Help Wanted: From graduation to gainful employment


From freelance to fact-checking intern by ahoffstrom
Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

Last Friday, I received some great news: one of my former editors at MSP Communications had gained approval to hire a paid full-time, fact-checking intern and if interested, the position could be mine.

I was elated! Finally, an opening in journalism had come my way after months of hiring rejections, unemployment statistics and self-evaluations. There was no way I could turn it down.

The position, which starts Aug. 17, will take me back to downtown Minneapolis. I don’t think I could be happier about it, especially after looking back at a post from early July and finding I wrote about wanting to work at MSP again:

“Now that I’m out of school and unemployed, I greatly hope that one day I will return to MSP or a company similar to it. I’ve offered to do freelance assignments for MSP in the hope that volunteering will leave a good impression of my work ethic and perhaps help me land a more permanent position there should one become available.”

It took work to get back on the company’s radar, namely 15+ freelance fact-checking assignments on a very quick deadline. But my dedication paid off and in less than a week, I’ll be back at a communications company I love. I will not be writing much at the beginning, but there may be room for growth after some time.

Though I am a little bit nervous to start the new job, I feel much more at ease knowing that I’ve worked there before in a similar role. I know the people, I know the atmosphere and I know the publications. I also know that I can be successful.

Before I started my internship at MSP last summer, I had no idea what it meant to be a fact-checker. But anytime I found an inaccurate fact prior to publication, I learned just how important the process is to the reputation of the company.

Because this is a somewhat unconventional internship (it is not on schedule with MSP’s other editorial interns), I’m not sure how long it will be. I was not told it had an end date. My hope is that getting my foot in the door for the second time will give me an edge up on a more permanent position in the future.

For now, this internship is really the best thing I can ask for—working with people I enjoy at a company I respect.

Unfortunately, I will not earn enough money from the internship to fully support myself, so I will have to live at home with my parents and take the bus downtown. I have a more positive outlook on moving home, however, because I’ll be busy during the day and I can save most of the money I make.

If you are still looking for a job, I feel your pain. What I’ve learned from seeking a post-grad job is to never underestimate the value of your own work ethic. You are the only person that can sell yourself. Set goals, volunteer to take additional assignments if you have an internship, freelance if you can for former employers and network with everyone you know.

And who knows, I may be on the job hunt again soon. But, I’m staying optimistic.



Forbes: Best places to begin a career by ahoffstrom
August 4, 2009, 8:50 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

This weekend, my parents are coming to Madison, Wis., to help me move out of my college apartment. Each time I put a book, magazine or article of clothing in a box, I can’t help wondering if my parents’ house in a Twin Cities suburb is really the next place I’ll see it again.

Am I really moving back home? Is my newfound independence really coming to an end?

According to Forbes, it may be better for me to stay in Madison—the city ranked second among cities with fewer than one million people in a list of best cities for recent grads and first-time job seekers.

The magazine, which released the list in mid-July, examined cost-of-living data, the quality of jobs in each city and alumni data from Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Northwestern, Duke and Rice universities to compile its ranking.

While I grew to love Madison as a student, I’m not convinced it’s one of the best cities to start a career. Well, not a career in journalism at least. The University of Wisconsin creates bioscience and medical opportunities, which I suppose creates public relations positions, but I think it lacks in journalism jobs.

To my delight, Minneapolis, a.k.a. the largest city near my parents’ home, ranked ninth among metropolitan areas for the best place to start a career. There are companies that I want to work for in the city, so I’m hopeful a move to Plymouth, Minn., will soon translate to a move downtown.

One of my friends is moving to New York (No. 7 among metro areas) at the beginning of September, and several of my friends recently moved to Chicago (No. 12 among metro areas). The last I checked, these friends were planning to move without a job secured. They were just hoping to find something once they relocate.

Hearing their plans makes me wonder about my own. Should I take an equal risk and move somewhere new? Is it best to save money in a place that’s comfortable, or take a chance on a life-changing experience?

Looking to move? Forbes suggests these places:

Metropolitan areas (population greater than one million)

  1. San Jose, Calif.
  2. Cambridge, Mass.
  3. Houston, Texas
  4. San Francisco, Calif.
  5. Washington, D.C.
  6. Boston, Mass.
  7. New York
  8. Philadelphia, Pa.
  9. Minneapolis, Minn.
  10. Dallas, Texas
  11. Seattle, Wash.
  12. Chicago, Ill.
  13. Nashville, Tenn.
  14. Orange County, Calif.
  15. St. Louis, Mo.
  16. Charlotte, N.C.
  17. Baltimore, Md.
  18. Denver, Colo.
  19. San Diego, Calif.
  20. Milwaukee, Wis.

