Archive for the ‘Career advice’ Category

I’ve rounded up some of my links to help with job-hunting and dealing with being fired.

Most of these links won’t be a huge help to my Thunderdome colleagues because they already have excellent networks and strong digital profiles. But I’m going to reread my own advice because something I know that’s not at the front of my mind might be helpful to me as I move on from Digital First Media. So I share it in case it might help my colleagues or others who’ve been fired (sadly, we have plenty of company).

Tips on landing your next job in digital journalism

Job-hunting advice for journalists selling skills in the digital market

Use digital tools to showcase your career and your work

Confessions (strategies) of a branded journalist (or a journalist with a reputation, if you prefer)

Your digital profile tells people a lot

These posts have more general advice than job-hunting advice, but they still might be helpful:

Enduring lessons from being fired 20 years ago

Bitterness is like wreaking revenge on yourself

In addition, I pass on some interviewing advice from a friend who asked not to be identified, to protect the confidentiality of job interviews. The friend stressed the importance of advance research on the company you are interviewing with:

They all had some basic knowledge, but didn’t know where we were located — one didn’t know what kind of company we were. Highly qualified people, but I remember journalism professors telling me (way back in the day) to go to the library and look up their papers — flip through them. Once everyone got websites, it was easy to know what was going on and to learn about the community.

About my blog name: Yes, I have a ridiculous blog name. It’s temporary, and it’s for a good cause.


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In one of the emails wishing me success in my job search came some questions from a young reporter. I enjoy few thing more here than answering journalists’ questions, and I much prefer that to writing about myself.

So here’s the question:

How do you think journalists can network with other reporters effectively in the digital age?

For instance, I’m interested in working at a number of different outlets in the future, from alt-weeklies to dailies to online media. I’d love to connect with reporters and editors at those outlets, but it’s harder to ask that reporter to chat with you over coffee when you’re miles and miles away.

Do you have any advice for how to cultivate that digital relationship with other journalists?

Yes, I have advice for cultivating digital relationships with journalists: (more…)

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For much of my first five or six years on Twitter, I tried to convince other journalists of its value. I’d assure them that you didn’t have to tweet about what you had for breakfast and that it really helps you find sources, report stories, etc. I’ve pretty much stopped doing that.

If you’re a journalist not using Twitter in 2014, you’ve chosen to be less skilled, less relevant, less visible and less connected. That’s your choice and I no longer care much about changing your mind. I can think of a few times in the last month that I’ve encountered journalists who were defiantly resisting use of Twitter and I just smiled, if I acknowledged their defiance at all.

But here’s one last try: You might get fired at any time. Every journalist knows that, especially these days. When you get fired, Twitter is an incredible source of encouragement and even job leads.

I’ve been fired twice in my career: in 1992 when I was editor of the Minot Daily News and Wednesday when Digital First Media announced that it was shutting Thunderdome and told me my job would end on July 1.

I had support from friends, family and colleagues in 1992, but it was one of the worst days of my career.  Wednesday was another difficult day. But it was still one of the best days of my career. I will always remember it fondly for the warm embrace of friends, especially on Twitter. (more…)

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I’m a keynote speaker at the Journalism, Leadership and Management Conference for student media leaders this weekend at the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University.

I was asked to talk to the students about leadership and the future. My primary point is that young journalists are already providing important leadership in our profession and they have an extraordinary opportunity and extraordinary examples to shape journalism in their careers.

I don’t have a written version of the address, but my slides are below. I sought advice for these young journalists from some outstanding successful journalists. I shared some of the advice on my slides. In other cases, I drew my advice from things these journalists had posted online (or things they said in interviews). Or I just drew my own lessons for the students from these journalists’ careers.

Here are the responses from the young journalists who sent advice to the students: (more…)

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I will be a panelist today for an American University Career Center program for graduate students in the School of Communication. I am collecting some of my career-advice blog posts here to share with the students:

Use digital tools to showcase your career and your work

Tips on landing your next job in digital journalism

Job-hunting advice for journalists selling skills in the digital market

Confessions (strategies) of a branded journalist (or a journalist with a reputation, if you prefer)

Your digital profile tells people a lot

Career lessons from Daniel Victor’s swift ascent

Career lessons from a former ‘Twitter monkey’

Matt Thompson advises job-seekers how to land a journalism gig

Elevate your journalism career

What are some other helpful career-oriented links for journalists?

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Matt Thompson

Some of my most popular posts here have offered advice on how to find and land a job in journalism. So I thought I should point out that Matt Thompson has offered great advice on this topic.

