Want the Inside Scoop on Getting Hired in Journalism? Start Here.
It takes a lot more than a red circle in Classifieds to get your first journalism job.
Beth Hunt, who has the inside scoop on getting hired, recently hosted an Industry Talk, “Landing your First Journalism Job or Internship: Where to Look, What to Say, How Not to Screw It Up” at the Belo Center for New Media.
Hunt is director of editorial recruiting and development at American City Business Journals and adjunct professor at Wake Forest University. She has worked for ACBJ for over 28 years and now travels across the country recruiting and speaking to college students about how to get an internship or job. She left UT students with the following advice:
Where to look
Research is key for any journalism major, whether for a story, for an interview or even for a job. Hunt recommends figuring out where you want to work and who you want to work for and only applying there, not a million places.
In such a competitive market, it’s not hard to believe most journalism students take the first job they’re offered, but Hunt says rather than settle it’s best to wait for the right job for you.
“I would much rather you come in to see me [after] bartending, waitressing or something like Target than take a job in journalism or content that you didn’t want,” Hunt said. “What that shows me is that you aren't very clear on what you want to do, and you don't believe enough in yourself to wait until the one for you to come along. And that’s important-- to believe in yourself. I can’t believe you if you don't believe in you.”
If applying to more than one organization, it is best to double check whose name is listed on your portfolio before sending it to them.
“I can’t tell you the number of resumes I get that don’t have the right name,” Hunt says. “They are writing to me a very impassioned cover letter about how they've always wanted to work for ACBJ, and they send it to me with the wrong name: ‘Dear Joe.’”
What to say
Hunt says that nine out of 10 times, she doesn’t make it to applicants’ resumes if their cover letter is not convincing. This makes the cover letter the most important piece of a portfolio, according to Hunt. She also says to write a different cover letter for each company you apply.
“I want to see if you can engage me,” Hunt says. “If you want a writing job, can you write yourself into that job?”
On the other hand, when it does come to a resume, Hunt emphasizes that you can have “10 years of experience or one year of experience 10 times.” She adds that this means it doesn’t matter how long you work at an organization if you didn’t grow as a journalist or show any initiative.
How not to screw it up
Hunt arrived to the seminar wearing a flowy, blue top and casual jeans. She said she dressed this way because she doesn’t want to intimidate students who may seem daunted by a professional. When it comes to a job interview though, Hunt has a different opinion.
“Act like you want them to take you seriously,” Hunt says. “If you don't know what’s appropriate, ask whoever is interviewing you. If they say a Polo and khakis, dress one level up. If they say a suit, listen to them.”
Timing is everything in journalism, and so is arriving on time for an interview. Hunt suggests getting to the building 15 minutes early and the office five minutes early. She also says to not to sit down, but wander around the office or small talk with the receptionist.
“Nobody looks their best sitting down,” Hunt said. “When someone comes out to get you, you are ready to shake their hand. You don’t have to do that awkward thing where you have to get up, or your bag is in your lap.”
Small talk should be an easy task for a journalist, but it can be forgotten during a nerve-racking job interview. Hunt’s advice is to talk about the weather if you can’t think of anything else to say during the transition between a reception area to an office.
“If you’re not feeling like you’re in the middle of a conversation rather than an interview, start following up with questions of your own,” Hunt said. “Don’t monopolize the conversation. People love to talk about themselves. Make the conversation about both of us.”
One of the hardest topics during an interview can be about salary. Hunt says to “put a value on yourself” and to do heavy research to learn what your position deserves to earn.
“For some reason we can talk about the bowel movement habits of our children, but we can’t talk about how much we deserve to be paid for what we do,” Hunt said.
Once the interview is over, Hunt agrees that you are “well within your bounds” to ask for feedback.
“I think most people, if you are respectful in your request, will give you that,” Hunt said. “I would ask a couple times, if you don't hear back then I would be happy to dodge a bullet if they don't feel comfortable enough [to give feedback.]”
Keeping Hunt’s tips in mind, you can pop the cap back on your red sharpie, close the Classifieds and find that dream job.
Molly A. Crouch
Sophomore Journalism Major