G-day for j-schoolers

For many j-schoolers, graduation day will be here before you know it.  Here’s a few things you can do to improve your game before G-day hits.

Mark S. Luckie of 10,000 Words recently posted a list of eight things newbie journalists should do before they graduate. See his list below, with a bit of colour commentary from me. [Full disclosure: My graduation day is in exactly 37 days and I have done
almost none of these things, but I swear I will finish them all by
1. Create a portfolio

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but your work, whether it’s print or video, should be available online. It’s an easy way for potential employers to see what you can do, and it’s a great way to showcase those new media/web skills that every employer seems to want these days.

2. Blog

In Luckie’s words, “you should have been blogging the first day you set foot on campus,” but if you haven’t, you should start. Now. I once heard an editor say that he would be very hesitant to hire a new recruit that didn’t keep at least a personal blog. It shows that you’re capable of thinking critically about something, that you can stay committed to a project, and (hopefully) that you can write consistently well on a regular basis. I would also recommend getting active on Twitter.

3. Use those business cards

You know all of those business cards collecting dust at the back of your desk drawer? Why not try emailing those people to see if they are hiring? Or ask if you can get together for an information interview.

4. Get a new wardrobe

Every day I wish that my collection of old band T-shirts and ripped jeans would be appropriate for office work, but alas, that’s rarely the case. Journalism does tend to be an industry that’s more casual than business when it comes to attire, but you still need to look polished and professional. Chances are you aren’t going to have the cash to drop on a new wardrobe right out of the door, so my advice would be to invest in a few key pieces and then fill in the gaps later. A suit is a must (or at least a nice blazer) and hunt to find a pair of comfortable dress shoes.

5. Clean up your social network profiles

Nothing is ever totally private on the internet. Ask friends to remove Facebook photos or tweets that make you look like an idiot (and refrain from posting them yourself). Your future career will thank you.

6. Talk to your professors

Chances are you have a whole arsenal of professors (and maybe even some industry buddies) who are willing to help you out. Take advantage of this. They might be able to tip you off to some internal job postings, or set you up for a meeting with an editor. And make sure to get a reference before you’re out the door.

7. Band together

Are all your friends unemployed? Luckie suggests getting together and creating something new. “The best, most innovative projects were started by an unemployed journalist,” he wrote. What have you got to lose?

8. Have a plan B

We’ve all got it. Things are better now than they were a year ago, yes, but it’s still smart to begin entertaining the notion that you could be happy doing something else.