Matt’s tips overlap with some of mine, but he says them better, so I encourage you to check out his advice if you’ve found mine helpful. Here’s my favorite of Matt’s 10 points:

The very best interviews feel like great conversations. This may be one of my quirks as an interviewer, but I’ve found this to be true both as an interviewer and as an interviewee. Interviews often start out as interrogations — a back-and-forth series of questions and answers. But great interviews don’t tend to end that way. With the interview, I’m not merely trying to unlock the bits of knowledge in your head, and I’m certainly not trying to see how well you anticipate the answers locked in my head. I am trying to assess how you think, what you’re passionate about, how we gel as colleagues. (more…)

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Bitterness is an understandable emotion. But it always hurts you more than your targets.

I think I have had a lot in common with the journalists, some of them clearly former Journal Register employees, who lashed out at our company or our CEO in comments recently about the company’s Chapter 11 filing. You can read a sampling at the end of my blog post on the bankruptcy or on Jim Romenesko’s or Josh Benton’s or Matt DeRienzo’s.

I’m not going to debate here the merits of the financial move or the criticisms we received. I already had my say about the bankruptcy filing and I’m happy to give critics their say (I haven’t withheld approval of any comments on my blog post and just checked 14 pages of spam messages to make sure no critical comments got diverted by the spam filter). And I’ll grant that critics, even bitter ones, raise some valid points and questions.

What I do want to say here is that I’ve battled bitter feelings on many occasions in my career. The details aren’t important here, but I’ve been fired and have endured the deaths of two afternoon newspapers. I’ve been caught in the middle of a legal dispute. A publisher’s wife tried to get me fired. An editor forgot I had applied for a columnist’s position I dearly wanted. I learned from the bulletin board about someone being promoted into a position I was in line for. I’ve been passed over for other jobs when I was sure I was better than the people who got them. Twice in a row I changed jobs and moved my family for exciting new opportunities only to have the top executives change directions. I consulted a lawyer about an instance of age discrimination. I’ve been demoted and had my pay cut (five days before Christmas; thank you, Mr. Scrooge). I’ve seen more colleagues lose their jobs than I can count. And I had to deliver that unpleasant news to some colleagues after losing a fight to save their jobs (I was gone myself within a year).

Every one of those incidents felt like a profound injustice at the time and I’m sure each of the offending bosses felt they were sound business decisions. But you know (and deep down I know) that life isn’t that simple. Some of them were injustices. But some of them were sound business decisions. And dammit, some were both. And an honest appraisal would note that responsibility for those unhappy moves ranged from 100 percent the employer’s to heavy responsibility for me (since I didn’t make the decisions, I can’t say it was ever 100 percent on me). (more…)

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I loved my job as editor of the Minot Daily News. I reported to work 20 years ago today thinking I was at the pinnacle of my career and would stay there for many years to come.

North Dakota seemed like the right place for me, even with sub-zero wind chills much of the winter and huge mosquitoes through the summer.

Mimi was a popular columnist and had a thriving freelance writing business. Our sons were doing well in school. We had a nice home on a hill with a lovely view of the city in the valley below. We had fallen in love with Teddy Roosevelt National Park, just a couple hours’ drive away.

My staff was performing good journalism. We were doing watchdog reporting for our community. We were providing a strong editorial voice. We were learning and improving together as journalists.

Other newspapers in North Dakota were noticing the rise of the smallest of the state’s “big four” newspapers (yes, “big” is relative; in most states all of those papers would be mid-sized or small). I had been elected president of the North Dakota Associated Press Managing Editors my first year in the state. My staff won more awards at the North Dakota Newspaper Association’s summer conference than anyone could remember us winning.

After tumultuous experiences when afternoon newspapers had died in Des Moines and Kansas City and I questioned decisions by top leaders, I wanted to run a newsroom myself. I had ideas about executive leadership that I wanted to try and they seemed to be working. We had smoothly managed a change earlier in the year from afternoon to morning production. I was enjoying the momentum I felt my career had.

Then I got fired. Twenty years ago today.

I never got a good explanation for the firing, and probably wouldn’t have believed it if I did. In retrospect, I can see clearly that the owners were planning to sell the paper. It was jointly owned by the Buckner News Alliance and Donrey Media, and that partnership was probably never a good idea. Unloading big salaries was part of a plan to make the newspaper more attractive financially to a buyer. In less than a year, the publisher fired the editor, advertising manager, business manager and production manager, replacing us, if at all, with people who clearly made less money. Then the owners sold the paper to Ogden Newspapers, which still owns it.

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The old career advice doesn’t always fit today. For most of my career, veterans would have counseled a young journalist to stick around a while, so your résumé showed some stability. You want to show some commitment, an ability to hold a job.