Cities with fewer than one million:

  1. Bridgeport, Conn.
  2. Madison, Wis.
  3. Greensboro, N.C.
  4. Winston-Salem, N.C.
  5. Raleigh, N.C.

Cities with fewer than 500,000:

  1. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  2. Boulder, Colo.
  3. Santa Barbara, Calif.
  4. Burlington, N.C.
  5. Iowa City, Iowa


To write or not to write by Adam Clair
August 3, 2009, 8:08 pm
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Adam Clair

Adam Clair

Still without the job I’m looking for (albeit, as I often remind myself, gainfully employed), I am persistently and increasingly fraught with post-graduate anxieties, myriad in number. What other skills do I have? Should I go to grad school? Will anyone offer me advice on a level beyond “You have to network”? Why didn’t I major in finance?

One of the more salient questions that keeps popping up is “Should I keep writing, plying my craft for free?”

It’s a blatantly binary decision — either I do or I don’t — but both sides seem to make sense.

On one hand, it seems dumb to offer for free what I’m hoping someone will want to pay me for at some point. This is, after all, the same line of thinking that got the newspaper business in trouble in the first place. If they can have the milk for free, who would ever want to buy my cow?

Moreover, because I’m working a full-time job with a commute that’s a part-time job unto itself, I don’t have nearly the time to dedicate to such writing as I’d like. Thus, the product is diluted, and perhaps not an accurate reflection of my skill(s/z).

That said, writing is very much a skill, which means it needs to be practiced. The more I write, the better my writing becomes. The inverse is also true. So as this job search stretches on, if I’m not writing, I’m becoming progressively less marketable. On top of that, if I’m sending out writing samples to prospective employers, it won’t reflect well on me to be sending out year-old clips.

So what do I do? Continue to churn out the odd record review and attempt to keep current my own blog, or abstain from the craft until someone is willing to pay me?



Feeling the deadline pressure by ahoffstrom
July 30, 2009, 7:47 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

The past two and a half weeks have been full of deadlines, and they’ve distracted from my original goal of finding my first post-grad, full-time job.

After I completed my first freelance fact-checking assignment in early July, both of my former intern supervisors at MSP Communications reached out to me about working on more.

It seems that once I turn a fact-checking assignment in, another one comes to my e-mail inbox. I’m not complaining, as I love working for Delta Sky magazine and parent MSP Communications, but it keeps me away from job boards, Twitter feeds and Facebook—though the latter is probably for the best.

Since my last blog post, I’ve verified facts in 11 articles ranging from small sidebars to features about major media moguls. I have two assignments that I’ll turn in by Friday and more coming my way over the weekend.

The pace that I’ve been working this month is faster than I’ve worked in awhile. Finishing a 600-fact article in a little more than two days is no easy feat, especially while you have other articles to work on.

The somewhat frustrating thing about having deadlines again is the reminder that no one in the media world is on the same schedule. Just because I have to have a celebrity interview back to the editor by the end of this week doesn’t mean the person’s publicist can or will have time to go over each fact with me.

However tedious my current service, I am happy that MSP is able to afford the freelancers whose work I check, the editors who assign it out, and me: the former intern turned freelance fact-checker.

Of course, I volunteer in the hopes that it will lead to something bigger with the company, that my talent will be remembered and will help me land a job so I don’t miss the biggest deadline of all—having a job by the end of the summer to avoid moving back to my suburban Minnesota home.

My apartment lease in Madison ends Aug. 14, which is approaching much faster than I’d like. I expect that the next couple of weeks will be a period of confusion, sadness and self-discovery. I’m already preparing for a week full of tears.



OneCubicle.com tries to bridge Facebook, LinkedIn by ahoffstrom
July 13, 2009, 8:27 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

In the interest of testing as many job-related social networking sites as possible, I recently joined one of the newest sites, OneCubicle.com, which launched in May.

During an interview with Fox News, OneCubicle CEO Gregg Champion said the site is for “social business networking” for 20-somethings and is meant to be a bridge between Facebook and LinkedIn. He said it was both “employee friendly and employer friendly.”

Although I think the site may be useful, it doesn’t seem like many people are on it or have even heard of it. I tried to ask my Twitter followers and Facebook friends to share their thoughts of OneCubicle.com, but no one got back to me.

I started following @OneCubicle on Twitter to see how many people other than people I know have heard about it. At the time of this post, they had 217 followers on Twitter—not many considering Facebook has more than 90,000, and LinkedIn has about 13,000. My only connection so far is with the company’s CEO, so if you happen to join OneCubicle after reading this post, find me and let’s connect!

The site lets you build a professional profile that lists employment and education history, as well as interests. You can also write messages on your “whiteboard,” put widgets on a public and private “corkboard,” and update your status. Once your profile is made, you can make connections to store in your “rolodex” and search for jobs. You can search for jobs without an account but having one lets you link to company postings.

