How to Thrive in Your First Journalism Role
Getting your first job in journalism is an excellent achievement. The work doesn’t end there, though; the role itself is full of fast-paced projects, hefty workloads, and long shifts. If you want to thrive in this career, then, you’re going to have to push yourself to make an excellent impression. Read on to learn how.
Seek Higher Education on the Side
If you’ve landed a journalist role without a master’s degree or even a bachelor’s, then you could always increase your knowledge on the side by applying to online universities. While it’s true that the best education comes from experience, some things are better learned in a virtual classroom and through assignments. Plus, a digital journalism degree will help you land even better jobs in the future.
Of course, working as a journalist while pursuing an online degree isn’t a walk in the park. To help you manage, make sure you stick to a routine, let both your professor and manager know about your other obligations, and tackle projects and assignments in advance.
Always Ask More Questions
You won’t know even close to everything in your very first journalist role. For this reason, you must ask as many questions as possible early on. You might feel like you’re bugging your co-workers, but in fact, you’ll be doing everyone a favor – by asking questions and learning how things work, there’s less chance of you messing up. Even if you think the question is frivolous or obvious – just ask!
Read as Much as You Can – and then Read Some More
As a journalist, you must read just as much as you write. In fact, you should read even more than you write. Make it your mission to soak up as much news and media every morning and evening, and you’ll find work projects and conversations become much easier. After all, when your job is to deliver content, you must already be interested in consuming it.
It’s not just breaking news you should read, either – read books, journals, blogs, social media posts, and more. Some pieces might give you worthwhile information, whereas others will simply help you on your writing journey.
Fact Check All Information
When researching for a piece, you must always check a fact, no matter how minuscule it is. When specializing in a subject, over time, you might come to know the basic facts about the topic and no longer need to fact-check as often. If there’s a piece of information you haven’t looked up before, though, it’s always best practice to double-check. After all, every piece of content you put out into the world needs to be accurate.
Show Up Early
Time management means a lot in the world of journalism, especially broadcast journalism. Even if you work for a digital journalism company, though, you must always show up in a timely fashion. Bonus points if you can produce your work early, too! By being reliable in this way, your manager will notice your efforts much sooner.
Look After Yourself
Whether you are writing for a radio broadcast or getting started in digital journalism, you should always take the time to look after yourself. The industry is competitive, after all, and you don’t want to fall into a circle of stress. Some tips for keeping your mind and body in check include:
Take a Break When Needed
Nobody works well when they’re overly stressed and need a break. As much as you want to make a good impression, it actually shows maturity to take a time out when necessary. Plus, you’ll perform much better once you’re ready for action.
Don’t Take on More Work Than You Can Handle
It is easy to become so excited with your new broadcast or digital journalism role that you take on too much all at once. Remember – quality is much better than quantity, and it is OK to say no now and again. Focus on ensuring your writing, editing, interviewing, and other journalism skills reach a high standard rather than trying to juggle too many projects early on.
Set a Sleep Schedule
It is difficult to get to work, let alone write an excellent digital journalism piece when you haven’t slept enough. To make sure you have enough energy to get through the day (and then some), set yourself a sleep schedule throughout the working week that you stick to.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
You might feel like cramming two cupcakes and an iced coffee into your mouth after a long day of research and meeting new people, but you’d only be doing your body a disservice. While treats are helpful from time to time, it’s better to get into healthier habits like eating veggies, warming soups, and nuts during your workday.
By looking after yourself, you ensure you can put in your best work during your shifts.
Talk to Everyone
On the first day of your journalism job, make it your mission to introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Networking is essential for journalists, and by making connections early, you open yourself up to a variety of opportunities in the future. Plus, you’ll feel far more comfortable once you know everybody’s name. If you ever need a hand or have a question, you’ll be able to seek out the help of a co-worker you’ve already introduced yourself to and bonded with.
Explore a Variety of Subjects
You might not know what your talents or interests are in your first year or so as a journalist. For example, you might know that you want to cover sports news, but do you know which sport or for which area? While it is great to have a niche, you should also stay open to other possibilities, especially in your first few years.
Ask for Help When You Need it
Nobody is expected to know everything in their first job. In fact, your boss will appreciate the honesty of someone willing to learn rather than somebody who assumes they already know everything. So, if you don’t know what tone to use in an article or who to contact to set up an interview, don’t hesitate to ask your manager or a co-worker.
