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 is lowered so people can identify you, and a LinkedIn account is 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.
It would help if you blog, comment on blogs, and were involved in a forum or two – always identifying that you are a journalist. It would help if you also worked 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 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 promote yourself. There are loads of organizations 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 a 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 councilors and officers and send in freedom of information request or two, you might 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 specializes 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 many Twitter followers, then this is an asset that will get you to 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.