That first full-time job in a newsroom can be an intimidating experience. There’s so much to learn, and most of the veterans are way too busy doing or protecting their own jobs to help a newbie out. But it’s critically important to make a good impression; the reputation you earn early on will follow you for years.
Jennifer Nicole Sullivan, who remembers her first job at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, shared some terrific tips for new journalists in a recent edition of Quill, the SPJ magazine. (If you’re an SPJ member, you can read them all here.) Among the best:
Dress professionally. Always a good idea, but especially when you’re just starting out. It never ceases to amaze me that some young journalists show up for work looking like they’re headed to a cocktail party or the beach. Look at what your colleagues are wearing for guidance. Think “business casual,” at a minimum, Sullivan advises. “If you look younger than you are, dressing like a professional adds credibility,” she says. If you’re not sure what business casual looks like, you are apparently not alone. Here’s a guide from Business Insider.
Meet deadlines. That seems obvious, right? Perhaps just as important, come in on time and be ready to work. The early reporter gets the story, and it could be the one that makes your career.
Maintain excellent manners. Yes, many newsrooms are cesspools of bad language and rudeness. Don’t join in. And stay off your smartphone during meetings, unless you’re searching for the address of your next interview.
Stay organized. A messy desk is not the sign of an efficient reporter, Sullivan says. Keep things where you can find them, and “don’t be the Pig-Pen of the newsroom.”
Other tips include showing enthusiasm for every assignment, submitting clean work, and accepting criticism gracefully. I’d say that’s excellent advice, no matter how long you’ve been on the job.
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