By JAWS 2013 fellow Stephanie Hughes
“You have to ask yourself: What have I done? And how can I put those things together in a new way to do a job I never thought I’d do?”
That’s advice Fara Warner gives to those looking for a job. Warner oversees editorial strategy for AOL brands including DailyFinance, Autoblog, TechCrunch, and Engadget. And it’s advice she’s taken herself, as have other women on the JAWS 2013 panel “Job Search Strategies.”
One of them, Shirley Leung of the Boston Globe, worked as an editor, reporter and columnist before launching the Hive, a Globe blog about technology and innovation in Massachusetts. “The Globe is progressive, but it’s hard to do something new. . . I’m good at creating new products—helping a new culture of innovation within a traditional organization.”
Panelist Lori Robinson said her first big shift as a journalist happened because of trauma. She became a victim (and survivor) of rape, and realized there was a gap in culturally specific resources for dealing sexual assault. So, she wrote a book to help fill the gap. It’s called I Will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing from Sexual Assault and Abuse, and it was Robinson’s first.
“My message is to try new things, even if you haven’t had formal training in that field,” said Robinson. “You’re a smart person, you have talent, you can find mentors. Don’t be afraid.”
Another panelist, Sarah Chazan, worked for a teen magazine, and later went to AOL Music. She’s now the managing editor of AOL’s Business, Technology and Automotive Group. She talked about the most frequent mistake she sees job applicants make.
“Young people come in and say ‘I think this job would be great for me because…’ No. I want to know what you can do for me. Come with a physical folio full of ideas—not just editorial, but also things you can do with social media, how you could grow the audience, and criticism.”
When interviewing, Robinson suggests asking the question: “Is there anything about my candidacy for this job that concerns you?” That way if they have specific concerns, you can address them right then and there, in a follow up, or in a thank you note.
When sending clips, Leung suggests including a brief “story behind the story,” with details about how you came across the story, if it won any awards, changed laws—and so forth. “Imagine a hiring manager, going through hundreds of resume and clips. They’re fine, they read fine, but nothing jumps out.” This helps.
With resumes, Chazan says it’s important to create your own narrative. “I think people get in the trap of “my resume is done.” You need to tailor your resume for the job you’re applying for.”
Meanwhile, audience member Stacy-Marie Ishmael of the Financial Times said with resumes, she looks for words like built, made, led and produced. “I look for verbs. Things that you have done actively that you can show me. Also, you need to be Google-able. The expectation is that you will bring an audience with you, no matter how young you are. If you can’t, it’s just not worth the time.”
Leung adds that she never looks at applications that come from HR. “I just look at the people who are applying to me directly. If you know who I am, and you have found me, that shows initiative.”
And in general, it was considered important to have a good, up-to-date website that can show who you are. (And to own your website name, in the different domain endings.)
Even if you’re not looking for a job right now, all said that it’s good to prepare for the time when you will be. Ask yourself: what am I doing now, and how can I pivot toward that future dream job?
Check out Jodi Schneider’s job hunting advice.
For cover letter help, check out the BBC Media Action site. They’re very specific about what they’re looking for in a cover letter.