Help Wanted: From graduation to gainful employment

To write or not to write
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?


Part-time to pass the time
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.

Keeping busy
June 4, 2009, 10:02 pm
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Adam Clair

Adam Clair

Job hunting is a full-time job, but it’s important not to let it consume you entirely. More specifically, as someone looking to get a job with at least a partial writing component, I need to keep my creative muscles fit.

One of the ways I’m doing this is by contributing to, a music Web site a friend of a friend started up last year. I’ve already contributed a couple CD reviews (here and here) and plan to keep writing for them, even though they can’t afford to pay me just yet. It’s not a charitable exercise, though; the benefits are fivefold:

-As mentioned, it keeps me fresh. I would hate to start up somewhere after not having written anything for a few months. I need to keep myself stimulated and avoid a creative rut, and while blogging and freelancing and stuff provides a bit of an outlet, there’s a lot to be said about keeping myself on deadlines.

-By keeping myself entrenched in the music journalism world, I can keep the flow of free CDs and concert tickets–a privilege to which I’ve become wont these past few years–constant. Though onethirtybpm can’t pay me just yet, I can still reap the rewards from publicists and record labels.

-In addition to keeping myself fresh, writing for an independent site keeps my portfolio fresh, too. The longer my job search lasts, the farther removed I am from the portfolio I established as a college student, and some things can get stale. Of course the best clips can stand the test of time, but it wouldn’t be very promising to a potential employer to not see any writing samples published in the last six months.

-Though it’s a long shot, there’s always the chance that someone stumbles across something I write and decides right then and there that he needs to hire me. Expanding my exposure certainly can’t hurt.

-Last, while the site can’t pay me, they can compensate me in at least one way: in exchange for my writing, the guy who runs the site has pledged to help teach me some web design techniques and give me some space to play around with until I’m ready to launch my own site. In trying to establish a personal brand (which, I’m told, is invaluable in finding a job these days), I’ve decided to make a site to link to my resume, writing samples, multimedia clips, blog, etc. as well as show I have a little bit of web savvy, and Evan (who runs onethirtybpm) is going to help me make that happen.

Who’s hiring?
May 15, 2009, 6:49 pm
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Adam Clair

Adam Clair

With the economy the way it is, there are a lot of places that are cutting their staffs or, at best, have instituted hiring freezes for a little while. Believe it or not, though, there are still some places — even some media outlets — that are adding employees. You just have to find them.

The easiest way to do this is with the bevy of job sites at your disposal on the Internet.

Of course, there are the big ones like Monster and Career Builder, but because they’re so sprawling, it can often be hard to narrow things down to what you’re actually looking for.

Then there’s Craig’s List, which has a lot of decent stuff, too. Unfortunately, the site is a little clunkier, the jobs tend to be a little less appealing, and as a whole there’s a greater chance for getting scammed.

For people like myself who are looking to make a mark in the media field, there are a few job sites targeted at us specifically. usually has some solid listings, and there are good new postings every day at Media Bistro, even if it includes more than just journalism stuff (included the dreaded public relations).The problem with these sites, naturally, is that there isn’t always a whole lot to choose from, and you’re competing against thousands of other desperate journalists.

As such, I’ve taken to exploring job sites for other industries. Namely, Idealist is a great resource for not-for-profit work, and has a lot to offer by way of government employment.

Last, never underestimate the power of cold calling/e-mailing someone at an unlisted place. If there’s a newspaper/magazine/Web site/whatever you really want to write for, try to find its human resources rep (or anyone, really) and see if they’re looking to expand in any area, and if they’re not, don’t be afraid to propose they do (tactfully, of course). You’ll hear a lot more negative responses before you get a positive one, but it never hurts to ask.

New media and the changing university
May 7, 2009, 2:24 pm
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Adam Clair

Adam Clair

If I’ve learned one thing from these past four years of journalism school, it’s that the industry is undergoing a drastic paradigm shift. For most people, this is a good thing. It means news with greater speed and depth. For most in the industry, though, it sucks.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve tried to cope with this shift by broadening my own journalistic horizons. One of the ways I’ve done this is by learning some multimedia skills, namely videography, photography and Web stuff, specifically through a course this past semester on convergence journalism.

There are a lot of reasons it’s unfortunate to be graduating in 2009 as a journalism major (I really come off as a pessimist in this blog, don’t I?), but one of the big ones is that we’re just missing a paradigm shift in journalism schools that reflects the changing industry. The convergence course I took is fairly new, and it will be expanding next semester. Journalism schools across the country are adding multimedia skills to their curricula, even for print majors.

For many of us, it’s too little, too late. But for those who still have some time before they graduate (but not enough time to switch majors), I implore you: take some multimedia classes. Branch out. If you’re school doesn’t have any programs that will help you, find a Web site or something. Good writing will always be important, but all things being equal, companies want the good writer who can also hold his or her own in a bunch of different media.

Building a portfolio
April 27, 2009, 4:47 pm
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Adam Clair

Adam Clair

Gone are the days, it seems, when someone could possibly hope to be hired with only writing experience. A journalist is no longer someone with just a pen and a pad (and one of those cool little hats with the press credential sticking out).

No, today’s journalist needs more. He or she needs all sorts of video and photo equipment, and, more importantly, the expertise to use it all.

So that’s what I’ve spent the last year, and especially the last few months, doing. Any opportunity to diversify my skills is an opportunity I take.

For example, I got an e-mail this past week from WPSU, State College’s NPR affiliate, about turning my column from this past week into a commentary for the radio. They can’t pay me, but it would make a nice clip for my portfolio, showing off abilities I haven’t shown otherwise. So I’m going to do it.

What that entails is re-writing the column into something more radio-friendly (rearranging the structure, simplifying the sentences, shortening the piece overall, etc), and then going into the studio to read it at some point. These are skills fairly similar to those I already have and have demonstrated, but they’re different enough that they’re worth trying.

At worst, I waste some of my time and come away without anything to show for it. But at best, I have another clip to further diversify my portfolio and make my odds better — even just a little tiny bit — for finding a job.

Mired in journalistic malaise
April 23, 2009, 4:22 pm
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Adam Clair

Adam Clair

I didn’t get into journalism to make money. Nobody does.

I got into it because I like telling stories and because I have so few of my own to tell. And, for the last few years, that’s what I’ve done as often as I could. I’ve held numerous senior positions with the Daily Collegian. I interned at Philadelphia Weekly. I freelanced for about a dozen different online and print music magazines that no one has ever heard of.

Let me digress before this turns into a cover letter.

Anyway, while I’m not shocked I don’t yet have a $100,000 salary lined up for when I graduate in May (and, frankly, don’t ever expect to make that much as a journalist), it sucks that I don’t have any job at all.

Not that I haven’t been looking. I’ve sent my resume to a thousand different places, only to find that none are hiring. I’ve tried talking to the people I know already entrenched in the journalism industry, but most are too busy updating their own resumes for fear of layoffs to help me out.

It’s discouraging.

So I’m trying to diversify a bit. Four years ago, I was almost certain I’d be working for a newspaper. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m not even sure newspapers will still exist four years from now.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Everything is fair game: magazines, web sites, radio stations, publishing houses. Anyone who will pay me to write. Except, of course, public relations firms. I’m not that desperate yet.

But I’m getting pretty close.