Spring is the time for baseball, flower and garden festivals and journalism conferences.
Just a few years ago, I began speaking at a session here or there, and now, I feel like Tony Robbins at times - running from conference room to conventional hall trying to answer as many questions in between.
So after stops in some of my favorite states on the East Coast, I would like to share a few tips for those journalists who can't yet grab a beer with their editor.
I got my start in journalism when I was at the ripe age of 17, and a lot of these tips come from first days in journalism.
In no particular order:
Don't network, connect.
It's easy to print out 1,000 business cards and tweet every professional in your field. But does 'networking' really help you land that job? No. We are in the business of communications., and communicating with a colleague or mentor or editor is much more than a shotgun approach. Find a way to connect with an editor, source, colleague or reader. This can be in person or through a personal message. Then stay in touch through the more traditional channels of social networking.
Create a home base on the web
While belonging to the latest social network is always a good idea, and Facebook and Twitter are the current juggernauts for broadcasting content, you should always have a landing strip for your content. I would recommend a well-designed Wordpress or Squarespace. Then, post, tweet, link, share your content from your website. This will drive traffic to one location instead of confusing potential editors or colleagues to which place to go to find all of your work.
Just get started already. (What have you done for me lately)
Seriously. Stop reading this, and get off your butt. Or, hopefully, you're reading this on a mobile device while working. Nothing replaces hard work. Often, students think that they cannot be respected as journalists without a degree. Wrong. As long as you continually produce good journalism, age or experience will be less and less of a limiting factor in your career.
Again, nothing replaces hard work. Journalism is a field that is not only highly competitive between colleagues, but your success is dependent upon the connections you make. The only way to make those connections is by practicing journalism. Thus, it's a pretty simple equation; the more you work, the better you get and the more people you meet. This will result in better assignments for bigger news stories. Period.
Find a mentor
Your advisors are great, your professors are experienced and your mother loves you (still fact check that), but you need a professional - someone you can call when you need to figure out a day rate or when you need advice on contracts. Mentors can help you find that first big job and can know you well enough to tell when your work is slipping.