Daniel Victor

But the New York Times just hired my friend Daniel Victor to his fifth job in just a little over two years. I was one of those others who hired him (to his longest tenure of the past three jobs) and I enthusiastically recommended him to other employers.

Dan was a reporter for the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., when 2010 started. I hired him to join TBD’s community engagement team. When TBD cut its staff, Dan moved to Philly.com to help build an online community. When Amanda Michel was looking for someone to help with social media at ProPublica, I recommended Dan and she hired him. Then she moved to the Guardian and Dan got her job leading ProPublica’s social media efforts. Now he’s moving to the New York Times.

News is a volatile industry right now with lots more journalists looking for work than finding jobs. A journalist who has been hired four times in 26 months is a journalist in high demand.

Since I know a little about Dan and his career moves, I thought I would (with his permission) share some career lessons from watching him, as I did after hiring Mandy Jenkins for the second time. The first four lessons are nothing new and their importance can’t be overstated: (more…)

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Journalists have lots of tools for showcasing our work.

If you’re a college student or recent graduate looking for work or a veteran journalist out of work or looking for a better job, you need an online showcase where prospective bosses can find your best work quickly and study your work at length if they’re interested.

The job-hunter faces a dual challenge: You need to catch a prospective boss’s attention quickly and you want to hold the attention, getting him or her to keep perusing your work, wanting to read or view more. You want to provide a quick overview and you want to help the interested person browse your work at length.

We’re way past the days of deciding which half-dozen hard-copy clips to stuff into an envelope with your résumé. Unless an employer specifically asks for a hard-copy application, you should apply by email with a hyperlinked résumé. Even if the employer asks for hard-copy (and if you want to work for someone who needs hard copy), you need a URL (or a few) at the top, guiding your future boss to a place to study your work at length.

Trust me: As someone who’s received hundreds of résumés from wannabe employees, you shouldn’t send a résumé longer than one page to a prospective employer. If I can tell the story of my 40-year career in a page, you can keep yours to a page; a few years ago when I was job-hunting, I thought my long career justified multiple pages. But then I got my job and started getting résumés from people who wanted to work for me. I then resolved to keep it to a single page if I ever was job-hunting again. You have a few seconds to stand out from the others. Make your case in a single page, but use links to make that page a table of contents for the prospective boss who wants to know more.  At the top of the page, include a link — or a few links — to a place or places where they can learn about your career in depth and see your digital and social skills at work.

Even if, like me, you’re enjoying your job and feeling secure, with no interest in leaving, a strong digital profile is a good idea. Sadly, many journalists have lost their jobs with little warning. And even while you’re working, a strong online profile can help build credibility with sources and colleagues (who are Googling you, whether you know it or not).

Partly because I’m constantly checking out new tools and partly because people looking for jobs contact me frequently, I’ve dabbled with a variety of tools to showcase your résumé and your portfolio or help you tell your career story (founders invited me to try out a couple of new tools). In most cases, I have not fleshed these profiles out as fully as I would if I were looking for a job. I would need to upload more photos and clips from my pre-digital years if I wanted to use these tools to their fullest effect. (more…)

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In the tight job market journalists face today, Randi Shaffer illustrates one of the best reasons to master Twitter: It can help you land a job.

This story starts with an editor taking Twitter seriously. When I visited the Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant last summer, editor Rick Mills said the staff was much more active on Facebook than on Twitter because Twitter use was light in that rural area. I encouraged him to be active on Twitter anyway, because he would connect with a younger audience than his newspaper has and he would find more local people on Twitter than he expected.

Rick started taking Twitter seriously and quickly became addicted (I’m so proud). As he searched for local people to follow, he quickly came across Randi:


I found her by doing local advanced searches on Twitter – radius to Mt. Pleasant searches. It took a bit to get used to that, the idea of just finding Central Michigan University students and following them, but I started with the CM Life staff and journalism students, figured there was a valid connection there. Also knew that they were the crowd to be watching not only for something big in terms of breaking news, but just keeping up on their world and community. In our market, college students make up a big demographic of Twitter users.

Randi picks up the story:

Rick had started following me at some point right before I left Mt. Pleasant to spend my fall semester interning at the Flint Journal. He first made contact when I tweeted to ask my followers where I should consider applying for summer internships at. He direct messaged me to tell me about a potential opportunity in Oakland.

Randi decided to take a full-time internship in Flint that fall. While she was there, Rick was watching her work on Twitter:

It was obvious that she was engaged with both her college friends and colleagues but also with the Flint community she was covering for Booth on her internship.

