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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Ashton Kutcher Was Right

“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful, and being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you.”
–Ashton Kutcher

On August 11, 2013 Ashton Kutcher delivered a powerful speech at the Teen Choice Awards, though I’m not positive that every screaming teenage girl in the audience heard him. I’ve admired Ashton for a while now, and I was even more impressed with him after I watched his speech online. It’s been a month since he gave the speech, and I can’t seem to get the above quote out of my head. This morning I re-watched his speech and noted how composed and serious he was when he said the words. He sounded sincere and paused for the applause after the first sentence, and by the end of it he punctuated the words in a near yell. His simple quote is an affirmation of the things I stand for.

Being really smart brings to mind my wish that everyone desired education. Our growing world has ample opportunities for us to learn: public, private and online colleges and universities, the Internet, work, print and online books and even apps. We have access to these devices and institutions at flexible costs for many budgets–there is no excuse not to use them.

Being thoughtful is easy. Show people you care by spending time with them, keeping your commitments and expressing your gratitude often.

Being generous doesn’t have to mean becoming a philanthropist and showering your friends with expensive gifts. Give what you can. If you have a little time to help a friend on a Saturday night, go do it. Even better, don’t expect a pat on the back when you do the favor. Generous people are more likely to have the acts reciprocated than those who aren’t. Also, studies show that they are the happiest people and tend to be less lonely.

What’s the crap, then? The crap is being vain and believing you always come first. The crap is caring about your appearance more than caring about what you think and why you think it. The crap is saying that you have learned everything there is to know–this is impossible, as each day is a new day and with that brings fresh learning. How do we avoid the crap? My advice is stick to the three things Ashton talked about. You’ll be fine.

It is my hope that the kids who nominated him learned something that night. Thanks for reading–I’ve included the video of Ashton’s speech here.

The Speech That Will Win Them Over

You remember that speaker that droned on for an hour who spoke in a monotone and used too many complex words. Chances are, you lost interest in all of about two minutes. After the meeting, you complained to all your friends and they sympathized with you.

You also remember that speaker that grabbed your attention with a thought-provoking question, statement or humor. You sat up in your chair a little straighter and couldn’t look away. Later, you raved about the speech and found yourself wondering how they got you so interested in the first place.

This post is all about making your speech the best it can be. If you were just asked to give a speech, take a deep breath and keep reading. If you volunteered to give a speech and are a little unsure about the basics, don’t go away.

I’ve been in Toastmasters for about 2.5 years now and have participated in prepared, evaluative and impromptu speaking in the Toastmasters Program. Toastmasters is a program that is designed to help you improve your public speaking and leadership skills. It’s highly effective for many people because it’s all about learning to communicate in a safe environment, and people in the club want you to well. (It focuses mostly on the delivery of a speech, as opposed to content). I’m also the president of SPECS (Students Practicing Excellent Communication Skills) club at UCI, which is an extension of Toastmasters and teaches people the fundamentals of speaking in just a few short weeks. Toastmasters has taught me to prepare my roles in advance, listen to others and learn how to deliver an effective speech.

Speech Tips (these are by no means definitive, but they come from my observations as a Toastmaster):

1. Tell stories. As humans, we’re naturally drawn to how and why things happen, told in narrative. Stories can inspire, entertain and say things that average discourse cannot. Think about your topic and the target audience when preparing stories, whether they be true or entirely made up.

2. Use humor. Appropriate humor can liven up a conference room (or any room!) and will help gain rapport with people you don’t know. Your audience will likely be more receptive to you, especially if you can use self-deprecating humor because it shows that you can laugh at yourself. Memorize the jokes or other lines so that you can say them smoothly in your speech, making sure to pause while they laugh before moving on.

3. Try to avoid “filler” words. And, like, um and ah are all distracting to the message that you’re trying to share. Instead, replace the filler words with pauses. Collect your thoughts and resume talking.

4. State your purpose. Let the audience know why you are speaking, and try to do this in the first few sentences or they will lose interest. Be clear, and annunciate your words.

5. Don’t memorize or read your speech. The audience will be able to tell if you’re uncomfortable and will notice this if you forget a certain phrase. If you don’t know the speech entirely and have it written down, read from it and avoid the unnecessary pain.

6. Learn how to improvise. I think this is the best speech tip, especially because nothing happens exactly the way you think it will go. Be flexible when you talk, and don’t panic when you don’t know what to say. Focus on your topic, talk yourself to your next point and move on. You improvise everyday when you talk with friends about your interests and life, so it can’t be much different in a speech.

7. Practice! So much, in fact, that your dog, cat, grandma and roommates have gotten sick of it. Then practice it again. Try practicing in front of the mirror, and time yourself with a stopwatch. I recommend knowing what you want to talk about generally and saying it out loud to yourself until you feel comfortable with it. Get a notecard and write your main points (or transition words which get you talking) on it in large print. Stick to about 3-4 phrases on a card or write down a statistic or two that you have trouble remembering.

Resources that are great for the speech novice or as a refresher for experienced speakers:

Speech Tips from Toastmasters International

Speech Tips from Do Something

Speech Tips from Forbes

10 Fail Proof Tips for Delivering a Powerful Speech

Any questions? Write a comment!