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?


Freelancing for a former employer by ahoffstrom
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.

Gaining advice to stand out by ahoffstrom
April 23, 2009, 7:01 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

The beauty of looking for your first job is that everyone has advice to offer about the process. I have heard advice from my parents, my dentist, my professors, my neighbors, my friends and their parents. To put these wise words into context, I signed up for a journalism class that focuses on professional practices—what I like to call my job-search class. This class is definitely where I have heard the most practical advice about finding a first job.

My adviser said the most important thing in searching for your first job is to manage your expectations. This is something I’ve had to come to grips with as resumes go out and either I hear nothing or get rejection letters.

Other advice I’ve heard:

  • Define where you want to live and work
  • Network as much as possible with alumni, neighbors, teachers, previous employers—tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job
  • Update your resume often—it’s a living document
  • Start a blog
  • Look at newspaper ads and job placement Web sites (though the best jobs are almost never there), associations and company Web sites. Try cold calling as well
  • Make a plan to follow-up with potential employers
  • Send thank you notes after interviewing—it could be the difference between getting the job or not.

While I am taking this advice and using it to make myself stand out, I’m also taking into consideration advice I’ve heard in my classes too.

From my creative nonfiction professor I am learning how to write story pitches in order to freelance, which is not something I had really considered before this semester. With staff positions getting cut from newspapers and magazines, it does not seem like a bad path to explore. My professor says all you need is a good idea, a strong pitch that sells you as a writer, says specifically why you’re the perfect person for their publication and highlights previous publications for which you’ve written, as well as the correct name of the publication’s assignment editor, which changes a lot. She advised looking at a book called “The Writers Market” that lists information about literary publications throughout the country, who to send pitches to, what kind of writing they publish and whether or not they pay on acceptance or publication, among other things. Though this book may be outdated the moment it’s printed, I take comfort knowing there are so many publications out there publishing new talent.

I am in a digital media class that focuses on the shift from ethics in traditional print journalism and public relations to ethics of new media. In combination with my love of social networking, the course is allowing me to appreciate the Internet more as a strong journalistic medium. I think it also is making me a better reporter because I can see different ways to present information while maintaining the values of journalism. This class introduced me to Twitter, which I now update on a regular basis (follow me @takethelede). I now follow career experts with job-search tips, companies that post jobs and actual job boards. More on this in my next post.