Friday, May 06, 2011

Masters students - how to get that job

ex-Student site click here
It's one of the most frequent questions, of course, because whatever it is we're learning, the conclusion to that is finding a nicely paid, decent job, and yes YOU can influence the process.

So it's that part of the year again. Exams coming to a head and thoughts of what comes next looming large.

If you found this blog last September and have dropped by on occasion, then one of the posts looked at gearing up for the job. By that I meant the time to look for a job is, or should I say WAS in August last year for the next May, June, July.. which is about now.

If you had it would all make sense now, but understandably you've just joined a Masters programme, with a year to go and the last thing on your mind is the anxiety finding a job. It should, but it doesn't, and each year I talk to cohorts about this plan of action.

I have seen some students put it into practice and it's paying off. They spent the first few weeks engaging with potential employers in a long-tail process of conversations, which put pressure on neither party. Come June they've now developed a solid relationship over a couple of months. It worked for me as well.

Remember no hirer, editor has a job in their desk waiting for you, when you send in that spec email. The best you can hope for is serendipity - right place, right time, but even then, the game of chance comes in.

Otherwise if you're applying for a job now, then you and 20,000 other media students are part of the mass migration and less we've forgotten it's a rotten time to be job hunting. For any manager to make a judgement from an intake of 100 down to one, is almost a lottery.

Getting that job
This year one of the world's top broadcasters and hirers, knowing the work load that goes into prepping applications, interviews and selections, asked us to do main selecting for them. It's a difficult task, because we're not in the business of discriminating, so we widen our criteria to show the broadcaster where their work!

Can I say that again.. we lead them to their work ONLINE.

How to get that job? What I'm about to say is not the definitive. There are no grand theories, but this is one narrative that works, and if any of my students doing docs have done this then they have increased their chances ten fold.

Firstly having an online presence is not worth debating the whys and wherefores. If you haven't then its the next thing you want to do.

Secondly, having a professionally laid out online presence is crucial. Your reputation online is how you are judged in the flesh. Shouldn't be, but the same way you see those shoes, suit, art piece in a shop window and walk in to enquire and buy, is how YOU online works.

The question then becomes: blog, facebook, website or whatever. While all of these work, the website is your manageable, bespoke stylised YOU to a potential employer.

Blogs are great, but there is a reason blogs never usurped the website. The website is both the intro page and direction-giver to any thing else worth knowing about you, including your blog.

If you're intending to be a daily journo then a blog as a front-of-window will suffice. If you're intending to be a polymath, given your many skills, a website.... A WEBSITE.

In some cases blogs mimic websites, that's fine so long as you can control the assets you want everyone to see. In other words if you've written a great post three weeks ago and its fallen below the page fold,  you'll want to find a way to keep it in full view

The other reason why YOU so need a website is this. As a lecturer and on my travels I love bigging up student work, particularly those who have put in the hard grind and are perceived as deserving of that transactional break.

Last month I was with some execs at the world service, the week after that in Cairo and soon I'll be at Sheffield doc. Also like other professionals I tend to to have the odd unplanned conversation with editors who say.. David do you know anyone who does this?  And I instinctively go.... oh yeah here's this person's work.

Being online also means you've a a chance to attract attention once you've sorted your SEO out. My areas of interest include "multimedia journalism" and "videojournalism" and I have a number of conversations with people who want to share an idea or job.

If it's travel writing you're into, Podcasting, or Documentary, make the area your own by engaging with that ecosystem. Makeit your own and then conduct the 5 percent strategy.

[ 5 percent of speculative letters tend to work. It's a numbers game]

There are a number of talented souls, who have also consolidated their space by being online and I bet if you asked anyone of them, firstly there was no golden job, waiting for them; they made their own.

Secondly, it was hard work, but good work,  as they, slowly built up portfolios.

I can't think of a single person, perhaps apart from Nick Clegg, and yes a few more, who made it because the had a shoe-in.

If you want that job, engineer the process. What I talk about to students is geared to that process. Start now, and if you don't, you've only yourself to blame.

People that should inspire you, because as brilliant as they are, they've used the online space to carve out their careers.

  • Denisa Morariu  A former westmin Masters grad. Speaks five languages and has an insatiable appetite to learn. Small wonder that when one of Romania's top journalists saw her work, she was immediately invited for an interview and then given a job. If you look at her site, she's presenting from outside downing street. Great Product placement, or as I've told students get the action shot. If you want to look like a journalist, show us a shot of you at work. This is what she wrote about her time going through the mill at the University of Westminster Under 30.
  • Adam Westbrook - still under 30, blimey sounds like he's been around for ages, but you could spot the genius in him from his blog ( the only one during his time at City University) four years ago.
  • David Lee - In the first few months of his Masters programme, (2006)  his blogs started getting into the Press Gazette. Also under 30.
  • Alex Wood. Like the aforementioned another genius, who knows how to work the online space and has designed his own career path. He came to speak to students and the feedback from those that were there was.. "I can see now why you talk about him" Also under 30.
  • Murielle Gonzalez  And finally Murielle, one of our Master students. So long as she continues o get this work under the noses of professionals she'll continue to create good work. She made this as part of her final project and has made such projects for others. Also under 30.

There's no reason why you can't be like anyone of the aforementioned.