The last five weeks have been incredibly exciting. I gotta say, thank goodness that “living with my folks after college graduation” was indeed temporary. Especially since I had to simultaneously work full-time at Wendy’s and part-time at Subway.
Half-way through September, I started working at the local newspaper Morning Sun here in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. and writing for a real paper has made me realize that I chose the right path. This summer has been nothing but a season of horror as I spent nearly every night lying in bed and wondering whether I wasted the last four years of my life. During the day I searched for a writing job; not just at newspapers and magazines, but anything that was remotely related to the media or included working at an office of some sort. I was prepared to be some administrative assistant, anything so I didn’t have to say, “Hi, welcome to Wendy’s” anymore. Hell, I was ready to do PR. *shudder*
Anyway, no need to further bore you with my scars. Now that I’m finally where I belong, I want to share five tips with those of you who are still at school, preparing for an internship, or job hunting and don’t know what to expect.
* Fight through it: I used to be reserved and more or less scared of talking to strangers. Yes, big problem when you want to be a journalist. Can’t tell you why, but I wanted to be part of that world too much to let it stop me. The idea of reporting the news enticed me more than any other possible career (for a while, I considered becoming a prosecutor). All you can do is go out there and be scared, do the best you can and repeat the next day. Eventually it will be fun. On my first week, I thought all that crap would come back to me. Fortunately, it really didn’t because I was too focused on putting my best foot forward. So if you want it badly enough, simply do your best.
* Prioritize: It’s a big part of the job overall; we have to decide on a daily basis what needs to go out first. For example, you might have a story with a lot of impact coming out, but then it gets moved, because a lethal car accident happens so the paper has to print it first. That’s just example. You as a journalist, when you’re juggling several stories at once (note the WHEN, not if), you gotta plan ahead and try to guess how long it will take you to finish a story. Never procrastinate. Doesn’t work well in college; it won’t fly in the newsroom either.
* It’s business: Your instructors and professors tell you this on first day of class, but I will say it just for good measure: You can’t take anything personal. It’s cool to have opinions – most journalists have it inevitably – but you can’t share them with the public, much less nuance them in your writing. Don’t get too attached to a story; sometimes you gotta drop one or hand it to a colleague. There are times the topic or event you’re covering interests you, and there are times it puts you to sleep or confuses you.
If it’s the latter… bite the bullet and write the shit out of it. There’s little cherry-picking in this business.
* Have a sense of humor: Plenty of people will hate you, complain, make many angry phone calls, Facebook message stuff to the paper, sue you even, et cetera. That’s nothing you can control so you might as well brush the dirt off your shoulder and bring it up at a cocktail party later.
* Get into a great sleep-routine: It’s not a ridiculous advice! Hear me out. Missing out on one proper night’s sleep will fuck up your day, possibly the next two days. Lifehack.org said in an article that having bad sleep habits is like running an engine without an oil change. I speak from experience, plus I read way too many articles on sleep habits for my own good. I do that mostly because my brain won’t shut up or like one night two weeks ago, I couldn’t fall asleep until it was almost four in the morning. Now, one hour before I go to bed, I do something that relaxes me both physically and mentally. It can be drinking a cup of tea and reading a book. By the time I lie down, I can close my eyes and fall asleep within five, ten minutes.
Hope this helps, and happy reporting.