Emma L. Carew

A reporter's online portfolio

J-school bucket list: 5 things you should consider before graduation

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Most of the advice out there for young journalists right now focuses on skills, and ways to stand out technically, like this post from 10,000 Words. This is all important. The best young journalists are insanely bright and their portfolios are star-studded. But after I commented on this post on SPJ’s Gen J blog, I gave it some more thought.

Not enough advice is being given to coach young graduates about what kind of journalist they want to be — and I don’t mean “features writer” or “cops reporter.”Do they want to be a skills master, a teacher, a mentor, or just the guy who comes into work, keeps his head down, and gets the job done?

Journalism is a small, small world. Ask any editor, meet a group of new interns  and you’ll see it. With students moving around more (taking 3 or 4 or 5 internships), and the reliance on social networking, everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows what you’re doing. So it’s important to make sure that when your name inevitably comes up as someone’s shared connection, think about what those people might say about you.

5 things you should be doing before you graduate:

* Teach someone something. You weren’t born with the knowledge of how to put together a kicking online portfolio, or how to craft a clever cover letter. Someone took the time to teach you, and help you. Pass these skills on, whether its to a classmate struggling to find his/her next gig, or to a young staffer at your college publication.

* Recommend someone in your circle. If you’re out there, doing all that networking to try to find a job for yourself, chances are good you’ll hear of an opening or make a contact that could help a friend, classmate or colleague of yours. Take 30-seconds and make an elevator pitch for that person. Connect them in an introductory e-mail. Look at the 5 journalists closest to you (friends, classmates you admire, a combination of both) and think about why you would recommend them: “he’s a great narrative story teller,” or “she can handle gear and pump out stories side by side in multimedia channels,” or “he’s an unrelenting digger for data.”

* Volunteer with a professional organization – contact the local journalism org of your choice (SPJ, ONA, ACES, ASNE, The UNITY groups) and see if they have an upcoming event – annual banquet, convention, etc. and if there is a way for you to volunteer. You’ll meet other professionals in your area and get to spend out of the office time with them.

* Send a sincere thank you to your adviser or the professor who had the biggest impact. Journalism educators don’t get nearly enough credit (in fact, more often get slammed as part of “outdated j-school curricula”) so make sure the ones who were the most important to you hear it loud and clear.

* Contact at least two people at your next place of employment – be it internship or job. Look them up online, read their recent clips, and send them a short note. That way you’ll have someone to grab coffee or lunch with in your first week on the job. (and, for crying out loud, if one of them makes the first move, e-mail them back!)

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Written by emmacarew

May 14, 2010 at 9:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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