On Journalism and Careers

IMG_4677

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.

Advertisements

Top Five Irish Adventures

Traveling to Ireland soon? Are you struggling to pin down the sites you want to see? Consider these places for your trip. You can visit them all in a week!

1. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Known as the “glen of two lakes”, Glendalough boasts a scenic landscape that is hard for anyone to resist. The Upper Lake is a nice place to take pictures and skip rocks, and the walk to the 6th century monastery is both peaceful and mysterious. The graveyard is interesting, as several of the tombstones are indecipherable due to their age and St. Kevin’s Cross and the Round Tower are part of Irish folklore. Glendalough is also kid friendly, as there are grassy areas with natural features to scramble around on. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a hike up to the waterfall. I highly recommend the Wild Wicklow Tour–my guide was friendly, flexible and knowledgeable. You’ll see much more than Glendalough itself.

The monastery at Glendalough is utterly charming.
The monastery at Glendalough is utterly charming.

2. O’Neills, Co. Dublin
One of the most handsome, traditional pubs in Dublin, O’Neills is a gem that not every tourist knows about. It’s not far from St. Stephens Green and Trinity College. O’Neills is a great place to meet up with friends or to soak up the ambiance–they do traditional music every night and the food is pretty impressive. The Carvery is excellent (come hungry!) and the main menu offers something for everyone. While you should also experience Temple Bar, if you like to get away from hordes of people and always wanted to hear traditional music in a pub, this might be the place for you. I took my study abroad friends here and since then we’ve all returned numerous times.

My favorite place to unwind in Dublin.
My favorite place to unwind in Dublin.

3. Galway City, Co. Galway
You haven’t seen Ireland if you haven’t been to Galway in the West! They hold the biggest arts festival in the country and 20% of its population are college students. The main city is walkable–you can see most of it in two hours. Don’t rush, though, as you’ll want to enjoy a meal here and listen to street music. They have a farmer’s market, several fun shops and some beautiful attractions. The Spanish Arch area out by Galway Bay is a must-see, as well as Galway Museum right behind it and the Galway Cathedral close by.

Galway has an artsy feel: do not miss out!
Galway has an artsy feel: do not miss out!

4. Connemara, Co. Galway
Words can’t really express this place. The views are incredible. Driving around the peat bogs and seeing the idyllic-looking horses in the tall grass is essential to the Irish experience. My family drove quite close to Connemara National Park, which I hear is a must-see as well.

Take the Sky Road in Connemara for an awe-inspiring experience.
Take the Sky Road in Connemara for an awe-inspiring experience.

5. The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
Though the Cliffs are probably the most popular tourist destination in Ireland, they are stunning. You can take a hike along the cliffs, called the Burren Way–for hours if you like. I had two hours to explore the Cliffs, and it was plenty of time for me. I would’ve liked to walk along the Burren Way for a considerable amount of time, but since I was on a tour I made a point to take photographs I’d love and study the various angles of the Cliffs. A word of caution: people do fall off the Cliffs, so stay AT LEAST three feet away from the edge. I’d double that amount in the event of strong winds and rain, because you have a higher chance of losing your balance and slipping. Just use your common sense and don’t risk your life for a picture! I recommend the Wild Rover tour for those of you who will not drive in Ireland: you’ll get two hours at the Cliffs, some time to stretch your legs and enjoy The Burren and two hours in Galway. The guides are fantastic, and the value is excellent for the price. I took the Wild Rover tour to Belfast, the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which I also recommend because unlike the Cliffs, there are no stone barriers at all–you get to walk around it all.

Pick a clear, sunny day to visit the Cliffs of Moher for the best views.
Pick a clear, sunny day to visit the Cliffs of Moher for the best views.

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts: did I miss something people have to go see? What was your experience like in Ireland?

Why Frozen Food is Such a Waste

I’m a college student, which means two things when I think about food: 1) I want it cheap and 2) I want it convenient. (Even better is free food). Last year I bought frozen food at the grocery store, like many college students do. Along with the fruits and veggies I picked up, I’d spend a ridiculous amount of time searching for frozen food that I thought would be edible and quite delicious. Going into it I knew there were plenty of preservatives and ingredient lists that barely fit on the box. But I kept buying it and making a sad face when the food disappeared from my freezer. Then, at the end of the school year I realized I had to start cooking on my own, as my roommate would not be around to cook dinners for me anymore. * It wasn’t like I had never cooked before–I could follow recipes and I usually didn’t burn food. My parents had me make dinner at home many times. I felt fairly confident in my abilities. All I needed was a cookbook.

Back in my pathetic frozen food days, I was a snob for sure. But I paid for my snobbery, and here’s why.

Pros:

Home cooked food is generally healthier for you than frozen food.

This one is just common sense. There is usually a lot of salt packed into the food and enough preservatives to kill a small animal. When you cook at home, you control the ingredients that go into a recipe–you can modify a recipe to fit your lifestyle and the nutritional value is higher.

It brings out your creativity.

Frozen food is lame because all you have to do is tear open the box and heat up your food in the microwave. You’re not doing anything cognitive. However, cooking is awesome because you can substitute ingredients and learn how to make complicated meals. You can garnish your food and plate with sauces, herbs and fruit for special occasions or otherwise. If you want to learn to make a certain style of food, you can. Yesterday I noticed I had a bunch of chicken broth to use up, so I glanced at the recipe on the back of the container and saw that I had most of the ingredients already. To make new yummy food, think about what’s in your refrigerator now.

You end up saving money.

I used to think paying $5-8 for two meals in the frozen food section was a real deal. But it’s really only two meals. When you cook a meal that serves four people and you’re feeding only yourself, you might spend $15-20 depending on the recipe. The payoff comes when you store the leftovers and realize you have enough for six meals and not four.

You save time.

Think about the time you spend selecting frozen food items. Then think about the time you could spend checking ingredients off your list as you walk through the grocery store. if you know what you need already, chances are you can find it quickly. Also, when you make a bunch of meals in advance at home, that’s time you don’t have to spend shopping or cooking.

You can store your homemade food in the freezer, and it will last for months.

This is a great advantage! As long as you place your food in freezer-safe containers or Ziploc bags and store it properly, you can enjoy a meal you made several weeks later.

You can impress people with your skills.

Invite people over when you hone a recipe. Eating is a very social activity, and not many people will turn you down if the food is hot and mouth-watering. They will probably ask you how to make it or what your secret is.

Home cooked food tastes so much better!

Of course it does. After the first time you try a frozen entrée, it loses its magic. The food you make yourself, though, doesn’t get old as easily.

Cons:

You may get tired of lunch.

This is true. I need to get more creative at lunchtime, because I either eat leftovers from dinner or make a sandwich. It’s all for the sake of saving money. The goal is not to starve yourself, so try light entrées.

You may have to make two trips to the store in a week.

The grocery store depresses me because it is expensive. But hey, you might get some good exercise in.

You will learn something new whether you like it or not.

Patience is one thing I have learned from cooking on my own. The dish might not taste fantastic the first time you make it, and the time you need to cook something will vary. Also, learning to prep food in a quick and efficient way is beneficial.

Ultimately, frozen food can’t win over home cooked goodness. You will be healthier and a lot less dissatisfied with your food if you take the time to cook. Two cookbooks I recommend for college students (and anyone!) are How To Cook Everything-The Basics by Mark Bittman and the Taste of Home Cookbook 3rd Edition.

*This is VERY rare for a roommate to do. I fully appreciated every meal Vanessa cooked for my roommates and me. The thing is, she liked to cook for us!

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!