Media Moves

ACBJ’s Hunt shares advice on biz journalism job search during economic turmoil

August 4, 2020

Posted by Mariam Ahmed

The media news industry which has been teetering on the brink for years is now stuck between a pandemic and an economic crisis. With news of layoffs and furloughs coming in, all one can feel is hopelessness.

However, American City Business Journals director of editorial recruiting and development Beth Hunt says, “While I can’t say when or whether things will be fine, I can say that many news publishers — traditional and otherwise — are able to take advantage of an employers’ hiring market to snap up exceptional talent available as a result of economic conditions and uncertainties.”

She further adds a few things to think about:

Pick up new skills while you’re searching.
Learn to code, build digital graphics, shoot better photos, craft a better newsletter, take better video, sharpen your SEO skills, the list is endless. These days, few organizations are hiring a reporter, an editor, a photographer or a designer. Not one company I know of has that luxury anymore.

We need reporters who can shoot photos, build galleries, moderate panels and curate an email newsletter. Or a photographer who can shoot video, build maps, and write superb vignettes for photo features and infographics. Or an editor who can analyze data, knows how to build audience, is exceptional on every delivery platform and has their own social media following.

If the set of skills you bring don’t amount to a utility knife, use this time to fix that.

Be sure the journalism language you speak fits the journalism of today.
If you still distinguish between digital news and news, you don’t get it. If the words you use suggest print is real journalism and everything else is for lesser, you don’t get it.

You need to be able to demonstrate digital and social media chop — and a sincere belief in this evolution — no matter what your main expertise. For example, if you’ve unmasked and interacted with hard-to-find sources using social media, be ready to talk about it. Or if you’ve crowdsourced critical information for a story. Or you’ve had particular success building your digital audience and engaging with them.

Be prepared to share specifics on how you successfully use the tools available to build your craft. If you don’t have them, now’s the time to work on that.

Network like your career depends on it. Because it does.
Spend a few days tracking down everyone you know in this business and touching base.

LinkedIn is a terrific place to start. In some of my recruiting efforts, I’ll wade 60 or 70 pages deep into a LinkedIn search looking for something specific. Every so often, I run across someone I’ve met or worked with. I make it a point to send each of them a connection request and a short message. If I were looking for a job, I’d make that the lede.

Here’s the thing: Many jobs that are being filled right now aren’t being advertised. In some cases, it’s because no one can afford to take a chance on an unknown in a hire right now. And sometimes a companywide hiring freeze doesn’t actually apply companywide. No matter the reason, people inside an organization will know whether there are jobs available and/or being filled. Find them and you find out.

Be realistic about how long it will take to land a job and make a plan for in between.
There aren’t that many opportunities these days. Even companies on solid financial footing are moving slowly because there’s still so much uncertainty. Unless the stars align just right, you likely will be away from a newsroom for a while.

Keep your skills honed by looking for alternative opportunities to do what you do. Many news organizations and other kinds of companies are using freelancers these days because positions are open, hiring is frozen and their people are burning out.

Build yourself a website — or build on the one you already have. Start a speculative project that showcases your skills or tackles a topic where you can show your expertise. Whatever it is, do something. For better or worse, hiring managers can tell when you haven’t stayed engaged. The longer it goes on, the more obvious it is.

There’s no doubt it’s a crummy time to be looking for a job. Even so, candidates who are able to see the opportunity in this time, and take advantage of it to make themselves more attractive, will come out of it in better shape.

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