“How I nabbed my first job” panel highlights from 2013 SPJ region 2 conference

I participated in an SPJ region 2 conference panel in Norfolk, Va. this past Saturday. The topic: how a few recent graduates got their first jobs in journalism. Tweets from the session appear below, enjoy!

Storified by Greg Linch· Sun, Apr 21 2013 20:32:54

NOW! Follow #GenJ #SPJ2 to find out how young journalists at @washingtonpost @progressindex @pilotnews @Wavy_News landed their first jobs.SPJ Generation J
We’ll be live-tweeting from a #SPJ2 session about how to get your first journo job, which features @greglinch, one of our awesome faculty!GeorgetownJournalism
.@greglinch got his first job through a contest, of all things! #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
.@sarhutch got her full-time job at the @PilotNews by starting there as an intern. #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
.@vwremmerspi got her first job by starting working part-time when she could during school. #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
Places to look for jobs include JournalismJobs.com, conferences (@ONA) or associations (@va_newspapers). #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
You need to approach your job search like a mini-reporting project. Know who you will be working for. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Watch the listings over time to see which places seem to have high turnover – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Faculty member @greglinch on a panel about #journojobs at #SPJ2 conference pic.twitter.com/7AUhY1KXfkAmy L. Kovac-Ashley
Big message about job searching is to be flexible #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Even if there are no job openings, feel it out and try to extend your internships! Be honest and realistic. #SPJ2 #jobs with @robynsiderskyLani Furbank
Be realistic about your housing and financial situation – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
And by being awesome. RT @HoyaJournalism .@vwremmerspi got her first job by starting working part-time when she could during school. #SPJ2Pat Kane
Don’t bank on your internship turning into a job. You need to look for jobs while you are there. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Work hard and show your enthusiasm. Don’t nag for a job – they’ll notice your dedication and it might pay off. @greglinch #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
There’s a fine line between showing initiative about wanting to stay at a place and being annoying/acting entitled – @sarhutch #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
Bigger places including @PilotNews won’t really consider you unless you’ve had good internships before – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
"Journalism experience begets more journalism experience." – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Student newspaper experience was critical for @vwremmerspi #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Look at all the opportunities out there. You can make a case as to how different experiences are relevant. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Relationship building is key. Start talking to people early. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Skills and relationships go hand-in-hand. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
@greglinch says keep in contact w/your recruiters. Relationships (not just "networking!") are key in landing a job. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
Want to stand out in the application process? The cover letter. Tell a specific story/anecdote that showcases your talents. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
People make a mistake when talking about a story in a cover letter but not including it with the application – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Other mistake is not being specific enough in your letter about what you can do. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Sometimes work ethic can show through with your resume/cover letter and make the difference – @vwremmerspi #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
@vwremmerspi landed her job because of her dedication. Experience can be taught, but work ethic is part of who you are. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
You do not want to embellish in your resume/cover letter. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Your cover letter might be the only way that a potential employer will get to know you. Tell a story. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
A hand-written thank you note is a rare thing these days. It can make you stand out. — @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Having a portfolio website is a way that someone else can see your work easily – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Treat your Facebook as though anyone can see it. If you use it to reach out to sources, you’ll want it to be appropriate. #SPJ2 #genjJMU SPJ
You need to be aware of what is out there in social media and how you see your accounts – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Assume everything is public when it comes to your online portfolio/social media – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Your social media can be an asset! Tweet and post professionally, and assume everything is public. @greglinch #genj #SPJ2Lani Furbank
If you don’t want everyone to see something, then don’t post it online, don’t take that picture, etc. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Most important thing is to start learning how to learn. – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Your degree is not a ticket to a job, it’s a ticket to keep learning on your own. @greglinch #genj #SPJ2Lani Furbank
#spj2 "no one is impressed with a wide range of skills if you can’t write a story."Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
You need to diversify your portfolio but also know how to do one thing really well that you want to focus on – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Critical thinking, knowing how to ask sharp questions that challenge assumptions – those are important skills – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
A wide array of skills doesn’t mean anything if you can’t do the job you’re being hired to do. Strike a balance. #SPJ2 #genj #jobsLani Furbank
Things you learn on the job: How to manage the newsroom and work culture you’re in – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
In a full time job, learn how to assert yourself professionally. You’re not an eager-beaver intern anymore. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
Things you learn on the job: How to stand up for yourself – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobs (Earlier tweet was wrong – apologies!)GeorgetownJournalism
There’s no such thing as an eight- or nine-hour day – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
You have to learn how to manage your time and your own schedule without someone telling you how. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
@vwremmerspi says her first job can be like a roller coaster. Expect long days and odd hours. She’s found a balance. #SPJ2 #genjLani Furbank
Beyond internships, you can do your own projects to try to stand out – and then pitch them somewhere. – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Look for places to create opportunities for yourself – @sarhutch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Look for news events close to you to cover. If you were in Boston right now, you should be covering #bostonbombings – @sarhutch #SPJ2GeorgetownJournalism
Fellowships can offer a really good experience and offer good relationship-building opportunities #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism
Knowledge about other disciplines – especially if it’s a beat you want to cover – is helpful – @greglinch #SPJ2 #journojobsGeorgetownJournalism

