How To Start a Career in Journalism

Writer at work

Sometimes, the hardest part of launching a new career is knowing how to get started. Every field has its own specific requirements, and careers in journalism are no exception. Here are a few tips for those hoping to become a journalist:

  1. Begin making contacts while you are still in school. Networking, the act of making connections that will be beneficial in the business world, is a wise skill to master. Professors, editors of school newspapers and other people that you encounter in your daily routine may all provide valuable contacts to your first (or next) job in journalism.

  2. Get your degree in journalism or communications and then continue to advance your education. Having a bachelor's degree from an accredited university is a good start, but smart writers know that learning is a lifelong process. Writing seminars, workshops and writers' groups all provide opportunities for sharpening your skills and broadening your employment potential.
  3. Internships, although often unpaid, offer inexperienced journalists the opportunity to get real world experience while establishing significant contacts in their field. Apply for internships during your last two years of college (even earlier, if possible) and consider this "volunteer" work to be an investment in your future.
  4. Find a mentor. Someone who has achieved a level of success in journalism is a valuable friend to have. Look for journalists who are thriving and ask for their assistance. You are not asking directly for a job at this point, merely advice and guidance on achieving your long-term goals.
  5. Read everything that you get your hands on. The best writers are often voracious readers.
  6. Find a site with a respectable amount of traffic and write a blog (a web-log). Although you are unlikely to make a bundle of money by blogging, you will gain exposure and for a journalist, that is as good as gold (although it still won't pay the rent!).
  7. Stay informed. Yesterday's news is way too old; to be a successful journalist you must be hungry for the latest developments in politics, religion, science, crime, and even celebrity gossip. Look for stories--they are everywhere.
  8. Consider going it alone. Freelance work may not offer the benefits of a paid vacation and insurance, but freelance journalists do enjoy some unique advantages over counterparts employed by corporations. Freelancers are able to set their own hours, tell stories about only the things that they find interesting, and decide independently on the slant that their work takes. Without the constraints of fulfilling an employer's agenda, freelance journalists are free to explore in-depth stories that may not appeal to some employers.
  9. Be disciplined. Write every day, send queries on a regular basis, and continue to submit your work at every opportunity. Journalism is not often a "punch out and go home" type of career. You must always be on the lookout for new stories and new opportunities to get your work published.
  10. In the early stages of your career, don't be too picky about the work you take. The most important thing for a beginner is to get your name out there and establish a reputation as a sound, reliable journalist.
  11. Learn not to take rejection personally. In reality, a rejection reflects only one opinion, and it is not the most important one--yours. If being a journalist is what you really want, don't give up just because you don't achieve immediate success. If the effort isn't worth it to you, you may have picked the wrong career.


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