Several seniors have stopped by my office lately to talk about job hunting, and, if you're graduating in May, it's probably too early to actually start applying for jobs in journalism. But there's still a lot you can do to increase your chances of finding a job before graduation day. Spend a few hours a week now, and you'll be ready to go in May.
First, sign up for the Journalism Launchpad Class in the spring. It's a one-credit, five-week class that gets you prepped for the job hunt. We cover lots of topics, including networking, resumes, Linkedin, practice interviews, and issues like early career personal finance, managing student loan debt and how to negotiate for a higher salary. Students who have taken the class say it changed the way they approach the job hunt, and many of them get jobs as a result of the tools and insights they pick up in this class.
Second, get your professional materials: resume, online portfolio and Linkedin profile in the best shape you can: this means, updated, concise, well-written and no typos. This takes time, and should not be left to the last minute. Many students put a lot of work into perfecting the resume and leave the LinkedIn as an afterthought. Don't do that. Both must be in perfect shape. You want an employer to look you up online and find your work easily. If you don't have a Wordpress or Wix site, get a Pressfolios site, so an employer can stop at one site and see your work.
Beef up your LinkedIn: Check out the "Ask for Recommendation" link on your profile. (This is way more valuable than those "endorsements.") Ask an employer to post a recommendation for you right onto your profile. It's one more way to impress a potential employer. Be sure to connect with groups and individuals you have worked with on internships.
And this brings us to clips. If you don't have any published work, please go to the Collegian or Amherstwire and start writing. If you are applying for a journalism job, there's a good chance you'll be competing with other grads who have, seriously, hundeds of clips. One or two is just not enough.
Third, ask yourself the question we'll be exploring in the Launchpad class: "What do I want to do, and where do I want to be doing it?"
The answer to this will change many times, of course, but you don't need all the answers, you just need one for now. Try things out. If you want to be a photographer a a small weekly newspaper out west, (like recent graduate Shannon Broderick), then start searching on the journalism job sites on this page. And do what Shannon did, shoot your heart out for the Daily Collegian and Amherst Wire, so you have a solid portfolio of work to show an employer, AND impress a few teachers, so you get a terrific set of recommendations from faculty members when an editor calls. All these steps are doable right now.
Fourth, learn about the employment landscape you want to work in. Read industry websites and trade publications, like the sites on the right hand column of this page. Follow sites like MEO Jobs and Mediabistro on Twitter. Find the companies doing what you want to be doing, and follow them on social media. If you want to work in magazines, find the companies that publish magazines and learn everything you can about them. HINT: these would include Meredith, Hearst, Conde Nast, Rodale. Do some job searches to see the titles and what the work entails. Figure out what skills are needed. And work on getting them while you're here on campus. (And while you're at it, set up an alert, so you'll keep up with changes in the industry, like the sale of Rodale to Hearst.)
Five, keep up with emerging technology and social media--the software, the hardware, the ethical impacts. Every company is a technology company right now, regardless of what field you want to work in. And that means quite possibly, that the job you will have when you graduate, doesn't even exist yet. Here's a great site from the Reynolds Journalism Institute about new jobs...keep your eye on this. You might find your future here.