Advice on finding work and selling your skills from the Beyond Journalism panel

by Jennifer D’Agostino

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Errol Salamon introduces Beyond Journalism panelists Angela Misri, Veronica Simmonds, Josephine Basch and Buffy Childerhose. Photo by Jennifer D’Agostino.

Last week freelance journalists came together at the Page One café to discuss life beyond journalism. The event, put on by CWA Canada and CMG Freelance, saw panelists discuss the importance, in the ever-changing media world, of using journalism skills in careers within and beyond media.

Journalists were able to hear advice from a panel that consisted of four talented journalists who have all created multi-dimensional careers as writers, authors, radio producers and television producers.

A little bit about the panelists:

Buffy Childerhose, a writer and TV producer who has made a career documenting true crime stories.

Angela Misri, a digital journalist who has become an author, including the Canadian detective series Portia Adams Adventures.

Veronica Simmonds, a writer, radio producer, and artist.

Josephine Basch, a former music journalist, who is now the editor for the United Nations Environment Programme.

Panel highlights

These days, getting that first job out of journalism school can be tough. There are a few things that can help students stand out.

Buffy: “Send out those resumes and samples. There’s nothing more frustrating then sending a bunch of emails and then not hearing from anyone. Set up an email tracker that notifies you when they open your email. Once you get the notification, wait a couple hours, then call them. It will be serendipitous.

Angela: “I still do cold calls, or even cold tweets. It is a way into that world.”

After landing your first job, it is important to keep that momentum up, and find or even create opportunities to branch outside of your training. The panelists offered some sound advice on creating work for yourself.

Veronica: “I am constantly hustling. I’m always creating. Whatever you create, put it up on your website, showcase it in some way. This is not the death of anything; there are so many opportunities out there. If you make things you’re passionate about, you can strap together six different careers in your lifetime.”

Buffy: “As journalists we’re curious, so develop those curiosities. To think that you stay in the same job for 40 years is not a reality anymore.”

Josephine: “You have to get out there. Build the damn door and create those opportunities for yourself. You many not find the exact opportunity you were looking for, but be open and be flexible.”

Landing the dream job would be ideal, but sometimes it is just not going to happen. Try to find a story in everything, even in the most mundane assignments.

Veronica: “I almost like writing about something that’s not interesting to me. I like the challenge. It is about curiosity. If you’re in a position where someone is giving you an assignment, I would suggest taking it.”

Buffy: “Learn how to ask questions to get to the interesting story. You would be surprised what could come of it.”

Josephine: “Have fun with it. Try using a different voice than you usually write with. It’s always good to find a voice that is uniquely yours, but it is fun to do different things.”

Balancing a job to pay the bills and satisfy your passion can be difficult for anyone. Learn how to prioritize your time, to leave room for your passions.

Angela: “Remain focused. I set a standard, aim and hit it and then move on. It gives me more time to create. You have to have the confidence to make decisions about your career. You have to be a hustler. If you don’t, you’re just waiting.”

Buffy: “Prioritize your time. If you have a part-time job to pay the bills, then allocate days for yourself to create.”

Veronica: “It helps to know when you’re productive. If you’re more productive at night, then maybe get a part-time job in the morning, or the other way around. You can negotiate spending more time creating your thing.”

Diving into something that you have little or no experience in can be daunting, but the panel of experts offered tips on how to bolster your efforts.

Veronica: “Have the confidence of a mediocre white man. Just pretend. Fake it until you become it. I was handing out business cards that said Radio Producer, and I was far from it, but it didn’t stop me.”

Angela: “Just put yourself out there. Try new things, there is no excuse not to create. Just do it.”

Buffy: “I made opportunities. If you want an opportunity to do podcasts, then create a voice reel. Do it because you have something to say. When you’re looking at different opportunities, it is important for freelancers to think – ‘what am I getting out of this? And what is this taking out of me?’”

This event was organized by CWA Canada and CMG Freelance. Click through to find out about signing up for a free CWA Canada Associate membership and about the cost and benefits of membership in CMG Freelance.

Jennifer D’Agostino is a freelance writer and photographer based in Toronto. She writes about her two passions – food and music. When she’s not writing you can probably find her dining at some of the top restaurants in Toronto.

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Attendees mingle at the Beyond Journalism panel. Photo by Jennifer D’Agostino.


Posted on June 10, 2016 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , ,

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