Alumni offer advice for journalism job seekers
For journalists entering or re-entering the job market, the coronavirus pandemic might illuminate good employers and separate them from bad ones.
“Everyone should take the time to research and read how companies treated their employees during this time,” said Alyssa Goldman, BAJ’12, a recruiter at FTI Consulting.
Goldman and other Indiana Daily Student alumni shared career advice Wednesday at Start Your Career Right — Insights from IDS Alumni, a virtual event hosted by the Student Publications Alumni Association. The panel, which took place over Zoom, was hosted in partnership with the Walter Center for Career Achievement and The Media School. Kevin Corcoran, BA’88, MBA’07, strategy director for the Lumina Foundation, moderated the discussion.
The panelists advised young job-seekers to navigate this moment gently. As the already unstable industry faces a moment of increasing uncertainty, now can be a time to build connections and learn new skills, rather than to seek a dream job right out of the gate.
Lots of educational and skill-building resources are available at discounted rates or for free right now, Goldman said. And for journalists looking to build their portfolio, it might also be a good time to look for freelance work.
She also said many job postings right now might be “phantom jobs”: positions that aren’t necessarily open, but employers leave them up so they won’t have to restart the job search when the time comes. But they might still be worth an application.
“They post them because they know right now there’s a lot of talent on the market,” Goldman said.
For new graduates entering a job market where they may be applying for entry-level positions alongside more experienced reporters who’ve been laid off, Chandra Turner, BAJ’96, advised listeners not to fear competition or assume inferiority. Publications want to hire fresh graduates for their eager-beaver energy, said Turner, founder of Talent Fairy.
Lindsey Erdody, BAJ’12, a staff reporter at the Indianapolis Business Journal, said false feelings of inferiority are more common for women applicants than for men. It’s simple, she said: Ask yourself what the job is asking you to do, and whether or not you can do it.
Erdody was never shy to tell listeners to apply. It was the first advice she offered, and the root of several subsequent suggestions. If there’s one way to guarantee you won’t find a job, she said, it’s to not apply in the first place.
Fresh out of college in 2012, applying for more jobs was like a second part-time job for her.
“If I wasn’t working I was applying for jobs,” she said. “I carved out time every day to do it. I kept an Excel spreadsheet.”
Keeping track of applications — both before and after they’re completed and submitted — is a key step, she said, because eventually you’ll have applied for so many jobs you’ll lose track.
And of course, it’s important not to give up.
“You need an offer. You don’t need 15 offers. You need a job,” Erdody said.
The panelists also networking, application and interview tips.
“Reaching out to peers is just as important as reaching out to superiors,” Turner said. “The people you know who are in the same boat as you are more likely to understand where you are and advocate for you.”
Turner, who earned the nickname of “Talent Fairy” 10-15 years ago for her reputation as the fairy godmother of the magazine industry who paired workers with jobs, said most of the jobs you’ll get will come through people in the same boat as you.
Goldman shared specific advice on resume formatting:
- Don’t use columns; they might confuse scanning software.
- Remove graphics.
- Try to find keywords in the job description that can be mirrored in an appropriately tailored resume.
- Formalities: Thank you notes aren’t dead!
“A lot of people think thank you notes are dead in the water. I’ve seen that from a lot of my candidates,” Goldman said. “Send an email to the interviewer directly.”
In navigating the mechanical processes of applying and interviewing for jobs, it’s easy to forget the human element, she said. A thank you note can emphasize some sort of connection with the interviewers and gratitude for their time.
Erdody reminded listeners to advocate for themselves. Once you do get an offer — and you will — offers are negotiable, she said, and negotiating is worth it.
And while it can take the form of negotiating a salary, it’s also about more: vacation days, sick days — whatever an employer can offer you.
“I can’t tell you how important this is,” she said, “and I can’t tell you how much I didn’t know that as a recent grad.”