By Liam Horan, MD and Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers
Q: I’m about to start college in the field of journalism. What should I do to maximise my time? I want to be ahead of the posse when we come out at the far end of the course. All suggestions welcome (JR, email)
A: That’s the spirit. While we are not suggesting that you should spend your college years buried under a mountainous pile of books, it is wise to do certain things that will aid you in advancing your career later on.
Remember that in college you learn the tools of the trade of journalism, but it is in the field you will truly learn how to sharpen these tools – so if you can be ‘in the field’ while still in college you are giving yourself a much better chance of passing out your fellow students when it comes to gaining employment.
Here are some tips we would give:
- Remember that Journalism is becoming more and more of a multi-media function. Once upon a time, many journalists left journalism college and went to local newspapers where they served their time before they either moved up the ladder internally or moved onto the national papers. It was a largely written word world, with some radio thrown in for good measure, particularly with the arrival of licenced local radio in Ireland in the late 1980s.
Now however, journalism is a much more nuanced affair. I believe the journalist of the present and the future should have an in depth knowledge of website content writing and management, social media, YouTube and various other platforms.
The media through which we communicate have changed dramatically over the last number of years, but the primary skills remain the same – can you communicate effectively? If you can, it is important that you are able to push out that communication over a variety of media.
- Build up contacts. Get to know people. If sport is your area, use the time to interview well-known sports people for the college magazine, website or other outlet. Most people are favourably disposed towards approaches from students, and are only too happy to help out in whatever way they can.
- Focus on your niche. What inspired you to do journalism in the first place? Was it news, sports, current affairs, feature writing, humour, broadcasting? When you’ve established your niche, pay extra attention to it in terms of getting items published in that area. Build your portfolio. Yet again, take advantage of the opportunities that the college may offer: college newspapers, magazines, radio stations and even the occasional TV station may be receptive to your approaches.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This may seem to contradict the earlier advice given in No. 3 but it is good to expose yourself to other areas of communications. We can become complacent about our specialist area, and it is only when challenged outside of our comfort zone we can recognise that complacency. So if sport is your thing, there is no harm in trying your hand at news journalism. It will keep you sharp and expose you to other styles and principles.