The steps to landing a job

by Jenny Ung

When I began thinking about hunting for a job, I was nervous but determined. That was more than nine months ago, at the start of my final semester of college.

Because I was the first to go to college in my family, I wasn’t sure when to start applying and what the best websites were for finding a journalism-related job. I applied for a few jobs in May, but soon realized it was too early. I consulted many friends, professors and mentors, but the most helpful person in my job-hunting process was Chips Quinn Scholars career coach Colleen Fitzpatrick.

Colleen and I swapped more than 50 emails over three months. She edited cover letters and resumes, sent over job openings, connected me with contacts and cheered me on. We set up times for phone calls and bounced ideas off one another, talking about fellowships in Washington, D.C., and Hong Kong, internships, digital producer positions and, finally, the job I accepted.

I also aggressively pursued the job search on my own. I sent five to 10 applications a week to prospective employers. By July, I had gotten a handful of interviews with newsrooms across the country – at first, I set my sights on Washington, D.C., and New York, then Chicago, but realized I was limiting myself.

I applied for several jobs through Gannett Co., Inc. – I figured that with my internships at The Arizona Republic, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star, I would be a good candidate. In Palm Springs, Calif., the Desert Sun’s community watchdog reporter position caught my eye, so I sent an application to that newsroom.

A few days later, my editor at The Indianapolis Star asked, “Do you like the desert?”

I’d applied to so many jobs by then that I had no idea what he was talking about. Perhaps he was referring to the fact that I’m from Arizona?

He chuckled, then told me the editor at the Desert Sun had called him as my reference.

The first interview with the paper did not go well – I had a cold and coughed my way through the questions. The editor suggested we reschedule for the next day.

Meanwhile, I talked to current and previous reporters to learn about the work environment. I also watched the Desert Sun’s recent award-winning documentary that emails from Gannett had highlighted. I’d done my research, and the second interview went well. Realizing I wouldn’t hear back for a few weeks, I continued with the job search.

In August, I rewrote my cover letters. My original letter, which focused on how I first became interested in journalism while abroad in Japan, wasn’t working well, so I wrote four others, each one focusing on a different beat and topic. I wrote about my general- assignment experience at The Indianapolis Star in one letter and my politics experience in Washington, D.C. in another. The letters led to more interviews and a few visits to newsrooms in Arizona and New York.

When September rolled around, I had nearly forgotten about my application at the Desert Sun. As I walked through a mall after Labor Day, the paper’s editor called, offering me the position of education reporter, which we had also discussed in the interview. I was excited, but asked for a few days to decide. By then, I had two other offers and an offer to visit a newsroom.

After speaking to the other editors and making yet another pro-and-con list, I decided to accept the Desert Sun’s offer, and negotiate the salary. I looked up salary expectations on two websites, Glassdoor and SalaryExpert, which noted that education reporters, on average, earn about $44,800 a year. With that number in mind and with my overall experience, I called the editor accepted the position and started the job in October.

Jenny Ung’s job-hunting tips

• Customize cover letters for each newsroom or application.
• Don’t become wedded to a job until you get an interview or offer.
• If you don’t get the job, ask the hiring editor how you can improve to better your chances for the next opening.
• Make a list of pros and cons for any job you’re considering.


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