How many times have you read advice for landing the right job? You can search websites, follow blogs, print articles - heck you can even hire people who call themselves “gurus.”
But how often do you look for advice on choosing the right job, especially when it’s your first?
Do you think you have to take the first job you interview for? Maybe, but while you want to get your foot in the door, you need to make sure it doesn’t get pinched in the process by taking a job in a poor environment.
So first things first.
Be a journalist: Ask questions.
You’re interviewing to be a journalist, so be one during your interview process. Vet the newsroom just as they are vetting you to join their team. Find a company that embraces your value system and sets you up for success. Every question you ask the News Director should also be asked of the staff. If the ND tells you they have a culture built on open door policies, constructive criticism, positive reinforcement, and promotion from within, be sure to see if that sentiment is echoed by the staff. If management tells you their philosophy for how a difficult situation is handled (for example—an MMJ in a risky, night time situation), ask the MMJs and assignment desk how those are handled. Probe management and staff alike. You’re looking for consistent answers that dovetail with the environment you’re looking to enter and are in alignment with your value system.
Work smartly, work safely
Ensure that your safety is in your hands. Yes, the station has to be proactive with regard to field safety, including having policies and procedures in place to protect you and your coworkers, but the final decision in any particular circumstance must be yours. Ask the management team what is expected when you find yourself in a dangerous situation, and who can make that decision? Again, test the answer with photogs, MMJs, and reporters to be sure you’re comfortable with the station’s position. I always tell my crews that they have to make the call and then tell me what it is. Live truck operators & photographers make the call as to lightning and safety of ENG trucks and you should make the call as to your safety.
Feedback, silence or worse?
Be sure to inquire about management’s feedback philosophy. Seek a newsroom where critiques, constructive feedback and positive reinforcement are the norm, not criticism and degradation. You want to work in a newsroom that will push you, encourage you and teach you. Even if you’ve been in this business for a decade or more, there is always room to learn. Make sure you find a place that encourages collaboration, sharing, and valuable feedback.
Live where you work
Work in the newsroom, live in the community. When you find the right fit, you’re going to make friends in the newsroom. After all, if you’ve vetted the culture, you’re going to be working long hours alongside like-minded individuals. However, remember to live in the community and not in your newsroom bubble. Branch out and enlarge your social circle beyond your coworkers. By living in the community whose stories you tell, you’ll gain keen insights, valuable ideas and sources and learn what is really important to the people you serve. When you’re a part of your new community, your stories will be more authentic and will connect directly with your target audience—your neighbors.
Get to work & work hard
After you find your best fit (note I didn’t say “perfect”) newsroom, be prepared to work hard. Friendly and respective and supportive and constructive are not synonyms for cream puff. Many of the best newsrooms work the hardest and have the highest expectations and standards, but also provide the tools to achieve and succeed. Find a home that gives you the chance to grow, teaches you what you need to know and won’t let you slack off. A newsroom like this will make you a better journalist and person.