City Journal interview about resume tips

Who gets the jobs?

Heady idealism needs to be taken with consistent doses of hard work and humility.

I remember interviewing a first-year media and communications student who demanded work as an editor.

She had no prior work experience, only hifalutin ideas of the glamorous life as an editor for a glossy.

And nevermind that as a young start-up, the only editor we were going to have in the organisation at the time was me.

“You probably need a bit of experience before you can do any editing work. Why don’t you start out by doing some reporting first?” I tried to dissuade her gently.

“No, I’m not interested. I’m going to return home and work as an editor for a magazine.”

Enough said.

If there’s one piece of advice I can give to journalism students, it’s don’t ever stop dreaming. But do keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. And know this – a spirit of humility will take you places.

You may wish to become a reporter dedicated to lifestyle/entertainment/sports/insert-your-favourite-round here, and you may be keen to build up a portfolio of work to have something to show for it.

But at the infancy of your career development, building up your skills and competencies in journalism should be your priority, and that means being open to learn new skills, and writing outside your areas of interest.

Getting hard news reporting down pat for example, can teach you valuable lessons on writing quickly and succinctly, fairness and balance, fact-checking, sourcing and more.

Versatile reporters are definitely prized, plus, you don’t always get the dream job you want at the first instance.

Learn to say yes, even if it’s outside of your comfort zone. Don’t wrangle your way out of a difficult assignment, or change the brief to escape doing the hard yards. Don’t make excuses, all you have to do is ask if there’s something you don’t know.

Good habits and attitudes cultivated early will help set you apart as someone who knows how to conduct themselves professionally.

And finally, in anything you do, be polite. Prima donnas are not welcome anywhere.

I will never forget the editor who made this remark long ago to a bunch of us rookie journalists: “All of you are turds, you know nothing.”

It probably wasn’t the most politically correct thing to say, but it was certainly a painful reminder about the importance of being humble.

This article was originally published in Meld Magazine.

A memo to journalism students

When I first entered J-school back in 2006, my vision of success looked something like this: I’d be a hard hitting news reporter making my mark in a metro print daily.

But that changed pretty quickly as I began to realise that change was upon us, whether we liked it or not. And for better or for worse, new media was changing the rules of the game, and the business of publishing was no longer the domain of a select few.

Like me then, many media students are still grappling with its implications now. Where are the jobs? What do the jobs of tomorrow look like? What skills would a journalist need to operate in the new media environment? Who pays?

Newsrooms are a lot leaner nowadays. And more than ever before, the pressure is on for journalists to do more with a lot less. The current economic climate is probably not helping advertisers spend money either. (I’ve heard wind that a big print enterprise title is set to close, and that we can expect more to come this year).

If I can take a moment and encourage the budding journalists of tomorrow, there is no reason to mope. But there is every reason to start changing the way you imagine what a successful journalism career would look like in this world of new media. You are the next generation of newsmakers, and you get the chance to pioneer, innovate, and chart out a different path. Trail-blazing is hard work, but it’s also an opportunity that doesn’t present itself often.

I’d also like to introduce you to a book that I think is essential reading for all journalism students: Journalism at the Crossroads by Margaret Simons (I should also mention that befittingly, it’s an e-book only publication). I hope it inspires you and gets you excited about the possibilities you may not have entertained until now.