Job-Search Tips for Journalists

September 8, 2010

It’s no news that the journalism job market is tight these days.  So we asked for some job-hunting advice from Sharon Jautz, a senior HR executive whose resume includes Forbes, Playboy Enterprises and Fairchild. She recently found herself on the other side of the desk, as a job hunter and interviewee, before joining Asset International Inc., a New York-based financial publisher. Here are her job-search tips for journalists, gleaned from her experiences as a media HR pro and a job hunter.

Sharon Jautz, HR Expert Shares Job Search Tips

What are the best first steps for job seekers in journalism?

Jautz: Establish a LinkedIn account and make it as robust as you can, building up your profile with experience and references. Do this preferably when you are not looking for a job. If anyone asks you for a reason just state: “I’m building my online presence.”  Add recommendations as you can and and put your LinkedIn URL at the top of your resume with your contact info.

What are some resume tips?

Jautz: Always update your resume, even if you’ve just started a new job. This is a skill-set job market. . . Instead of listing a summary or objective at the top, I used descriptive phrases, for example: Employee relations, staffing & recruiting, crisis management.

Don’t use jargon. Keep it simple. So don’t use “CMS,” for example,  say “Content Management System” instead.

Know your audience. I found my resume was very media heavy, but my profession is in HR. I was not getting calls back from pharma and financial services firms until I tweaked it. For journalists, use “Online Content Provider” or “Budget management and planning,” for example, as these speak to the skills that you have.

Show your resume to as many as six to 10 people, keeping in mind that everyone is an editor. Feedback is important, but go with your gut. Take the feedback that makes sense to you, because this is a document that you have to defend, so use something that makes you feel strong, that is good and true.

Online job search can be daunting. There are so many sites out there. Any suggestions on how to increase the chances of getting your resume in front of the right eyeballs?

Jautz: Post your resume on Mediabistro, LinkedIn, job-aggregator sites like Indeed.com and JournalismJobs.com , as well as Monster.com. Since a lot of job-applicant-tracking systems are tracking key words, respond to ads using the matching terminology/corresponding language.

The first contact so important, how can journalism job applicants maximize their job queries?

Jautz: When I was at Forbes.com, I got letters saying “I always wanted to work in magazines!” Don’t piss us off. Apply the right way, which is wherever they want you to. Fill out the profile sheet, create a password, whatever. Keep it brief.

Go go to LinkedIn, and see who you might know who works at the place you’re applying to. Post that person a note, something like:

“Hey Pat, I’ve attached my resume, can you make sure whoever needs to, gets this?”  You’re in the system, you’ve applied the regular way and now you have someone vouching for you.

Then work Linkedin for more leads. For example: “Who do I know who knows someone at Harper Collins?” Ask that contact to send your resume to their connection. Odds are good that your resume will arrive on the right person’s desk with a compelling endorsement.

Follow up with them — in a professional, meaningful way, not like a stalker — until someone tells you “No.” It’s also OK to send an email, then make a phone call.

Negotiating is also nerve-wracking — what to say, what not to say. It can cause a lot of internal stress.

Jautz: Yes, the people doing the interviewing are driving the bus, not you. Don’t get tripped up on pay. Worry about getting the job first. But if an offer is imminent, and they ask you what are you looking for, say: “Right now I’m at X, however, for the right opportunity and challenge, I’d be willing to talk about it. . . We can make it work.” Remember you’re not negotiable. You’re dealing with a budget.  But you can be incented in all kinds of ways:  Stock options, expense account, extra weeks vacation, working from home, etc. If you change industries, you may need to be prepared to accept a lower offer.

Jautz offers these additional tips:

  • Provide timely references from recent past jobs.
  • Explain carefully why any difficult or short-term position did not work out. For example: “It became really clear to me that the business plan was not  interpreted the way it was explained to me.”
  • To get a sense of the work environment, as part of the interview process ask, “Can I meet a peer?”
  • Maintain your confidence and professionalism.
  • Be assertive but not aggressive.
  • Use this  sales technique: At the end of the interview, ask for the “order. ” . .  . Say: “I want this job” or “I’m so excited about this opportunity.” The answer might be: “You’re never gonna get this job,” but grant yourself permission to be yourself, and stop guessing  about what might happen. You don’t know what they think.
  • Don’t forget to cover: “Please tell me the process from here,” and “When do you expect to make a decision?”
  • Be relentless and shameless about using your networks and showcasing your abilities. Don’t be high maintenance, but as long it’s not illegal, immoral or uncomfortable, go for it.
  • Don’t burn bridges.

— Pattie Simone

Pattie Simone is a columnist for WomenEntrepreneur.com and NewJerseyNewsroom.com.


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