The Society of Professional Journalists is hosting its annual Excellence in Journalism conference via Zoom webinar due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the workshop “Don’t Bury The Lede: Resume Clinics and Job Search Hacks,” Panelists Aaron Kremer, editor and founder, BusinessDen and Richmond BizSense; Quartz Editorial Director for Growth Phoebe Gavin; Sarah Rabil of the Wall Street Journal; and Heather Taylor from the Dow Jones News Fund shared resume critiques, interviewing tips, and job search strategies to help aspiring journalists prepare for their careers.
Question: Any networking tips for those of us with social anxiety and other issues that can make approaching strangers/acquaintances especially daunting?
Phoebe Gavin: I’m an introvert too, so I feel your pain. Preparation is your friend! Take some time to identify five questions that are helpful in networking that you also feel comfortable answering yourself. Spend some time thinking about your answer and even practice it! Once you’ve done that prework, you have to practice. The first few times, it WILL be hard. But you’ll get better with time just like with any other skill.
Question: Who should you try to contact when trying to reach someone at an organization? As in, should you look for a hiring manager or someone more at your level?
Phoebe Gavin: Your best bet is to try to find the hiring manager. It’s ok if you reach out to the wrong person. If your message is clear, polished, concise and relevant, that person will likely track down the hiring manager and forward your application. If you’re just looking to learn about an organization, it can be great to reach out to someone at your level. If you think about it, a manager has a more crowded inbox than an individual contributor. Because they don’t have as many people demanding their time, they’re more likely to lend you some.
Question: What techniques should students use to prepare for a successful interview?
Phoebe Gavin: Do your research ahead of time. Do your best to understand their editorial vision, mission and voice. Try to understand your interviewer as well. Do you have something in common with them? Use it to build a human connection with the interviewer. If you’re interviewing remotely, you can keep your notes right next to you as a cheat sheet.
Question: Should I write my resume for a software filter or for human eyes?
Phoebe Gavin: Both! If you’re applying to a large organization, their applicant tracking system might be looking for certain keywords. Incorporating those keywords into your resume and cover letter can help you stand out to the applicant tracking system. But the most important destination for your resume is the hiring manager. Incorporating those keywords will also signal to the hiring manager that you’re a good fit and should be called. Make sure to only incorporate keywords that match your experience and to do so in a natural way. It shouldn’t look like it was plagiarized or written by a robot.
Question: Do you need to go to journalism school to strive in journalism?
Aaron Kremer: No, it is 50/50. Half reporters did and half of the reporters didn’t attend journalism school that I have worked with. There is no discernible difference in the quality of the reporting. Also, it isn’t a profession like medicine, that has a prerequisite degree that you need to be a practitioner.