I decided in middle school that I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. Whenever I discussed my chosen career path with well-intentioned family and friends, I was often met with skepticism.
"You'll never make a lot of money as a journalist."
"Don't you want to do something with more stability?"
"It's really hard to get a job in the media industry."
They weren't entirely wrong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been reporting decreases in journalism jobs for years (the current prediction is a 9 percent decline by 2024). Major news organizations like Huffington Post, the New York Times, Yahoo and VICE Media have all suffered rounds of layoffs this year alone.
These facts, combined with the ever-changing media landscape, is enough to make even the most talented journalists fear for their careers.
Though it can indeed be difficult to find quality journalism jobs, it's certainly not impossible.
I've applied to my fair share of reporting jobs over the years, and as an editor, I've recently hired a few reporters of my own.
Whether you're looking for a full-time staff position or an ongoing freelance gig, here are a few tips for making yourself irresistible to an editorial hiring manager.
In addition to your resume, most editors will ask you for "clips" (published samples of your work) when you apply for a writing job.
Make it easy for them to find and read your work by collecting your past articles in a digital portfolio. Sites like Muck Rack and Contently make it simple to build a portfolio by adding URLs to your page. You can also create a personal landing page via WordPress, Squarespace, Wix or other website building platform to house other digital assets, such as PDF scans of print newspaper articles you've written.
Don't have any work published in print or digital publications yet? Start self-publishing. You can create a personal blog about the topic of your choice, or simply write and publish content via platforms like Medium or even LinkedIn. These can serve as your clips until you start getting writing gigs with media outlets.
Many of today's journalists have established a personal brand for themselves across their social media platforms.
Some choose to promote themselves and their work via every available channel, but at minimum, you should have a public LinkedIn and Twitter account (after all, a lot of journalism happens on Twitter).
Here, you can connect with other journalists and editors, follow news outlets you'd like to write for, and share your own thoughts and articles on current trends and events. Networking is also hugely important for landing a job in any field, so it never hurts to get on the radar of successful players in your industry.
Bonus tip: Add links to your public social media accounts to your portfolio page to encourage potential employers to follow your work.
Modern journalism is no longer just about being a good writer.
Outlets large and small are placing an increasing emphasis on "visual storytelling" – in fact, a 2016 Poynter article cited this skill as an essential one for landing a job in journalism. Basic photo and video editing skills will go a long way in an age when video clips, infographics, social media images and other visual assets serve as the primary vehicle for telling news stories.
Of course, not everyone is going to be able to master (or afford) software like the Adobe Creative Suite, so start by playing around with the free tools available to you. Most devices – PC, Mac, smartphone, tablet, etc. – come pre-loaded with photo and/or video editing software (or at the very least, there are plenty of free options available online for your desktop or on your mobile device's app store). Teach yourself what you can, or better yet, take an online course if you have the time and resources to do so.
You may have heard the phrase "publish or perish" used to describe the pressure to produce academic work. It applies to the journalism industry, too: If you're not continually sharpening your writing and editing skills, they'll languish.
Additionally, editors want to see that you've been actively publishing work. If the last thing you wrote was for your college newspaper (and you've been out of school for months or years), you might want to think about getting back on the horse.
You don't have to wait for a writing job to land in your lap, though. As mentioned above, you can start your own blog or self-publish articles. Find outlets that are looking for contributed content (preferably paid, but there's nothing wrong with writing the occasional unpaid article if you're passionate about the topic and it builds your portfolio). Write in a journal just for yourself. Regardless of what kind of writing you choose to do, it just matters that you do it. Like anything else, practice makes perfect, and practicing your craft every day can only help you when you're looking for work.
Any other tips for landing a journalism job? Share them on Twitter.
Nicole Fallon is the managing editor of Business News Daily, a resource for small business owners, entrepreneurs and job seekers. Follow her on Twitter @nicolemfallon.
Photo via Pixabay