism Job Search
Commencement season is right around the corner, which means many soon-to-be graduates are now starting to look for their first real jobs. If you're in that boat, here's some advice for conducting your search:
Begin your job hunt at least a few months before you plan to start working at your new employer. Even when newspapers and magazines are in hiring mode, they tend to move slowly when hiring reporters.
Regularly check the major websites that list journalism jobs, such as JournalismJobs.com, but don't rely solely on Internet job boards. Virtually every journalist looks at those websites.
In fact, some employers won't advertise on popular jobs boards precisely because they don't want to have to sort through hundreds of applications.
In addition, some employers don't post openings on popular job websites because those sites often charge an advertising fee. And some media outlets don't advertise their openings at all.
That's why it's crucial to network. Many jobs openings are announced the old-fashioned way: word-of-mouth. So, talk to alumni and professors, attend job fairs and conferences and make cold calls to places you'd like to work at.
Unless you see a help wanted ad that specifies "no calls," don't apply blindly for a reporting position. Instead, call or, better yet, e-mail the appropriate editor before you apply for a job. This will allow you to gather more info on the position, alert the editor to keep an eye out for your application and enable her to associate a person (or at least a voice) with it.
Whom is the appropriate editor to contact? Some media outlets have recruiting and hiring editors who handle reporting applicants, other publications handle it through their human resources department, and still others will have you direct your application to a section editor, team leader or assistant managing editor.
If in doubt, simply ask to speak to the person in charge of hiring reporters. Once you identify the appropriate person to speak with, introduce yourself and briefly give your background (i.e., "I just graduated college and interned at paper X and magazine Z").
If you saw a job opening listed on the Internet, make sure the position is still open. If you want to work for a particular media outlet, but aren't sure if it has openings for you, find out what sort of opportunities are available for young reporters. If there's an opening you qualify for, ask how many clips you should send in.
If there's something you want the editor to know about a particular clip -- i.e. you wrote a breaking news story at 1 a.m. in 20 minutes -- attach a yellow 'Post-it' note. Also be sure to include a cover letter, resume and a list of references. And find out if the editor wants anything else -- some newspapers will ask for an autobiography or other essays. Check the spelling of the editor's name. Then send out everything in a big manila envelope, unless the employer prefers e-mail.
It may seem antiquated in the Internet Age, but sending paper through the mail is still the way the hiring game is generally played. An e-mailed application places the burden on the editor to print out your resume and writing samples.
But a few recruiters do prefer applications to be sent electronically. For such cases, scan your publication clips and save them as PDFs that can be attached as files to e-mail (Note: do not cut and paste the text of your story into MS Word and send that). Upload broadcast clips to YouTube and send the link. Even though your materials may be posted on a newspaper's or station's website, those links may eventually expire or cost money to access.
After you apply, follow up with a call or (less intrusive) e-mail about 10 days later.
If a publication you're interested in working for does not have or anticipate any openings, ask the hiring editor if you can periodically send her some of your stories. A friend of mine did this and eventually moved from a small newspaper to the Providence Journal, and then from the ProJo to the Wall Street Journal. Each move took 18 months, but it demonstrates that patience and persistence can pay off in your job search.