You’re in. You started graduate school at Newhouse, which in and of itself is a feat. Now what? Well, doing well in classes is a start, but it isn’t the end. I’ve learned quickly that at Newhouse, everyone goes to class— it’s those who do more that end up having stellar opportunities and careers.
When you graduate (this goes for master’s and undergraduate students), you’ll have a degree that many others will have. How do you stand out? You need to work on extracurriculars. For journalism students, like me, it’s all about building your portfolio and getting clips. And not just any clips— clips you would show a famous person if they approached you.
If you ran into Chris Cuomo, and he said, “Show me some clips,” would you send him that random 400-word event coverage you did? Nothing against those, because they’re useful and great practice, but you want to have complex, in-depth clips to show off. I’ve focused on doing longer pieces with The Newshouse that I would show Chris— and editors and recruiters. Find that story you’re passionate about, that you wouldn’t mind spending hours and hours on. You could even do initial reporting and get a solid pitch pulled together for an off-campus publication (I just tried my hand at pitching and got published in Ms. Magazine— you can do this too, I promise).
Then, it’s all about how you present those clips. A professional Twitter account or a website are a must (pro tip: have both). I’m halfway through my master’s and I still don’t have a website, which prompted a recruiter to ask me why. So, of course, I’ve started building one now because that was embarrassing. Don’t be like me. Get that website up and running sooner rather than later. There are courses at Newhouse you can take and a free website building workshop, as well. Use the resources you have available here.
When looking for how to become a better candidate for jobs, analyze your resume. What are you missing? You’ve taken the classes, you’ve got the grades, you’ve got good clips. How about leadership positions? Have you tried your hand at a different medium? Getting involved at campus publications is hard, especially as a graduate student, but it will make you a more valuable candidate in the long run. Not everyone is good in front or behind the camera. Not everyone can script and produce podcasts. Not everyone can do graphic design. Expand your knowledge and use it to entice recruiters. Become a multifaceted reporter that publications will be desperate to hire.
And the real gold mine: internships. If you can lock down an internship in the big, scary real world, you’ve got a head start in the post-graduation job hunt. Recruiters and editors want journalists with real experience, outside of reporting campus news. Apply to as many as you can—even if you think you won’t get it. The more you apply, the higher your chances of landing something. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve applied to a position that I was sure was out of reach. I’ve been disappointed many times, with so many rejections I questioned if landing something was even possible. But the rare success does come your way and when it does, I can promise it’s exhilarating and worth it.
In summary, don’t just go to class.