Help Wanted: From graduation to gainful employment


From freelance to fact-checking intern
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.

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Forbes: Best places to begin a career
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


Feeling the deadline pressure
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
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
July 1, 2009, 12:49 pm
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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.



Still on the job hunt
June 26, 2009, 3:10 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

I didn’t get the part-time position I interviewed for earlier this week. The company decided to hire the other candidate, but the owner told me over the phone it was very close. “Like flipping a coin,” he said.

Apparently, our experience was nearly a perfect match, but the other person had a little more Web experience than I do. He told me he would keep my name on file should the other person not work out or if they decide they need to hire an additional employee.

While this presents a setback in my plan for summer employment, I am feeling all right about it. Of course I am disappointed because I thought I was more than qualified for the job, but I have a couple other temporary and permanent opportunities I’m waiting to hear back from.

Rejection is hard to take, so if you are in the same boat I am, I feel your pain. All we can do is get back out there and hope that something even better comes along.

With that said, my plan is to keep applying for jobs and fall internships I find online. I found some openings today that I am interested in and will submit resumes over the weekend.

As I keep up the job search, I will also continue reporting on smoking bans for the nonprofit, State of the USA. I have a second draft due to the editor by July 8, so that will keep me busy for awhile. For those interested in reading my article on college mental health and suicide rates, you can find it here. It’s long, but I feel proud of it.



The Job Interview
June 24, 2009, 2:43 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

On the day of my first post-college interview, Mother Nature decided to make it the hottest day in Madison with a high of 94. So, I spent the morning trying to pick an outfit that looked professional but wouldn’t cause heat exhaustion. Something about the job description told me I could be business casual instead of business professional.

I think getting dressed is one of the hardest things about preparing for an interview. I absolutely did not want to look like a slob, and I know I didn’t. But when you’re interviewing for a part-time summer job, it’s hard to convince yourself to opt for the business suit.

To prepare, I also tried to think of possible questions my interviewer would ask me, considering what I would say my greatest strength and weakness are, and how to answer the all important, “where do you see yourself in five years?” With the current state of the media world, I think that one is the most difficult for me to answer.

It turns out my interview actually wasn’t a traditional interview at all. Instead, I spent five minutes hearing about the Web site I would work on if hired and the next 20 minutes filling out a job application, listing past employers and writing answers to many of the questions I had practiced. The final page was a short copy-editing test that I think I nailed. I was only verbally asked where I was from and whether I was looking for a short- or long-term position. It was a relatively relaxed atmosphere, and I can see myself writing and editing for the real estate Web site, if not after August, definitely for the summer.

As I was driving home, I heard the voice of my former adviser and job-search class teacher saying a simple Thank You note after an interview can make or break your chances of being hired. I wrote and put one in the mail as soon as I got home.

My potential new boss told me he has one other candidate to interview on Thursday and expects to make the hiring decision by the end of the day Friday. He said the position is very flexible and could coordinate around another part-time or full-time position. So, whether or not I get this one, I will still be on the lookout for a permanent job.