Make sure you can be found online: I reckon every journalist needs to be found when someone types in their name and the word journalist. If you have a specialism, you need to be found when people search for that too. So I have had work from people searching for ‘insurance journalist’, for example. To achieve this, you need an active Twitter account, your Facebook security status lowered so people can identify you and a LinkedIn account operating. You need to have completed your Google profile and not just have signed up for free email. And you need at least one website with a relevant domain name – more than one will work better.
You need to blog, comment on blogs and be involved in a forum or two – always identifying that you are a journalist. You also need to work on SEO. One of the easiest ways is a hosted WordPress site, with the All in One SEO Pack installed (other SEO plug-ins are available, as the BBC might say). This is free and makes a huge difference. But all of your online tools will let you down if you never venture out and meet people. And for that you need basic dress sense, manners, a firm handshake and – and I am still gobsmacked at how many journalists do not have these – business cards. Oh, and the money to buy your round.
Take every opportunity to get published and to promote yourself: Assuming my kids wanted to go to university, I’d say to them: go and do a proper degree in something you really enjoy and do the student journalism on the side. Get as many blogs as you can, take every opportunity to get published and to promote yourself. There are loads of organisations out there that would love to have a relevant and interested young person blogging for them. My son blogs for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as he is cricket mad. He has blogged just three times and already if you Google him it is the top hit – not bad for a 15-year-old doing his GCSEs.
Make sure your blog is up to scratch: Lots of blogs are rubbish. They are why-oh-why pieces, or “look at me here is my online diary”. If you want to get a job in journalism, you need to post to the same standards as journalists. That means research, putting allegations to the accused in advance and getting their comments back and so on. That would differentiate you from a lot of the tosh.
Bill Carmichael is course leader for the MA Web Journalism at the University of Sheffield
Nothing drives traffic like news and nothing will catch an editor’s eye better than a stonking exclusive: Getting an exclusive is easier said than done of course, but if you were to delve into your local council, attend some committee meetings, chat up a few councillors and officers and send in freedom of information request or two, you just may be able to break a good story. Whether you blog this or pitch it to a local newspaper, it will certainly raise your profile.
Spread your net widely – and outside traditional media: The traditional route into journalism – local/national newspapers and radio/TV stations – is still important but our graduates are finding that their journalistic abilities are valued in many other areas such as charities, NGOs, local and national government, and the commercial sector – in fact any role where communication skills are important. Spread your net widely – the ability to explain complex issues in simple language is valued in all kinds of areas beyond traditional journalism.
Joanne Mallon is a life and career coach who specialises in the media
If you can bring an audience with you, you’ll be in demand: One thing I have noticed is that publishers, both online and off, increasingly want a writer who can bring an audience with them. So if you have a popular blog and a lot of Twitter followers, then this is an asset that will get you work. See your blog as a training platform for when you do get hired. So use it to improve your skills at writing, SEO, choosing pictures, interviewing, video blogging and so on, and hopefully you will build up an audience along the way.
Eleanor Turney is editorial coordinator and resident tweeter for magazine and online resource Arts Professional
Your blog is like a shop window and shows off to an editor what you can do: Well, the portfolio is the first thing I look at. BUT, and this is a big but, the blog, for me, is a shop window. Every piece of copy that’s been published elsewhere has likely been edited and polished by someone else, and is quite likely someone else’s idea, too. The blog is personal and offers an insight into what the person wants to be writing about, what interests them and so on. I’ve asked people to flesh out and develop blogs into articles for publication numerous times, because the idea is their own and they are likely to be passionate. Also, blogs show me if someone can self edit and proof read.
Be in the right cyberspace at the right time: Remember how much of this lark is about contacts. Sure, you need to work, skills and knowledge to back it up, but contacts are vital. I’ve got work from people I only know through Twitter just by being in the right (cyber) space at the right time, and jumping in.
Andy Dickinson is a senior lecturer in online and digital journalism in the Division of Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire
Blogs are a no-brainer: A blog is not just a publishing platform, it’s your bit of the web. Anyone who isn’t experimenting and trying new stuff is not going to get very far – a blog is a space you can do that. It shows you can manage comments and community, write to a schedule, write to an audience and promote your work. Oh, and you can decide who and what you write about. I think they are a no-brainer.
Joseph Stashko writes about journalism at josephstashko.com. Joseph is currently in his second year at university. He runs a hyperlocal website and organises events based around social media
Just by having an online presence, your closer to being offered work than someone who doesn’t: Even if what they’re doing is more advanced than you – because it’s a lot easier to find you and contact you. I can say with 100% certainty that all the work I’ve received so far has been as a result of making myself accessible and visible online – often it’s from people I’ve never even met.
Facebook can come in handy for journalists: As it currently stands – Twitter is where journalists are and where news is distributed, Facebook is where your potential audience is to mine stories. The site that I run experiences far more click throughs from Facebook, despite the fact we have five times as many Twitter followers as Facebook likes. I think because it’s embraced by friends, it can also feel like a less formal method of communication – handy if you’re contacting someone out of the blue rather than an email.
Sarah Hartley is an online editor, blogger and community consultant best known for work in the ‘hyperlocal‘ sphere
Just get on and report – you never know where it all lead you: All those people here who want to review stuff – just do it. It will be good experience and introduce you to people who might offer you that in-house experience that will lead to a job. If hard news is more your thing, be known by the local news editor for your constant source of tip-offs. You never even now, they value you enough they could start paying for the tips – they pay someone, why not you?
It’s not difficult to get placements, it’s difficult to stand out: Just doing a placement would be about as pointless as just doing a blog. It’s what goes into it that’s important. I’ve seen plenty of people sit dumbly through work placements, never contributing anything of value. That won’t get them work, however many they notch up. It’s not difficult to get placements, it’s difficult to stand out.