Image via BCOJ.
Gone are the days when being an amazing storyteller was enough to land you the job of your dreams. Now more than ever, freelance journalists need to demonstrate how they can help navigate the transformations of a fast-moving newsroom. Here is a list of skills that will help set you apart from other freelance journalists, and to make yourself more marketable as a young journalist in this challenging society.
1.) Have a kick ass resume and cover letter.
Let’s be real here. Your cover letter and resume are the first things an employer would look at. First impressions count, and the first impression that a potential employer will have of you, is highly dependent on how you present your resume. This is going to be your only shot at capturing a potential employer’s attention, or for your resume to be tossed into trash, so it is imperative that it makes an impression. In this increasingly competitive job market you need to have a professional resume that will stand out amongst the countless other resumes that potential employers will be looking at. You need to remember that you only have a few seconds that the potential employer is going to be taking to glance at your resume, so it’s very important to make your resume count.
2.) Build your portfolio.
It is also crucial to have a portfolio with some of your best works. With many students taking the same courses and applying for the same jobs, it is important to differentiate yourself from the rest. What are your strengths? Put in the works that you are most proud of; pieces that shows off your skills and talents. Keep in mind that you should be featuring newer work as your skills and experience progress over time. Also, remember that it is the quality that counts, and not the quantity. Finally, have confidence in your work. Present them in the best way that you can and emphasise its most valuable aspects. Give the people who are looking at your portfolio something worth looking at.
3.) Develop new skills. The more the better!
Often, freelance journalists are required to be well rounded. Curious individual, check. Photography, check. Filming, check. Editing, check. Look for opportunities to develop better journalism skills, besides the usual writing and interviewing. If you’re an editor, try your hand at digital production. If you’re a photographer, try picking up a new skill like video editing. You get my drift. Developing new skills would also make you more versatile and a greater asset to a newsroom. However, be wary of becoming a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. Whatever you pursue, do that best.
4.) Get as much practical experience as you can.
Apply for internships that will give you practical experience to put on your resume. Cast a wider net by applying for internships at small and large organizations. As a budding journalist, take whatever you can lay your hands on, as experience equates to more exposure. Don’t worry if you missed an application deadline or didn’t get an internship. Look for freelance jobs online. Many news organisations are often in need of contributors, where all you have to do is submit your written articles to them. This is also helpful because this would also help build your portfolio, and garner recognition. If possible, apply for a position on the University newspaper. This is one of the best ways to get practical experience. Being on the student newspaper teaches you how to find and pitch ideas, work with others on your team, meet deadlines and more, preparing you for the real world of journalism.
5.) Be active on social networking sites.
News organizations are looking for young journalists who can share their knowledge of social media with other. It’s also smart to familiarize yourself with sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and maybe even Snapchat, as such tools are frequently used in aiding to tell a story. Stay active on the sites and keep the content clean. Remember, employers will be looking at your social media profiles to see what you’ve posted. Think twice before complaining about your boss, or about being crass; you never know who might be looking.
6.) Get the most out of your interview.
When you do land an interview, remember to relax! Treat it as a back-and-forth conversation instead of an interrogation. After the interview, be sure to think of some questions to ask the people interviewing you. Doing so will indicate that you’re curious and inquisitive – both traits that all journalists should embody. As you talk with the people you might potentially work with, try to get a sense of what you could learn from them if you did end up working for them. Interviews aren’t just meant for editors to get to know you, but also a chance for you to get to know them. If you’re interested in working for a particular news organization, do as much research as you can before going for an interview. Familiarize yourself with their website, social media presence and overall coverage. Researching the news organization will make you appear knowledgeable during interviews and, more importantly, it’ll give you a better sense of whether it’s a place you want to work at.