Steve Jobs’ legacy and a lesson

A few minutes ago — a few hours after news of Steve Jobs’s death became public — I tweeted the following:

Steve Jobs’ greatest legacy is not the products he created, but what they enabled and who they inspired.

Soon after that, I thought of a lesson for journalism: we shouldn’t focus so much on what we do as much as what we enable, who we impact and what comes from all that. Continue reading Steve Jobs’ legacy and a lesson

Notes from Happy Cog event on web design process and practice

On the evening of Nov. 18, I attended An Army of One or a Nation of Millions? Web Design Process and Practice with Happy Cog, presented by the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington and hosted at the building of my soon-to-be employer, The Washington Post.

Collaborative design process can be...
"Collaborative design process can be..."

(Disclosure: I attended as a guest of the Post; I am not — yet? — an ADCMW member.)

I’ve included my chronological livetweets from the #adcmwhappycog event (P.S. not my idea for a hashtag), plus some tweets with photos by @AnneLikesRedChris Cashdollar (@ccashdollar) and Kevin Hoffman (@kevinmhoffman) gave the presentation, which I will embed or link here after it’s posted online.

Read their great insights and comment below with your thoughts:

greglinch: #happycog is different from other shops bc everyone works on a project. Also, everyone works in more than just their speciality.

greglinch: The official hashtag for the @happycog event is #adcmwhappycog. They’ll be discussing their processes and more.

greglinch: .@happycog processes generally include: project definition, IA, viz design (design systems for ease in future), programming #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Process values at @happycog: collaborative, iterative and flexible. #adcmwhappycog

AnneLikesRed: http://twitpic.com/380xjq #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: All of the things I’ve mentioned in the past few tweets is more of a framework then part of a rigid process. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: For each project, @happycog asks: What is the design challenge at hand & what is the culture of the org they’re working with? #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: What the @happycog process could be like. RT @AnneLikesRed: http://twitpic.com/380xjq #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: .@happycog will sometimes disconnect and completely focus on the work — sometimes working on paper to start. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Sample sketches from Build-a-Bear project, which never launched but, bc of that, they learned a lot #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/28jgmfj

greglinch: At wireframe stage, they focused on the upsell and the call to action — the two fundamental reqs. #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/mn3wqj

greglinch: Another view of #adcmwhappycog event. RT @robleto: Happy Cog speaking at ADCMW @ Washington Post http://instagr.am/p/Srh1/

greglinch: “Fast results have a cost.” Also, they have no-meeting zones to focus on work — and those are disconnected from email, etc. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Where are all the #ONADC tweets, peeps? Share the love! Read about @happycog event with: #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Project definition/IA when working with clients: Early, open discussion with focused meetings #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Wireframes at @happycog focus on hierarchy + persistence, *not* visual design #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: When you’ve worked with a wireframe for weeks and need to scrap it, it can be hard to get out the thinking of that wireframe. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: “Rules need to be understood to be broken” #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: At @happycog, they’re great at generating ideas — they need to improve at removing ideas. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Photo of @HappyCog commenting system that’s character-limited and can be tweeted. #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/0le4ifj

greglinch: They put ideas on the @HappyCog blog that are incomplete so people can weigh in and build on them. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: .@HappyCog is mostly waterfall, with only a bit of agile, for their process. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: “Use deliverables for discussion” — @HappyCog. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Mental Models is a book about “aligning design with human behavior” they recommend http://j.mp/bPBZIK #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Use “existing research and design team as guinea pigs” for project. For Philly tourism site, asked what they’d do on weekend. #adcmwhappycog

AnneLikesRed: http://twitpic.com/381br2 #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: “Balance classification with context” — make sure info is where it needs be, not just like indexes in a library card catalog #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Roughy 80 people attending #adcmwhappycog event.