Learn New Skills Online
These days, there is an abundance of skills you can learn from the comfort of your computer. Even once you have a journalist role, it’s still important to improve your skills and even learn new ones. If you’re an excellent interviewer and writer, for example, but you struggle with IT, there are plenty of classes you can take for a small price (or in some cases even for free).
You should also talk to your manager about any training options, as often you can also train from your computer, ensuring you don’t have to spend too much time away from your work.
Build Your Confidence
You are likely to feel nervous during your first broadcast, entertainment, or digital journalism role, especially during the first few months. You must have confidence, though, as you’ll need to speak to a variety of people. The more confident you come across, the more likely people will respect you, so practice faking it until you make it.
Take on a Challenging Project
You are educating yourself through experience, which means it’s important to take on challenges from time to time. That doesn’t mean overloading yourself, but rather saying yes to a project that you haven’t tackled before. Even if it ends up not being for you, by giving something new a try, you will expand your experience while simultaneously impressing your manager.
Interview People Face-to-Face
If you’re working on a news piece that requires an interview, try not to settle for an over-the-phone or computer interview, as you often won’t get the same quality of information. Instead, make the effort to travel for your interviews. Some tips for interviewing people better include:
The worst mistake to make as a newbie interviewer is to not do your research beforehand – knowing their name isn’t enough! Make a few notes before you start outlining the details of the interview and what you want to find out. The more you know, the less interview time will be spent going over facts you could have learned from Google. Plus, it shows respect.
Take Lots of Notes
You should take lots of notes during the interview, too, even if you are recording. This is because you might have a thought or an angle that you won’t necessarily remember when listening to the recording.
Show up Early
Showing up early might not always be easy when you have such a busy schedule, but it will help you get comfortable with the environment, making the interview more comfortable as a result.
Confirm Plans with the Interviewee
Another small mistake many journalists, new and otherwise, make is not confirming plans with the interviewee beforehand. If they cancel or reschedule, it could just save you a few hours of traveling.
Be Warm and Inviting
It’s not easy to teach someone how to be warm and inviting; some people simply are, whereas other people struggle. Wherever you stand, it helps to smile, nod your head, and use other positive body languages to ensure the interviewee feels at ease.
Let the Person Speak
Most importantly, let the person tell their story without too much interruption. If you had a certain direction, but your interviewee seems more comfortable going in a different one, try letting it happen, at least a little, as you’re likely to get more honestly there.
Write Notes on Your Performance
If you receive criticism or appreciation for a piece of work, keep a note of it. By doing this, you’ll understand both your strengths and your weaknesses, which is the key to achievement. Over time, you’ll become better at exploiting your strengths and working with your weaker points.
Build Your Personal Brand Online
Just because you have been hired by a company, that doesn’t mean you should neglect your personal brand. Building an online presence will help you in several ways, including increasing exposure and keeping a better professional reputation. A couple of simple ways to do this include posting regularly on social media, keeping in touch with online contacts, and always uploading quality images.
Keep Improving Your Writing Skills
OK, so your writing skills are probably already up to scratch seen as you landed a journalism role, but there’s always room to improve beyond a digital journalism degree. An extra class never hurt anyone, and you can find plenty of writing courses online that you can do in your free time.
Take Advice from a Mentor
There will come a day (or several) where you feel overwhelmed, and on these days, you should seek advice from your mentor. This is especially important if you are working while studying for a digital journalism degree on the side. Remember – your mentor has been where you are now, so take their advice and use it.
Never Limit Yourself
The world of journalism is constantly evolving. Instead of putting yourself into a hole and avoiding experimentation, you should embrace change as much as possible. After all, with the rise of digital journalism, journalism itself looks nothing like it did one hundred years ago. So, keep up with the times and open yourself up to interesting opportunities by never limiting yourself.
Trust in Your Abilities
If you are ever in doubt about your journalism abilities, remember – you got the job for a reason. While you might not be an expert yet, someone believed in you enough to know that one day you will be. So, instead of succumbing to your insecurities when you receive criticism, remember that you can do better, and that you have the talent to not only succeed, but also to thrive.
Journalism is full of talented, hard-working, and ambitious individuals. Follow this advice, and you will soon be one of them.