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The not-so job hunting expert

Remember back in middle school and high school when there was still so much you had never done or tried. Remember how your friends who had done those things suddenly became your expert guide as you met each milestone. Dating, driving, etc.

I’m having this weird deja vu the past few weeks. Only this time, it seems, I’m ahead of the curve and everyone wants my advice.

This is the time when all the summer interns are nervously starting to count the weeks remaining not the weeks they’ve been here. As few as two weeks left or as long as a month or two. The ones who are on post-grad internships (as several of my friends are) and even the ones who are looking forward to the next internship (as is the case for others I know) are suddenly wondering where they will find themselves after their summer internship ends.

I’m not an expert on finding a job at all. At all. In fact, I spent much of my final semester of college just freaking out because I just knew I’d never land one in journalism.

Miraculously, I got some nibbles, scored a few interviews and actually did get a job. Because I already went through this ritual and successfully completed it, that suddenly makes me an expert. Or at least, everyone seems to think I know more than they do.

I kind of wish I’d had that “what’s it like” network when I was looking. Though, fortunately, I had the network of professors whose offices I frequented in search of another set of eyes to proof my resume or another opinion on which cover letter to use and where to apply.

I’ve had conversations with four different people over the past week about the best way to go about applying for jobs, finding job postings, copying & sending clips, picking clips, writing cover letters and more. I always start with the disclaimer that I really lucked out in the job search.

In the interest of helping others who want to know what it’s like to find a job, here’s a quick round-up of how my search went. Remember, I was a horrible job hunter, so luck surely played some part in it.

  • I didn’t have time to search for jobs or contact editors or put together beautiful clip packages. I was busy taking a course overload necessary to graduate early, editing my daily student newspaper and trying to maintain a semblance of a social life.
  • The packets that did get sent out (aside from some from the job fair, probably only a half-dozen were mailed out) were put together well after midnight on Sundays after I’d just finished putting the Stater to bed. None of the papers I actually interviewed with received those packets via mail. I think I only actually talked to one of the editors who got the packet on the phone. I got a “we received your application” back from another. The majority of my inquiries went unanswered, though I didn’t follow up on most because by the time I would have I already had some interviews lined up and had decided I would see what happened and if I didn’t have a job by New Years I’d start again with rigor.
  • The others were from an interview at a job fair, an e-mail inquiry or them getting my name and resume/clips online. I also interviewed with a few recruiters who came to Kent, though I didn’t slate myself for all of them though my professors said I should. One of those interviews was with a corporate recruiter whom I’d already been in contact.
  • At least two editors contacted my references before contacting me. (I know because the editors told me or the professors would find me in the Stater office and ask if I heard from X paper.) In a few instances, the editors knew one or more of my references through having worked with them in the past.
  • I kept my options open. I wanted a reporting or online reporting position, but looked at online producing and copy editing jobs in appealing locations as well. My location criteria was I would move anywhere that paid me enough to live. My varied experience was, I think, what made me stand out. The other thing, I’ve been told by the editors who interviewed and hired me, was my passion and excitement for this business and its future.
  • It all happened pretty quickly. One minute I’m taking my news design exam, the next I’m Googling the area code of a phone call to find out where the heck it was coming from to place what paper it could be. One week I’m wondering if the bowling alley would let me come back after graduation, the next I’m touring the Midwest in a suit.
  • I don’t think I was quite prepared enough for the intensity of the job interviews themselves. I think that’s the one thing nobody warned me about. You interview with just about every editor at the paper, and it’s like rapid fire one right after another, from office to office, conference room to conference room. By the third or fourth person, I was always left wondering, wtf just happened? And trying to keep my excitement up as I answered what I would have sworn was word-for-word the same exact question I had just answered for the last three. Luckily, I’m a naturally excited person especially when I’m passionate about something. They all also included lunch or breakfast or both with editors and/or reporters. You get about two bites in, so don’t forget to eat breakfast before you come.
  • Each interview included test stories and written tests on grammar/style/general knowledge. Two of the test stories included mandates to write something for online. One was a bogus crash where I was given the notes/release and had to craft a story. The other was a story about holiday travel that required me to go out and find real people, contact the airport, contact AAA, etc. That story would have been easy, and in fact I had the online update within 15 minutes of getting the assignment, but ran into time trouble after the reporters who took me to lunch took me to a place that took forever to seat and serve us. I had about 15 minutes after that to find the “real people” and get it written, this involved me practically running down main street. I think the editor was actually happy to see the unexpected pressure. When I told her what happened and how I handled it, she laughed and said it would have made a good reality show. As for the general knowledge, I didn’t know who the Indiana senators were and I guessed on the name of the Indianapolis NBA team (correctly, I looked it up immediately after I left). So you never know what random questions could pop up.
  • Since starting my job, I’ve received at least half a dozen e-mails or calls from editors looking for the right candidate for their positions. At least one contacted me again after my 90-day probation to check in.

And there, my friends, in one quick list is everything I know about job hunting based on my own fledgling experience. I hope it’s helpful. If it’s not and somehow you don’t already know, Joe Grimm’s ask the recruiter column is a godsend of awesome advice, as is the journalists community on LiveJournal.

As I have told my friends, there is no right way. The right way is the one that works, for you, for the editor, for the paper that actually has a suitable opening at the right time. Try every way and hope one of them sticks. That was pretty much my method.

Good luck!

2 Responses to “The not-so job hunting expert”

  1. Howard Owens Says:

    GateHouse Media New England has lots and lots of openings.

  2. Meranda Says:

    Thanks, Howard. I passed that tip on to my job-hunting friends.