AnneLikesRed: So true! http://twitpic.com/381fal #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: “The actual dynamic of group decision making” — You need convergent and divergent thinking #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/jau2rzj

greglinch: Book recs: Rework http://j.mp/c1PlYh and Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making http://j.mp/af7oqi #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Core Values: full participation, mutual understanding, inclusive solutions, shared responsibility #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/9fvddnj

greglinch: “Pathways to Action Model” — process design, vision space, problem space, solution space, make it real #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Collaborative Design Process: creative concepts, client review, single concept iteration #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/17izxqj

greglinch: Techniques they use w/ clients to learn more include a scale for balancing site’s feeling & MadLibs #adcmwhappycog http://yfrog.com/c95s9bj

greglinch: “Being dogmatic is for the birds” — find the unique process needs for each project. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: During Q&A: “People who tell you CMSes are separate from design is lying to you” — it does impact design decisions #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: Quite a coincidence that an attendee mentioned Edward de Bono + his book — I just discovered him on Tues http://j.mp/bCF2Pe #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: .@happycog looks for models — such as from other industries — that can solve specific interaction problems. #adcmwhappycog

greglinch: And that’s a wrap! Hope you all enjoyed the #adcmwhappycog tweets. My fingers (and iPhone) get the rest of the night off.

Books: Finished Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky, started Program or be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff

Goodreads is a social network for readers that Lauren Rabaino introduced me to in June. One of the cool features they offer is a way to embed the review you write about a book, so I’ve added that below for Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, which is the first book I’ve tracked my progress with using Goodreads (and read in its entirety on the iPad):

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected AgeCognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The deft way Shirky connects and articulates different concepts (even when they’re mostly very familiar), plus the examples he deconstructs and conclusions he offers, make this a highly insightful read.

I really want to re-read Here Comes Everybody at some point soon.


Adding to that review, I’d again emphasize: although the concepts Shirky discusses may not be new to you, the way he frames everything and connects ideas is wonderful. I would recommend that anyone working in journalism read this book.

For a taste of the book, read the Wired piece Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution and watch a related TED talk, How cognitive surplus will change the world:

The next book I’m reading is Program or be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff, which I started last night. Follow my progress on Goodreads and join the conversation about the book on Rushkoff’s site.

For a taste of the book, read his Huffington Post piece and watch his SXSW 2010 speech:

Regarding Rushkoff’s premise, there are some interesting comments on this BoingBoing post.

I’m aiming to read Program or Be Programmed pretty quickly and then move on to Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson, which I’ve written about previously in the context of innovation.

What are some interesting books you’ve read lately? Please share in the comments!

Republishing a Q&A I did with Aspiring Journalists

Last week I was interviewed via email by Alesa Commedore, a journalism student at the Univeresity of South Florida, for a Q&A on Aspiring Journalists. With her permission, I’m republishing my answers for posterity. The answers, which read like a journo-biography of sorts, are the same as the original interview — with a few additional links.

Why did you decide to study journalism? What made it appeal to you?

GL: My experience on the high school newspaper for three years set me on a path to study journalism in college. Also, a conference for journalism scholarship winners in DC cemented my decision to do so, providing a broader view of what’s like to work in news. At the time, my interest in writing and current events provided much of the foundation for my interest in journalism, but I later realized my motivations included the collaborative nature of the work, ability to constantly learn and try new things.

How was your university experience? Do you think your university/professors have prepared you for the realities of the industry?

GL: I attended the University of Miami, where I received a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. My experience was extremely positive because I took advantage of all the university had to offer. Specifically, I worked on The Miami Hurricane staff for three years and served in an advisory role as a senior, enrolled in more journalism classes than were required and even took several visual journalism classes outside my major. I also made connections with professional journalists and other student editors in South Florida. Overall, my schooling provided a very important foundation that was supplemented and further built upon by other opportunities I pursued.

Today you hear many stories of newspapers going under and journalists losing their jobs. What was it like to be a journalism student during such an uncertain period of time in the industry? How did that make you feel?

GL: Following the professional news business closely in college, experiencing it first-hand at internships and hearing stories at conferences provided a realistic view of the state of news organizations. I knew the reality and sometimes felt dismayed that so many news organizations were struggling and people were losing their jobs, but I was never dissuaded or discouraged from pursuing journalism after I graduated. Instead, I saw infinite opportunities and focused on the positive aspects of how digital technologies could improve how journalism is practiced. Journalism might have previously been an “industry” when the barrier to producing news products was high, but I don’t believe there is such a thing anymore. Anyone can practice journalism and publish, broadcast and engage online. You don’t need to work at a legacy news organization do that.

How have you prepared for the field as a journalism student (internships, getting clips, etc)?

