Your dream newsroom job may be available right now, but there’s a good chance you’ll never know.
Like virtually every other industry, many jobs in journalism aren’t officially advertised.
There are ways to learn about them. It’s not easy, though.
“Jobs in journalism are not much different from elsewhere in the private sector, in that word-of-mouth largely dictates how people move up, down and around,” said J.T. Rushing, who last month was hired by The Hill to cover the U.S. Senate.
“I got my job after flying up to meet the editor even without a job opening on the table, or an interview offer,” Rushing said. “In other words, just making the effort to get your face known so you’re not just a name in the editor’s e-mail inbox was what did it. And then keeping in touch with regular updates. So, when an opening does come along, you’re at the top of the editor’s radar.”
Rushing has also found jobs in the usual places: classifieds in journalism-related publications and Web sites. Through JournalismJobs.com, he landed his previous jobs at the Florida Times-Union, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Baton Rouge Advocate.
Many media outlets use classifieds to recruit, but many do not, said Tom Engleman, program director at the New Jersey Newspaper Foundation. Posting a classified can be expensive. And it can take a lot of time to sort through all the resumes it generates.
Instead, some recruiters say they spread the word about openings other ways. They talk to friends, post on listservs, recruit at job fairs, contact former interns or simply hire from within.
That’s why it’s crucial for job hunters to network.
“Journalism is a nepotistic business like every other business,” said Cristina Azocar, a San Francisco State journalism professor and president of the Native American Journalists Association. “It’s who you know. The more you attend conferences, network, put yourself out there the more people will know you. Always think of every person you meet, even those with less experience than you, as potential future employers or contacts.”
More tips for landing that next gig
School ties can help: “Try to locate alumni working at places you are applying to,” said Ernest Sotomayor, assistant dean of career services at Columbia University’s journalism school. “Sometimes they will give you feedback and walk in your resume, if they like your work.”
Keep in touch with journalism professors: “Journalism professors have worked all over the world, and they know people everywhere,” Sotomayor said. “A lot of people like to get recommendations from professors who can give them extra insight into a job candidate.”
Little touches can make a difference: “Don’t forget follow-up notes to every conversation you have with anyone who might help you,” said Leslie Anne Newell, assistant city editor and internship coordinator at the Arizona Daily Star.
Keep tabs on departures at other companies; they might need a replacement: Remember, one job opening can create a ripple effect of job opportunities throughout the industry.
“If a less experienced person sees a job posted for which he/she might not be qualified, but it is an organization at which they would like to work, the candidate might send along a cover letter of introduction,” said Kathy Pellegrino, recruitment editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It might say something along the lines of ‘I know I’m not qualified for the position you posted, but if you fill the position internally and are looking for candidates to fill that position, please consider me.’”
If all else fails, try being unconventional: “This is a little far-fetched, but … newsrooms often will have musicians who play local venues nights and weekends,” Pellegrino said. “If the place where you want to work has such a group, you might want to find out where they perform and hang out there. People from the newsroom often show up to support the band and might help provide info about jobs and/or other info that might lead to job information.”