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Good advice: Become invaluable. Network like mad.

Suzanne Yada has suggested some pretty solid advice for student journalists, but it really applies to all journalists. She has two resolutions for the coming year that we can all benefit from: become invaluable and network like mad.

The first bit of advice is the harder, and the second the most logical.

Being invaluable

I work hard. I learned that from my mother, who is the hardest working person I’ve ever met. In fact, she works too hard. My resolution this year isn’t to work harder but smarter.

Another lesson mom told me once is that nobody is irreplaceable in their job. When you take a job reporting, chances are you’re replacing someone else who left, probably to replace someone else at their new job. And when you leave, someone new will come in and pick up where you left off. The paper will still get printed, the news broadcast, the Web site updated. That’s how it works. Maybe they care more about something you cared less about, or they form bonds with sources you hardly tapped. Everyone brings their own style to a job or beat, but there’s not a job out there that only one person is fit to do.

This is where Suzanne’s advice comes in. You may be replaceable, and, especially young journalists entering the business today, you may come in to replace someone who had superior skills or talent. But you can make yourself invaluable. YOU set the bar to compare those who held the job before you and will after. YOU define how the job should be and can be done. And you do it by, as my mother taught me long ago, busting your ass.

Suzanne has some really great, specific advice on how to do that: write and produce multimedia like crazy, meet deadlines, ask tough questions and dig for better stories, always be ethical, put yourself out there, talk to your professors (or bosses) about more than your homework (assignments)… and more. Read the full list and explanation on how to make it happen.

Network like mad

I used to think networking was stupid. If I worked hard (see above), that should be good enough to break in and keep me in. Well guess what? It’s not. I learned this, fortunately, early. Almost by definition journalism IS about who you know, whether it’s sources who can tip you off to stories or other journalists who can tell you about opportunities or share experiences.

To be honest, my network is probably one of the biggest things I got out of attending journalism school. Sure my clips and experience in student media were pretty valuable in landing an internship and job, and my editing and designing chops were largely honed on class assignments. But what I’ve found has helped me more than anything since I left college has been who I know. The kids I worked at the student paper with are now spread from coast to coast. Some are working in online, some in PR, some in magazines, some in newspapers like me, and some even in my own newsroom — jobs they landed because they knew someone to tip them off and get them noticed.

Beyond my real-life network, this blog and my online activities have helped me extend my professional network beyond even the coasts of the U.S. or its borders. Add in Twitter and Wired Journalists, among others, and I feel comfortable that someone in my network could answer or point me toward an answer for just about any dilemma or question I could come up with, journalistic or otherwise. And likewise, what makes a network work is that I jump in the conversation when I can help or offer advice myself.

In both cases, I know where they are and they me. We’ve swapped tips, debated concepts and talked about ways to tackle stories. I’m a better journalist for having this collective knowledge a phone call, e-mail, IM or tweet away.

As in her first post, Suzanne provides some specific examples of how you can build your network. Her first is probably the most important: Get your name in front of people and build your brand (this includes registering a domain). But she offers other solid ideas, ranging from follow up on everything to pass out business cards. Definitely read the full list and her suggestions.

Work ahead

I wish I could say I’ve nailed every item on either of those two lists. I haven’t. That’s why they’re called resolutions. Even if I’m not a New Year’s resolution kind of person, I concede that to grow you need objectives. If you don’t have some to work toward this year, borrow some of Suzanne’s.

As I wrote about last week, this year I’m going to focus on being a better writer and better storyteller, which will include dabbling in a different medium or two. And I’m going to work on my consistency and the usefulness of this blog as it and my career continue to evolve.

3 Responses to “Good advice: Become invaluable. Network like mad.”

  1. Suzanne Says:

    Oh dear Lord, even *I* haven’t begun to nail each item of the list! :D

    Thanks so much for the wonderful perspectives. I’ve been following your stuff for a long time and am honored my posts inspired a post of yours.

  2. :: suzanne yada :: » Blog Archive » Resolutions for journalism students, part II: Network like mad Says:

    […] EDIT 1: Jay Rosen just sent me this link on personal branding, which I added to goal #1. EDIT 2: Stumbled upon Will Sullivan’s (@journerdism) fantastic series on job hunting and career advice. They are must-reads. 32 real world advice to journalism grads. How to network like a ninja. 94 journo job-seeking resources. Freelance and entrepreneur tips. Also, read his advice to college students here. EDIT 3: Meranda Watling (@meranduh) wrote a lovely post in response to mine, putting all of these tips into a professional perspective. […]

  3. Grace Says:

    So true.

    I also liked this advice:

    +++Alan Kellogg commented here with an important addendum: “Have the courage to acknowledge and correct your mistakes. You will make mistakes. When you err tell people you erred, where you erred, and fix your error. Your audience will think better of you.”+++

    This applies not only to your audience but ESPECIALLY to your supervisors.


    I concur. (see http://gracedobush.wordpress.com )

    +++Never underestimate the power of lunch.+++

    You’d be surprised how many journalists/editors are willing to meet with young upstarts for informational interviews.