Help Wanted: From graduation to gainful employment

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?


Class of ’09 leading the industry’s transformation by ahoffstrom
Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

The change in media is definitely affecting my job search. For one, I didn’t expect to use LinkedIn, Visual CV, Twitter, a blog, Facebook and a number of other digital tools to market myself to potential employers. These outlets became available during my time in college, so that in itself is a major shift.

Secondly, the types of jobs I’m looking at and applying for are different than what I initially anticipated four years ago. When I started college as a wannabe journalist, I envisioned myself writing and reporting at a major daily newspaper. I wanted to work for a newspaper like the Star Tribune, a paper my family has subscribed to since I was born. Well, the Star Tribune is one of a handful of papers that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year. The Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2008, the Rocky Mountain News ceased publication in February and the Sun-Times Media Group filed for bankruptcy in March, a day later the Detroit Free Press cut its home-delivered print edition to three days a week and expanded coverage to the Web. To say the least, I’ve had to change my expectations a bit.

For me, the first true sign of media changing came in February 2008 when The Capital Times, one of two papers in Madison, announced plans to reduce its print edition in favor of increased online coverage. It was the first time I had heard of a paper shifting from primarily print to primarily Web. Last week, I was quoted by the Cap Times in an article about the high number of students enrolling in UW-Madison’s j-school despite the changing news media. Students continue to join the major because they see an opportunity, not a crisis.

I said, “In a way, this is a very exciting time because we can be the ones who can reinvent this industry.” I absolutely think our generation—especially the Class of 2009—will redirect journalism toward a viable, technologically-engaging platform.

Whether or not the best platform is a free print edition mixed with Twitter and digital layouts, my j-school friends and I are anxious to get in the field and make a difference. We’re just as passionate and excited about reporting as we would be if it were just print – maybe even more so. I think the shift in media makes us better reporters because we can see reporting packages. I can visualize how a story will read, how it can be supplemented with photos and video, how I can engage an audience through Twitter, Delicious and other online outlets. Writing is so vitally important, but the other elements add character to a story. I just hope that news organizations will hire some new grads who are eager to help.