by Darby Fitzgerald
With more students enrolling in journalism programs every day and more jobs in the industry being cut, the competition for college grads is fiercer than ever. Recent grads are not only competing with other recent grads, but also with industry professionals who are out of work. It’s important that while you’re in school, you take advantage of the opportunities available like internships or emersion programs offered through your school. You never know what may come out of an internship or volunteer opportunity.
Mike Wong, the Director of Career Services at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, says that it is critically important that students get an internship while in school.
“Internships give students a sense of the workplace. It gives them an idea of how the operation runs. It gives them real, live hands-on work experience in the work place.”
When you’re applying for a job, potential employers are going to be looking at your resume. Your resume is what is going to tell the potential employer what you have to offer.
“You are evaluated on how much experience you bring to the table. If you bring little to no experience, you are not going to get that job. If you bring more experience, you will be a stronger candidate.”
It’s also important that students get a diverse range of experience. Your internships should be about quality, not quantity. You can have 10 internships, but if you’re not gaining anything from the experience, what’s the point?
Broadcast journalism has many different opportunities for students to experience, from TV to radio to production. Within television, there are news and production opportunities. Each will provide you with
“You might be going into TV news, but at a FOX station or CBS station. Every station has a different management style. It’s good to experience the different cultures,” Wong said.
Sarah Dinell, a sophomore at the Cronkite School has already had three internships and traveled to China to learn about the Chinese media perspective. She said she realizes the importance of internships for getting a job after graduation.
“I think they provide a hands-on experience and you really get a feel for the real world,” Dinell said.
Many journalism schools offer emersion programs that, much like internships, provide students with workplace experience. The Cronkite School’s NewsWatch provides students with a news room experience by reporting stories and producing newscasts. Students are given opportunities that will help them to stand out and build their reel, so that when they graduate they can find a job.
Mixing classroom learning and workplace experience helps students polish their skills and further their education. In the classroom, students learn an element or technique of journalism and then a couple of days or hours later students practice in the newsroom “with all the excitement and pressure of first-timers,” said Kent S. Collins, Radio-Television Journalism Faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism.
“Journalism is part art and part profession and part discipline. Mixing the formal with the hands-on makes the lessons more real and the experiences more solid,” Collins said.
This method of teaching has been very effective and has been adopted by other journalism schools, Collins said.
All the experiences and opportunities you take advantage of during college will help in the ultimate goal of finding a job. But when you go out for a job, don’t have unreal expectations. Your first job is
not going to be as an NBC News correspondent or a SportsCenter anchor. You might not ever hold those jobs. You should keep your options open. You may want to be on-air, but find
out that it’s not for you. Or you thought you wanted to be a producer, but really you were meant to be on TV.
“Keep your options open,” Wong said.
Even if you’re not the SportsCenter anchor, you still may be able to work for ESPN but in a different way than you expected. Sometimes you have to face the harsh reality that your dream just isn’t going to
“You want to pursue your dreams, but if something’s not happening in a certain amount of time then you have to ask yourself if this is the right thing to do. Be honest with yourself. Maybe weren’t meant to be on the air,” Wong said.
All internships and skills that you have acquired during your four years in college will make the difference in you finding a job. The moral of the story here is take advantage of opportunities, learn as
much as you possibly can and keep your options open.