On Journalism and Careers

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As a student journalist, I have consistently been doing internships in my field since I started college. Looking back, I’d say that the first internship I had triggered my interest in journalism. I was a rookie reporter at the local paper, that’s for sure, but I learned that I liked jotting down notes from interviews and then turning that information into art for the summer. I had the chance to shadow the other reporters and see how they operated. At the same time, my work had a limited audience, given that I lived in a small town most people wouldn’t know about.

My experiences at my first internship helped me do well in my beginning journalism classes at UC Irvine. I felt like I had definitely picked the right major and that I was likely going to be a journalist after college. I continued to do two more journalism internships to get a feel for the career that I felt I’d do well in. Each had a different work environment and set of skills.

Then, sometime during my junior year in college I started Googling careers related to journalism and one of the biggest (and most promising) was a career in public relations. The pay for a public relations specialist was significantly higher than for a journalist (about $15,000 more of a median salary) and it seemed to offer more stability. I thought about it for a while. I’d get to write, edit, help clients and companies make the most of their businesses, work with the press, give speeches…it sounded like a dream.

I kept reading to see what the requirements were. A Bachelor’s in either journalism, communications, or English…check. Internships in journalism…check. Friendly and outgoing personality…check! I remember thinking, “People actually get paid to do what I would love to do every single day. Count me in.”

Since discovering that PR was a viable option for me, I have also gotten to learn skills outside of my field. I applied for a summer job which I actually took in the fall as a food service worker at the campus dining commons, and have started working at the campus library as a Special Collections and Archives Assistant. It’s nice to make a little money, and I think it’s also an excellent strategy for this generation of students–the more skills you have, the more employable you’ll be in the future.

Recently I landed a journalism internship at the UC Irvine ANTrepreneur Center. I think it’ll be a great opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, students, UCI faculty and local businesses. I will be doing plenty of interviewing and writing, and my work should hopefully reach a wider audience.

Choosing to work on campus was also part of my strategy. You can make it yours, too. Just think: if you live on campus or do not have to drive, it’s a win, and you have the opportunity to see your school a little differently. If you’ve admired the place you’d like to work for a while, you can become a part of what makes it great, and then you can become a representative and even raise the standard.

While everything seems to be falling into place, I’m scared. In one year I will no longer be in school. I’ll be on my own. At the moment I want to go to the Career Center to talk about public relations and what I might need to do differently next year. Interning at a p.r. firm seems promising, but I need to look into it more.

For those of you who haven’t started an internship or gotten a job offer during school, I encourage you to sit down and think seriously about your professional and personal goals. Consider your interests, as well. Write them down and put them in a place you can refer to often. Since I’m not an expert in career counseling I will not go any further except to say read a lot. In fact, read something of educational value every day, whether it is a short story, play, newspaper, magazine, etc. Just read, and I guarantee you’ll come upon one of your interests.

Do you have similar career strategies to mine? What advice would you give students or people seeking a career they feel is a smart move for them? Share your thoughts.

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11 thoughts on “On Journalism and Careers”

  1. Hi Jennifer, I really enjoyed reading your post! I’m currently only 16 and a rising senior in high school, but I’ve had my heart/sights set on journalism for a while now, and I’m so excited (but also a little terrified) to seriously pursue my dreams. (I’ll be applying to colleges all-too-soon, and I’ve been using journalism programs as one of my determining factors). It was really encouraging to read about the experiences of someone who is currently going through the process and finding so much sanctification and success in doing so! I am so happy for you and look forward to reading more about your adventures! I wish you all the best. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi November Rose,

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging comments!

      So glad you are considering journalism! Are there any specific careers you are leaning towards? I enjoyed writing articles for my high school newspaper, and once I read about the Literary Journalism Program at University of California, Irvine, I decided I’d give it a try.

      I really like my major because I have gotten to do a number of things: reporting on community events, crime, faculty interviews, networking, narrative nonfiction, writing and editing. At the moment I’m learning more about social media and entrepreneurship.

      What schools are you considering? If you live in California, I cannot recommend my school enough! If you’d like to learn more we can talk. πŸ˜€

      –Jennifer

      1. You’re so welcome! Thank you for the reply!

        I’d definitely be open to trying out any type of journalism (they all seem so exciting), but I’ve always loved writing, so I think I’d like to stick with that in some way. I know print journalism is on the decline, but I still really adore it, though I definitely see the value of an online, 24-hour news cycle. I think I’d be happy doing anything that’s stimulating and helps people become more informed!

        Ooh I’m on my high school newspaper too, it’s my favorite part of the day! And Literary Journalism sounds amazing, I’d love to hear more about it! I feel like there’s so much for me to discover.

        Just reading about your experiences makes me so excited to go to college! I keep thinking “yes, yes this is what I want to do.”

        I’m currently considering Northwestern (because Chicago seems like a great place to go to school and I’d also like to double major in something else), UMD because Iive in in Maryland & their program sounds great, Mizzou, NYU, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, USC, UNC Chapel Hill, American University, Georgetown (also close to home and I took a creative writing course there and loved it). I’m still working on my list though! I’m definitely going to look into Irvine now πŸ™‚ Do you have any advice or recommendations?

        I would love to talk more! Thank you again, it’s been so great (and helpful) talking to you! Have a wonderful day! πŸ™‚

  2. Great post Jennifer, thanks for keeping us in the loop. I think you’ve got a great plan and it’s pretty clear you are doing what you are passionate about. I wish I had half of your insight on these issues when I was a junior in college.
    As far as career advice goes I always have my clients create a Venn diagram of three things: their passions, their talents, and their planned income model. That tiny spot where they all three meet, that’s the target. Sounds like you’ve got this, good luck!

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