So, besides her tweeting with friends, she would report stories she was going to work on, report tidbits from interviews she had done and ask for lead ideas, even. I remember one in particular where she’d gone with 30 kids to a farm and asked how to start a story with so much fun and so many kids…

Back to Randi:

Near the end of my internship in Flint, I had signed myself up for a pretty heavy course load for the spring 2012 semester and wasn’t sure I’d have the time to dedicate to CM Life, so I posted again on Twitter. I asked if anyone knew of freelance work in the mid-Michigan area for the spring semester and he direct-messaged me to let me know the Sun could use a freelance reporter. He let me know that it wouldn’t be anything big, and I said that was fine. I was just looking for a little bit of extra money and a way to keep up with journalism while I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree. I gave him my email address and he sent some stories along.

More from Rick:

She freelanced for us since probably mid-January. I don’t have an official count, but has probably written a dozen stories, at least, maybe more.

During that time she was professional, met deadlines, provided photo information, communicated with other key staff… basically proved herself proficient in many areas that we don’t find out recruits lack in until it’s too late.

Randi continues:

I gladly took every freelance assignment I was available for and did my best with each. Yesterday, as a matter of fact, an editor here told me that the first group of freelance assignments I turned in, six in total, were what made him want to hire me as soon as I graduated. This was back in February.

It just happened to work perfectly that a staff reporter resigned to take a new job right before my college graduation, and I applied for the opening after a few staff members (one was a former professor of mine) encouraged me to. I interviewed and got the job two days before my graduation.

How did I get a job offer because of Twitter? By managing my Twitter account correctly. … I keep my Twitter open and unprotected, and identify myself in my bio. (Also helped identify me from the other Randi Shaffer on Twitter — who was a little younger and a lot more vulgar.) No swearing, and I always try to remain as politically unbiased as possible. It proves tricky at times. The phrase, “Opinions are my own, RT’s not endorsements” is not an excuse to post anything on Twitter without repercussions.

It’s OK to tweet things that reflect your personal interests and what you’re involved in. I think employers like seeing that you’re an interesting, well-rounded individual. In addition to my professional stuff — including story links, industry news, my personal accomplishments (updates about graduation, grad school admittance, etc.) and CNN/ Morning Sun/ New York Times/ etc. re-tweets, my Twitter feed often consists of hockey news (I’m a bit obsessed with the Detroit Red Wings and have a habit of live-tweeting any game I go to), bits about what I’m doing and where I’m at, quirky thoughts, etc. All things that not only interest employers, but also remind readers that you are, in fact, a real person, and not just a name on a page.

Also, always proofread, spell check and use correct grammar/ style in tweets. One mistake in 140 characters stands out a lot, and it can make you look foolish if it happens to be big news and gets retweeted a few times.

In terms of Facebook, Rick and I are friends, but I update Twitter more frequently than Facebook. I’ve found that Twitter is a little busier, and people like reading multiple updates a day, whereas people on Facebook just get annoyed with constant updating and either defriend you or unsubscribe.

A side note- I also like that I can use Twitter to clarify my gender with a picture. The name Randi gets confusing at times.

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“I need to find the joy and excitement I once experienced as a journalist,” an editor told me in a recent comment on my blog. “I just don’t feel it right now. I pray it will return.”

This editor, Emily Olson, managing editor of the Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn., is not one of the curmudgeons I addressed recently, resisting change in newsrooms. She is leading change in her newsroom. She was described by her publisher at the time (and now her group editor), Matt DeRienzo as an “unsung hero” of the Journal Register Co. turnaround. In the video below, Emily discusses the Register Citizen’s Newsroom Café , recognized by the Associated Press Media Editors as Innovator of the Year for 2011.

So why and how has someone who shared in the innovation of the year lost her joy and excitement for journalism? And how can she regain it? Let’s start by reading Emily’s comment:

It’s been more than 15 years since I decided to leave my job delivering flowers and planting trees at a nursery, go back to school and become a newspaper reporter. Since then (1997) I have built a career as a writer and editor and watched the world change and move under my feet – first with digital cameras and jpgs, which replaced film and contact sheets, then digital layout, web postings once a week, and in the last three years have observed and taken part in – to some extent – the skyrocketing changes that our industry has embraced. I have a title that has the word “managing” and “editor” in it, but they don’t go hand in hand right now because in spite of the massive changes and rolling waves that crash on our desks, we still have to read email, copy and paste, process in photoshop, built unending queues of pages and try, in the midst of it all, to become a ninja.

Well, I pray that my bosses over the years are doing OK. Most of them have moved on, some of them stayed behind, and some of them, like me, are trying to keep up. Am I a curmudgeon? Probably, and that’s pretty sad, to be labeled as such, but I also believe that what I am doing is often so contrary to what is happening around me that I feel like giving up.


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