GL: As I mentioned in the second answer, I pursued a number of different avenues to learn more and better prepare myself as a journalist. My resume offers a comprehensive list and a top 10 list of tips I wrote has more in-depth thoughts on this. The most important things for me included:

  • Co-founding CoPress, a college media tech startup, with other student editors as a senior.
  • Working for The Miami Hurricane, at least a little in almost every role on the editorial side. Leading the effort to move our site from College Publisher to WordPress represents one of the highlights of my time as editor. Without that — and doing it so publicly — I likely would have not been involved with CoPress
  • Attending local, regional and national events and conferences because of my involvement with The Hurricane and the student SPJ chapter.
    Living my life as a college editor and journalism student publicly online, whether it was through blogging or engaging with others on Twitter.
  • When I went to conferences, I would liveblog, tweet and sometimes stream sessions. By doing so, I was providing value to people who couldn’t attend and their sharing of my live coverage increased my presence and reputation. My primary reason for doing this: because I would want others to do the same for events I couldn’t attend — and was inspired by others who did the same in varying degrees.
  • Freelancing before I started college and interning each summer during college. Also, seeing each experience as much more than just an opportunity to get clips, but primarily to learn and improve as a journalist. Keeping in touch with people at those internships was also valuable.
  • Taking additional journalism classes, plus several visual journalism classes
  • Talking with older students about good classes and professors.
  • Getting to better know professors beyond merely taking their classes, including getting to know professors before I even took a class with them.
  • It’s implicit to almost all these items, but in one word: networking.

How do you think technology will affect the future of journalism? What do you think are the pros and cons? Are there any cons?

GL: Technology has been a big part of my experience working in journalism, beginning in high school and in everything I’ve done since then. But that’s not unique. Technology has always been a significant part of journalism, but now it’s digital instead of analog and distributed instead of only owned by media companies. I see technology as something that journalists should not only use, but also create and shape. We should be disruptors, not disrupted by new technologies and the resulting changes in business models. That doesn’t mean every journalists needs to become a programmer or engineer, but they should all possess a fundamental understanding of the role of technology in society, how it works and how they best use it to better do their jobs. If they don’t have the skills to create technology, they should have the skills to effectively work with those who do.

Despite my love of technology, I’m no utopian and — as with everything — think there are certainly cons to technology. It’s hard to paint technology pros and cons broadly, but I would say that the biggest pro is the ability to help us do things humans can’t do — or can’t do as well — and the biggest con is the relative ease of which technology can be misused and abused. In response, I think we need to identify and address the cons, not ignore or avoid them.

How has technology affected you as a journalism student?

GL: Personally, I’ve always been interested in technology. That interest increased significantly as a teenager and even more so in the past few years. I’ve gone from a journalist interested in technology during high school to someone working at the intersection of journalism and technology at Publish2. Looking back at my high school newspaper experience, I see how I served as the de facto IT person. Yes, I fixed paper jams, operated the scanner, downloaded photos from the digital camera, conducted an InDesign workshop for the staff and things like that. But I also created the first email account for The Circuit [view my first version; their current site] — no one else ever thought to — and built its first website in Dreamweaver — design view, the thought of which makes me cringe today.

How did your preparation and experience help with your job search?

GL: Everything I did to improve as a journalist helped me so that I didn’t even need to do a job search after graduating. I applied for a Publish2 job contest online in January 2009, while still in college and before I began a formal search. My work, experience and other qualifications stood for any prospective employer to see. To get the Publish2 job, I:

  • Submitted a short text answer (republished here) and audio slideshow in response to the question “Why are you the future of journalism?”
  • Had my entry voted up to the top 10 (I held the top spot for a while and finished with a close second rating of my entry).
  • From those 10, Publish2 conducted a first round of interviews before a second and final round (both of mine were Skype voice calls).

How have you incorporated the web (social media, personal websites) to market yourself for the industry?

GL: I defer to David Cohn: “It is NOT personal branding – it’s just living your life online.” The point is you shouldn’t market yourself for the sake of marketing yourself — what you do and how you lead your life in public should be all “marketing” you need. That includes connecting with people online and in-person (the latter can’t be emphasized enough), experimenting with new tools and platforms, attending events and conferences, volunteering and adding value (such as with the live coverage) whenever you can.

What are your ultimate hopes/dreams for your career in this industry?

GL: I try to avoid specific plans and focus on more general goals. To quote my friend Michelle Minkoff, my ideal job hasn’t been created yet. Personally, I know that I want to continue working at the intersection of journalism and technology, pushing forward in what I do and how I do it.

What advice can you give to journalism students who are preparing to enter this career?

GL: Most of the advice I’d give is included included in the list of tips. Some other points:

  • A degree is not a ticket to a job.
  • When you graduate, you should be fully prepared to get a job or make your own.
  • Look for opportunities outside the traditional realm. Be receptive to new and different opportunities.
  • Find people and materials that challenge your assumptions, inspire you and better inform your perspective. Search beyond the journalism world for answers and insights.

An open mind, ability adapt, drive to continuously learn on your own and deep passion are some of the most important and fundamental traits to be successful in whatever you do. Take all those traits, go forward and do awesome work.