While building my profile, I found “Marketing, PR & Advertising” and “Media, Sports & Entertainment” but no industry that explicitly includes print journalists. So, I had to create my own “Media, Writing & Editing” industry to tag to my profile. I am concerned a bit that I am now a hidden member since I’m not in the site’s preprogrammed industries, but I don’t think I fit exactly into the others. Maybe it would be better if people could join more than one industry.

The site itself is visually appealing with file folder tabs and a layout that reminds me of something I hung outside the door of my dorm room freshman year. The site also features a “water cooler” with videos like “Extreme Makeover Cubicle Edition” and “Cubicle Cribs.” Something that I think really separates this site from other job-related sites is that it has a 48-hour resume refining service for $9.95 that lets you send two drafts to be revised by professionals. There is also a list of interview dos and don’ts, a list of 10 rules to getting a job and keeping a job, and coming soon, advice from celebrity mentors.

I haven’t applied to any of the jobs listed on the site yet, but I think I will continue to check it out over the next few days. From a quick glance, it seems there are both internships and full-time jobs at companies like Twitter, Apple, Universal Music Group and with the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, almost all of the jobs posted currently are in California, so unless you want to relocate, you might want to look elsewhere. My guess is that as this site grows, more and more companies will place job openings.

I’m not sure how often I will use the site, but I do think it has a lot more job resources than Facebook and feels younger than LinkedIn. It’s a definite plus to have more job resources because I joined Facebook four years ago purely for social networking, not professional networking. I’m not sure being a young professional site is necessarily a positive. I like being able to connect with older mentors, neighbors and co-workers on LinkedIn because those are the people who will either hire me directly or give me the references I need to successfully network offline. Networking offline, which is something I think I need to work on, is a vital component to job hunting. It’s nice to have another online option, but these sites alone just aren’t enough.

To find out more about OneCubicle, check out the site, find the company on Facebook or follow the blog.



Freelancing for a former employer by ahoffstrom
July 1, 2009, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , ,
Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

I spent most of the day Monday working on a freelance fact-checking assignment for one of my former editors at MSP Communications. She needed immediate assistance on a piece for Delta Sky Magazine, and knowing that I could complete it in one day, I was more than happy to volunteer. I even earned some money for it.

MSP Communications acquired publishing rights for Delta Sky at the end of 2008, after publishing NWA WorldTraveler for Northwest Airlines for years. I was an editorial intern at MSP Communications last summer, fact-checking and writing sidebar pieces for the in-flight magazine and many other custom publications.

If you are seeking a paid journalism internship that is in a professional yet welcoming environment and lets you work on multiple projects, while learning from top-notch editors, I highly recommend applying for either a fall, spring or summer internship at MSP. I worked in the custom division, but there are also interns assigned to just Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, one of the flagship publications of the company. It was one of my favorite summers, and I loved working in downtown Minneapolis.

Now that I’m out of school and unemployed, I greatly hope that one day I will return to MSP or a company similar to it. I’ve offered to do freelance assignments for MSP in the hope that volunteering will leave a good impression of my work ethic and perhaps help me land a more permanent position there should one become available.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep in contact with my former intern supervisors, other editors and a fellow intern who extended her position to full time—No. 1 to see how they are doing and No. 2 to hear of any possible openings. Hopefully, I’ll get more freelance work too.



Part-time to pass the time by Adam Clair
June 29, 2009, 3:55 pm
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Adam Clair

Adam Clair

I’ve been out of school and living at home for more than a month now, and the job market remains pretty sullen. I’m still looking, but I can’t rationalize sitting around all day at home waiting for a job offer.

Thus, I’ve taken a job in the marketing department of my dad’s architecture firm. The position (basically an intern) is not especially high-paid, and I’m not sure it’s a great use of my expertise or a place I’ll be able to gain many new skills, but I’m only committed for a few months. And since I’m living at home (and not paying rent or for most of my food), most of the money is saved. I had considered working in a bookstore or art supply store or something around my neighborhood, and while this is more of a commitment (40+ hours a week, plus, because I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia and the office is in Center City, more than a two-hour round-trip commute each day), it’s probably a better resume-builder. It’s easier to find a job when you have a job, I’m told (daily).

In any case, when the job is up in a few months, I have several options. Provided there’s still work available, I can stay onboard at the firm, but in order to get raise and benefits, I’ll likely have to commit to more than a few more months at a time. If I decide against that (and given how far removed this job is from what I want to do longterm, it’s certainly a possibility), I can make a clean break and, if possible, work wherever else immediately. Or, I can just take another indefinite hiatus from the workforce while I make job-hunting my full-time job again. The last option I’m considering at this point is, with all the money I’ll have saved, moving cold to Athens, Ga., and working more intently on the book I’m writing about a group of musicians down there. Regardless, I have a few months to figure it all out. I do have to keep reminding myself that this is just temporary, though, that I’m only 22 and that I haven’t yet signed away my life.