Thursday, May 22, 2008

Columbia's career services dean offers job search advice

Don’t wait for editors to invite you to interview for a job opening, advises Ernest Sotomayor, assistant dean of career services at Columbia University’s journalism school.

Instead, invite yourself.

“If you travel across the state or country and take the initiative [to contact editors] and say you’re just looking to get a half hour of guidance or want to explore possibilities, they’re usually willing to sit down and talk with you,” he says.

Indeed, The Hill reporter J.T. Rushing took that approach and landed his dream job covering the U.S. Senate.

I recently interviewed Rushing, Sotomayor and others for an advice column I wrote on finding a journalism job in last month’s issue of Quill. Below is some additional advice Sotomayor offered that didn’t make it into my column.

  • Get to know the people who hire at media outlets you’re interested in, and see if you can get your foot in the door by freelancing for them, he says. “A lot of it is getting to know recruiters, hiring editors – people in the organization that you can turn to for advice and counsel on what sort of jobs are available … what their needs are, how to freelance [for them].”
  • “Look back to school,” he also recommends. “Alumni connections are always great… Journalism professors have worked all over the world, and they know people everywhere. A lot of people like to get recommendations from professors who can give them extra insight into a job candidate.”
  • Finally, be open-minded. “It’s like being a reporter in the field writing a story. You spread your wings and look at different possibilities and keep your options open … How willing you are to get up and move from where you are is a factor. The smaller the size of the geographic territory for your job search is, the few possibilities there are … Just be open to a lot of different possibilities. The more things you’re willing to consider, the more opportunities you make available to yourself.”
-Mark Grabowski

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