One of the greatest benefits of joining SPJ while in college is you get great advice about how to land your first journalism job. In fact, a lot of people, even outside the Society, are willing to help you get your foot in the door. But I haven’t really seen any seminars or articles about how to move on to your next employer. It’s as if most people think anyone who can get his or her first job doesn’t really need any more help in the career world. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Searching for, and getting, a second job can be just as agonizing as the first time around. When I decided to make the move, I didn’t know where to start. But now that it’s all over, I’ve compiled a few tips that hopefully will help those of you considering a move into a second job.
1. You have to know when it’s time to leave your first job.
The generic advice seems to be to stay in your first job for one to three years. But it’s more accurate to say you should stay with any job until you no longer feel fulfilled. Let’s face it, not every journalism job out there is going to provide you the opportunities and experience most of us want. At my first job, it got to the point where I felt like I had learned everything I could and there weren’t any more chances to move up. I felt I was becoming a valuable employee, but my pay was no longer reflecting my worth. When you start to feel like your job just doesn’t really fit anymore, it’s time to move on.
2. But, where should you go?
Before you start shooting off resumes, tapes or portfolios, you should have a general idea of what kind of job you’re looking for. For me, being in television, I knew I wanted to be in a bigger market. I set my sights high — I wanted a top 50 market, outside my home state. Like most journalism newbies, I stayed close to home for my first job. The familiarity was comforting. But when I decided to leave, I felt I needed a challenge. I needed to go where things were unfamiliar. When you start looking, set goals first of where you want your second job to take you. If you want to move into management, you may want to stick with smaller cities. If you want to break into bigger markets, then consider taking a job that may be lower on the totem pole than what you had in your first job. If money matters to you, you’ll have fewer choices. But if money is not a big deal, at least make sure the salary you’re offered is enough to cover the cost of living in your new town.
Which gets me to my next bit of advice:
3. Do your research.
Learn about the cities and states you’re considering. Discover if it’s a place where you can live and be happy. The extra knowledge will also help you when you actually get there (you’ll have some familiarity so you don’t feel so out of place), and when you start the job (you’ll better know the places and people you’re covering). You also want to research the company where you’re applying. Its Web site is a good start, and you should study it extensively, but don’t stop there. See if you know anyone in the area who can tell you how the station or paper fits into the community. And study the competition. You want to know what you’re getting yourself into.
4. Go get your job!
Once you land an interview, prepare a few questions you may have about the job. This is the time to find out exactly what the job entails and what you can get out of it. Do not be shy asking about money, benefits and time off. You shouldn’t assume anything, and it’s in your best interest to be frank about what you want in this job. With that in mind, don’t go overboard. You’re still trying to make a good impression.
From that point, you just have to wait for an offer. They don’t come after every interview, but eventually someone will bite. Once you’re given an offer, decide if it’s the best option for you, and if it is, go for it. Keep in mind that your entire career is a learning experience, so never stop looking for exciting new opportunities.
Beth Bienvenu is a 25-year-old news producer, now working at ABC Action News in Tampa, Fla. Originally from South Louisiana, Beth served on the SPJ National Board as a student representative from 2001-2002, while attending LSU.