Last week, CUP and CWA have cohosted our first online workshop of the year. This time the theme was getting hired: Advice for budding journalists from media professionals. These were our three panelists, moderated by CUP National Executive Jane Lytvynenko and CWA program coordinator Kat Lapointe.
Marlene Murphy is a senior writer with CBC Television News, and is currently working at The National. She’s also worked at CTV National News and Canada AM. Her first journalism job was at CBC Radio News, which came about in part because of an internship. The recent debate over the value of unpaid internships prompted her to do research into their history at the CBC, and how they function now. She spoke with schools, managers, producers and past participants, and presented the results at a journalism conference at Ryerson. Marlene spoke with us in that capacity, not as an official CBC representative.
Käthe (Kay-ta) Lemon is the Editor-In-Chief of Avenue, a monthly city lifestyle magazine in Calgary. She oversees not only the print publication but also the website, social media, newsletters, SIPs and events of the brand. She leads a team of seven editors and two interns as well as three art directors. Over the past eight years at the helm she has hired countless editors and interns. For several years Käthe was an instructor in communications at Athabasca University. She has worked in magazines for more than 15 years, mainly in house as an editor. Käthe is also the president of the Amber Webb-Bowerman Memorial Foundation, a registered charity that provides awards and scholarships to students in journalism and the arts
Martin O’Hanlon is President of CWA Canada, the country’s only all-media union, representing over 6,000 workers at companies such as the CBC, The Canadian Press, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette. Prior to being elected as head of the union in 2011, O’Hanlon was parliamentary editor for The Canadian Press in Ottawa for 11 years and a regular political commentator on CTV. O’Hanlon holds bachelor’s degrees in journalism and philosophy.
Tailoring your resume to the job is a key part of the application. Convey specific goals reached during previous employment and use key words from the job posting in your experience summaries. When crafting a resume, pick substance over style — make sure it is easy to read and navigate instead of opting for fancy formatting.
Have references you’d like to include on your resume? Great! The number one rule is to always ask your references whether they’re willing to put in a good word for you. Once you’ve done that, here is the hierarchy of references for a student media pro:
1. Editor, manager or supervisor.
3. Everyone else.
4. Your parents.
When sending your resume make sure it’s in an easily accessible file format like .pdf or .doc. Martin says embedding your resume into the email could increase your chances of it being read.
When highlighting your experience or adding portfolio pieces, prioritize published works to class assignments. When writing articles for your portfolio, Martin advises you put them into context — why should your readers care about the topic you’re covering?
Final piece of advice? Don’t ever have a spelling or grammar error on your resume or elsewhere in the application.
The advice everyone could agree on is dress for the job you want. Be sure to come early, but no more than 10 minutes. Always bring a copy of your application, resume, and work samples (this includes a laptop to show off multimedia or video projects). Don’t expect the interviewer to have any of your materials on hand.
Even more important than bringing materials is arming yourself with prior knowledge. Come into the interview prepared, having researched the company, the job, and any projects you’re working on. Be prepared to pitch relevant story ideas and ask questions. All of our experts agreed that you should prepare things to ask your interviewer in advance — not having any questions for them is a big red flag. Here are some ideas for good questions:
- What does a typical day here look like?
- What types of projects would I be working on?
- What next steps can I take from here?
The job search
Going to interviews is dandy, but finding a job can be just as much — if not more — of a challenge. Marlene recommended searching for jobs on LinkedIn, which now started compiling job postings from other sources. General job sites are a safe bet, but the competition is stiff. A good strategy is keeping in touch with your journalism school, mentors, or professors could yield good results — any time you can flaunt a personal connection is an extra check mark on your application. Here are some other places to search for opportunities:
Martin: Enthusiasm sells. When you land an interview, be excited for the job and show that you want to be there.
Käthe: Don’t get burnt our and speak up if you’re overwhelmed. If you’re an intern, you might get the short end of the stick when it comes to the workload but taking care of yourself will also benefit your employer in the long run.
Marlene: School is not the end of homework. Always take your work seriously and do your research.