First — and last — network
Whether you came to graduate school right out of college, have worked in journalism or are changing careers, there is one thing you must do to find a job: network.
Journalists can’t be shy on the job and the same applies to getting one. Let as many people as possible know that you are looking. Stay in touch with former colleagues. When a guest journalist comes to your class or speaks at the school, introduce yourself, ask questions and send a note afterward. Connect with alumni — not for a job but for advice. Attend school events where you are likely to meet working journalists. Join professional organizations where you can connect with other journalists. The more people you meet and stay in touch with, the better chance a job lead will come your way. And, of course, talk to your professors and the Career Services staff about their contacts.
In-person networking is the best way to meet people but social media is also a great way to connect. Use LinkedIn to research companies and the alums who work there — as well as hunt for job listings. Join CUNY Facebook groups to trade advice and tips with fellow students and alums. Join journalist groups on Meetup.com.
Also consider setting up informational interviews with people or at places you would love to work, even if there aren’t any openings. Make sure to research the organization thoroughly and come prepared with lots of questions and plenty of passion for the journalism they produce. Follow up with a thank you email and stay in touch with your contact. If you do, when a job does open up, chances are they will remember you.
How do I begin?
First, figure out what you want. Do you want to work in digital, video, radio — all of the above? Assess yours skills and experience. Have you lived in a certain area or speak a language that gives you regional expertise? Do you have specialized background, education or interest in a particular subject, such as science, business, politics or music? Some employers want applicants with specialties while others prefer generalists.
Are you able to leave New York for a smaller market where journalists often get hands-on training doing many jobs — or would you rather start as a small fish in a bigger pond? There are lots of opinions on whether to stay in New York or head to a smaller market to start out. There is no right answer. While New York is the magazine capital of the world, there are plenty of magazines elsewhere and, if your goal is to write freelance articles, it may make sense to live in a more affordable city. Broadcast grads — especially those interested in on-air positions — often head to smaller markets to hone their skills but others who want to produce often can start off at low-level network jobs and work their way up without leaving New York.
Have an open mind. Don’t hold out for the “perfect” job. It doesn’t exist. And, remember, careers are not straight lines. Sometimes you need to zigzag to reach your ultimate destination.
Keep up with what’s happening in the media world. Talk to your professors and read trade websites such as FishbowlNY to learn who is coming and going and track the latest start-ups. And, of course, check the Journalism Job Sites and Organizations listed on our website.
When and how should I apply?
Attend the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism fall Career Fair and spring Community and Ethnic Meetup to meet with recruiters in one-on-one interviews, as well as other job fairs that cater to journalists. If you plan to work outside of New York, contact employers and set up interviews for when you will be in their area. By the time you return from your summer internship, you should be in major job-search mode.
Apply by email or on the company’s website, making sure you use keywords used in the job description. No phone calls — editors and producers may be on deadline. If you know people at the company or someone who knows the hiring manager, let them know that you’ve applied and ask if they can mention your name.
Follow the employer’s instructions on whether to include the text of your cover letter and resume into the body of the email or as attachments. When in doubt, paste them into the body of the message.
What do I do once I get an offer?
Once you accept a verbal or written job or internship offer, you have an ethical obligation to that employer to honor that commitment. You should stop all further interviewing and withdraw from the interview process at other organizations.
Accepting an offer only as a precautionary measure, or hoarding several offers, is misleading. Reneging on an accepted offer will reflect badly on you — word gets around — and could harm the relationship the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism has with the employer. It also hurts the prospects of those who are genuinely interested in the position.