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Working in the Media

Welcome to CareerOwl's very first Dear CareerOwl column. I hope you enjoy what will be a regular feature on our site.

As will always be the case, I took the liberty of editing some portions of this letter to protect our writer's privacy.



I'm an Arts graduate in Cultural/Social Anthropology with a minor in Sociology, and almost a double minor in philosophy. I've got about a decade of experience in Canadian radio and television news in a private broadcast setting…I want to write opinion and information pieces for newspapers and could also work in radio being able to "voice" any of my work to a professional standard.

I would appreciate some fresh ideas on how I can build a campaign that will get me the attention and opportunity that I'm seeking. I like to think I don't have an all-consuming ego that is driving me. I do believe that my overall goal is to provoke opinion and discussion in a wider segment of Canadian and world society.

I have thought of writing for the Globe and Mail, or the Edmonton Journal. I have done one or two opinion pieces for student radio and the student newspaper at the university here but wasn't entirely happy with the results. I might as well have stood on my front step and waved a broom at passing traffic.

I hope you can understand what I'm trying to say, and that you'll forgive my use of the letter "I".

Yours truly,

Everett from Edmonton.

Everett, I think, faces a problem that many job seekers have. You have your cover letter and resume ready and your interview skills are polished. Now all you have to do is meet the person who can hire you.

But…how do you meet that person?

Bigger is Not Always Better

Everett, you have expressed an interest in working for The Globe and Mail and Edmonton Journal. These are both fairly large employers. However, small organizations tend to be easier to find work with. Why is this? The chief reason is that there are fewer gatekeepers in small organizations. Gatekeepers are people or obstacles that prevent you from seeing the person in a position to hire you. Large organizations usually have layers of bureaucracy to get around. Ironically, in a large organization, the HR department is possibly the ultimate gatekeeper, doling out interviews like Scrooge would pay wages. Large organizations also have more competition for their jobs. After all, large employers get all the press—no pun intended.

At small organizations the only person you need to contact is the boss. Sometimes you can walk directly into that person’s office and make your pitch. If you can find a small organization that’s still growing or happens to have an opening then, you may be able to persuade the boss to create an opening tailored to what you have to offer.

There are still some local newspapers despite the consolidation that has occurred in this industry. Use the university or public library search facilities to try to find out about these local papers, or browse a newsstand that specializes in carrying papers for surrounding communities. Also there are start-up Ezines on the web. Get a list of them online. And don't fail to ask your friends for any leads they might have on job opportunities, even it they're not with large organizations or not in the industry you're interested in. They may have friends or relatives in a position to help. Ultimately, even in this Internet era, your best leads will often come from or through people you know.

You can also click here for a list of our newspaper want ad links, which may have some papers you hadn’t considered. (Yes, that’s my shameless plug for the day). Try to use whatever leads you can develop to contact someone in a position to give you a job.

There are also many more small businesses than large businesses. The odds favor employment in smaller organizations.

Remember that companies, both big and small, are also hiring writers to create online content, both in written and audio format. After all, your dream job consists of having your views known. If that is your chief concern, why limit yourself to larger organizations or to traditional print formats? There's a whole new world for wrtiers shaping up out there in cyberspace.

…But I Want Big!

Despite this, you might want to look for work in a large organization anyway. You might prefer the working environment of a larger organization, and the chance to write or be heard by a larger base of users. So, how can you get past the gatekeepers at a large organization?

Here, again, we come to the importance of networking. You must pump everyone you know, as politely as possible, for any lead. Ask everyone you know for the contact information for people they’ve met who work at the newspapers you are interested in.

Fortunately, judging from Everett’s letter, it appears he already has a number of contacts. Your friends and coworkers from ten years of experience working in the media are bound to have some leads for you, if you proceed respectfully and politely.

At the university I attended, the professors often gave interviews or wrote opinion pieces in the paper. Try to find the people at the University who have been in the media. Your own professors are a great start, since they already know you. Ask them to introduce you to the people they know in radio or in the print media. Once you are introduced, pump that person for information. The process would ideally go something like this:

  1. Ask your professor if they know someone at, for instance, the Post.
  2. If possible, get your professor to arrange an appointment.
  3. Meet this person, and if they don’t have the power to hire you, ask them to arrange an appointment with someone who does.
  4. Meet the person who has the power to hire you, and ace the interview, since you came with a built-in referral.

In practice, of course, you must be prepared for rejection—repeatedly, especially at steps two and three. Take it gracefully, as these contacts may remember you in the future, for better or for worse. If you stick with it, you are definitely more likely to succeed.

What if I Don’t Know Anyone?

If you’re stuck for references, go where newspaper folk go—conventions, functions, anything where you can network and find the people who can hire you, or know who can hire you. You will most likely have more ideas on this than me, given that you've already had work experience in your chosen profession.

What if This All Still Doesn’t Work?

Do not pin all your hopes on working for just two or three organizations. The job hunt can be a discouraging, demoralizing process, and you will almost always be rejected in your first tries for a job. However, if you keep your options open, and work hard at it, you WILL get the job you want.

In Closing…

As you can see, this is a lot of work. I cannot emphasize how important it is to put enough effort into you job hunt. However, if you are willing to take these steps you cannot help but do better than the jobseeker that simply submits his or her resume in the hope that someone important will read it.

There are more points to be made that go beyond the scope of this article, such as your desire for part time, rather than full time employment, but I hope this will give you some pointers that help.

Oh, and Everett, in response to your last point…I’m a big fan of first person as well. :-)

David Jiang

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