Solid journalism advice for new grads

Tips for getting the most out of your journalism job search, from multimedia journalist Jimmy Jenkins of KJZZ in Phoenix

By Lori Henson, journalism assistant professor, Indiana State University

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists at Indiana State University got some real-world career advice in April from NPR contributor, multimedia journalist, Terre Haute native and ISU alumnus Jimmy Jenkins.

Jenkins shared tips from his own professional experience, as well as from his current and former colleagues at KJZZ.

KJZZ’s Jimmy Jenkins offered career advice to Society of Professional Journalists members at his alma mater, Indiana State University. (Staff photo from kjzz.org)

Here are some of the tips Jenkins offered the journalists during his visit:

  1. Given the choice of news organizations, choose a place that will invest in you and train you. Don’t just go for the first offer.
  2. Use your investigative skills. Learn about your editor, your colleagues, your news organization. Learn about the area you’ll be covering. Have story ideas to discuss in the interview. Empower yourself.
  3. Sweat every detail. Your portfolio and materials need to be flawless. If you notice an error, so will everyone else.
  4. Know more than you think you need to know. Spend time watching people doing other jobs at a news organization; it gives you valuable insight into your own work, and can come in handy, even if you never do that job.
  5. Master the technology now — in college — because learning on the job is much tougher. The pressure to perform and be creative will leave little time for learning fundamental skills in software and other basic tasks.
  6. Be well-rounded in your skill set to make up for your limited experience. News organizations will value the ability to plug you into multiple roles to give you experience, even if your portfolio is limited.
  7. Define yourself by your portfolio. Giving an editor three solid stories — especially in a variety of platforms (text, video, images, etc.)— on a topic you love will demonstrate a level of expertise, even if the job you’re applying for is general assignment or another beat.
  8. Keep your resume to a single, simple page. Wow them with your work.
  9. A master’s degree won’t make you a “Super Journalist.” Journalism graduate programs primarily train people whose backgrounds are not in journalism. Producing great stories, even at a smaller news organization, and networking with talented people is often a better use of your time than getting an advanced degree.
  10. Social media matters. Scrub your online presence of anything embarrassing and build up a following in areas you want to report on. Blog about things that will show your talent and expertise. You’re applying at a news organization, so prepare to be investigated. Give an employer something worth finding.

You can find more information on Jenkins and explore his work at KJZZ’s website. To see some of the work ISU’s journalists are producing, check out our Facebook page.

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