Navigating the career waters

It’s been a busy May Term for me, as I’ve been a part of Coop 119, Simpson’s job shadowing course. Originally, I signed up for the course hoping to meet professionals and make a few connections that might lead to a job or internship sometime in the future. The shadowing experience has been more however, giving me an inside glimpse of the workings of three media outlets, Iowa Public Televsion, WHO and the Des Moines Register. At the end of it all, I’m even more fired up for the professional world, but even less sure of my “plans.”

On my final day of shadowing, I spent time with several editors and reporters at the Des Moines Register, a paper I’ve always admired. At times, I’d say I even aspire to work at the paper. But, everybody knows the talk about newspaper jobs being hard to find and keep. When I set up my shadowing at the Register, I thought that maybe I could finally confront some of those rumors and talk to professionals about their perceptions. Should I have been surprised at what I found? Maybe not, but here’s basically what two different employees at the paper told me.

Writer 1: Newspapers have been going through a lot of layoffs, but the people who did the best work are still here and newspapers are still functioning.

Writer 2: Keep your options open, the newspaper industry isn’t really that healthy.

So, in the midst of planning a career, or at least a general direction, I find myself asking, who’s right and who’s wrong here? I think after a few days of contemplating though, that this is the wrong question. Really, as a journalism student, you have to appreciate and consider both pieces of advice. The right question to be asking is how can I use my skills as leverage to get a job in journalism. And the answer to that question, I realized after shadowing at WHO and the Register, is something we were told on the first day of Beginning News Writing and Reporting, that digital journalism is the future of journalism.

That last sentence isn’t really a revelation to anybody, but sometimes I don’t think students don’t quite grasp the concept of using the web as a news tool. In an informational interview I had to conduct for the class, I was told by Rod Peterson, WHO’s news director, that, indeed, he is looking for new hires who are fluent with social media. But he went a step further and told me, “it’s not just about people who can say, ‘oh yeah, I’ve sent a tweet,’ but it’s about people who realize the full scope of the tool.” After all, he reminded me, Twitter and Facebook are toppling governments.

And although I’m still not sure of my exact career plans (and we’re all still struggling to figure out how to get a job in the world of communications), I do take pride in the fact that my education thus far has emphasized many of the previously mentioned tools. I’ve now seen firsthand that I do possess the skill set necessary to go into journalism and that alone is assuring.

And if this post seems a little rambling or directionless to any readers, I apologize. Next time I won’t blog and listen to the Old 97’sat the same time.

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