8 job search tips from your Media Mommy

betty ming liu Inspiration, Writing how-to's 21 Comments

You can do it! You can find a good gig — if you work smart at job hunting. I especially feel a need to post some tips now because my former journalism students are bombarding me with desperate calls and emails.

The other afternoon, one of them met me for lunch. As we talked, she looked at me with scared puppy eyes and said, “We all think of you as our mommy.”

So I’m here now to launch Media Mommy. Like a real mommy, I might be a little too blunt and pushy. But honey, it’s only because I love you; it’s for your own good.   ^_^

The following suggestions are based on watching the successful strategies of former students, former colleagues and friends. These are also practices that have helped me through the years. Think of the advice below as soft skills to complement the core professional skills that you can offer an employer.

The bottom line if that if we want to make a living in today’s world, we can’t be passive and whine-y. I’ve gotten to the point where I feel like my real job is looking for my next job. And to that end, I swear by the following eight tips:

TIP #1: Make business cards and always carry them with you.

You’ve GOT to have something to hand out to people. It should have your name and contact info. Don’t make it too cute. Don’t worry too much about the design. Keep it clean and simple.

TIP #2: Have a good email signature.

When someone receives an email from me, it ends with more than just “Betty.” After that comes a little signature listing active links to my blog, my Twitter handle and my Facebook page. Some folks sign off with their cell phone numbers. Others add quirky, personality-revealing quotes.

TIP #3: Keep up with your profession’s latest news as well as its movers & shakers.

For my journalism head, I subscribe to a daily Mediabistro.com email called “Morning Newsfeed.” (Click here to subscribe.) Mediabistro has a ton of industry news blogs that are worth reading. Since I’m in the New York City market, I always read the local “Revolving Door” blog. It lists who’s been hired and fired; this is critical information.

Since I paint and plan to write a book, I also subscribe to daily emails from two other blogs: ArtBizBlog.com and TheBookDesigner.com.

TIP #4: Put yourself in the path of potential contacts.

Go to places where you can meet people and hand out your business card. Professional organizations offer job fairs, conferences and networking events. I belong to three groups that fall in this category: Asian American Journalists Association, South Asian Journalists Association and Online News Association.

There are also other places and ways to schmooze. Meetup.com is a website where you can hang out with folks over a shared mutual interest. If you prefer going online, explore chat groups, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups…this becomes endless.

When you meet someone interesting, ask about doing an interview. If the person says the company has no jobs, ask if you can do an “informational interview,” which means going in for a non-committal chat. But you never know! If interviewing isn’t an option, then say something like, “I really enjoyed meeting you! If it’s okay, I’d love to drop you an email every few months and keep you updated on my latest work/stories/projects.” If the person says okay to that, then you’ve made a connection.

TIP #5: Following up is the key to success.

After you connect with someone interesting, you MUST follow up. And there are multiple options these days.

Do a little online research. Does the person you’re targeting have a public Facebook page that you can “like?” What about a Twitter handle that you can follow? If so, engage by retweeting their tweets (here’s my post on deciphering that world). If the person has a blog or company website, subscribe — then, start commenting on the site in a meaningful way.

If you give that person some love online, then you might even progress to an email that is a continuation of these various interactions. Get your potential employers to notice your smart comments and observations. If you have useful links to add to your comments, even better!

TIP #6: Make sure that your writing is meticulous.

You don’t have to be a grammar freak. But your comments and emails should show that you know how to spell and punctuate. No one wants to hire a slob. Everyone wants to hire smart people who take care in handling even the most boring, minor details. And be concise. Unless you’ve got a fabulous rant or something from the heart, keep your written correspondences as brief as possible.

If you need some help, I have a post on how punctuation works. I also have a post on sorting through the use of “it” versus “they.” Get this one straight and you will instantly look well-educated to a prospective employer.

TIP #7: Always have at least five ideas that you can pitch a prospective employer.

It’s really important to be an idea person. No one wants an employe who sits around waiting for direction. If you’re a journalist, you’ve gotta have at least five story ideas to pitch your prospective new boss. And that doesn’t mean saying, “I’ve always wanted to write about X.” Instead, you have to actually know quite a lot about X. What has or hasn’t already been published on this topic? What new angles do you have?

You need at least five ideas because the odds are that at least three of your ideas will be shot down. If you’re lucky, one might pass muster. And by the time you get to that winner, your future boss will be mightily impressed with your enterprising spirit.

TIP #8: Having a personal passion will always give you something to talk about.

While you’re going out of your mind looking for work, it’s important to keep growing. Give yourself over to something you really care about. This is a way to meet kindred souls, find story and project ideas — and to have fun. Now more than ever, you need to be anchored by the passions that remind you of what’s really important in life.

Who knows — you might start a blog on your personal passion. Hey, the more eccentric and obscure, the better! Even if your interest isn’t  job-related, your enthusiasm could make for some very engaging conversation during a networking event or interview. And in the end, that is always the beginning of truly making connections.



Comments 21

  1. Hey Betty – I practiced tips # 1, 4, 5, and 8 and they were extremely useful in helping me get a new job. I carry around my “calling cards” with my personal email/cellphone and it’s great when going to job fairs, etc. I also found it extremely helpful to follow up after an interview. I always sent emails with two more writing samples and asking if they needed anything else. Thank you for your great suggestions!!!

  2. This is so timely. My daughter Sam arranged for a friend’s son to interview for an internship with the Colbert Report. My friend wrote back to ask if Khakis and a polo shirt would be OK for the interview?

    This is my reply.

    I remember getting Sam the jacket that she wore to the interview. We went to Talbots and spent nearly $200 on a little black number that was soft and yet tailored.

    It took a long time to find the right shirt. We shopped it at Nordstrom till our feet hurt, but we found a diagonally striped – coral and caramel button down – and black stretch pants that fitted like jeans, but styled with the back pocket and cuffs.

    Sam still has the outfit and wears the jacket to interviews. It’s her ‘lucky’ jacket.

    I believe he needs to take the interview seriously and look as if he wants the job. Don’t go in looking like its already in the bag and he doesn’t have to try because he already has a connection. Dress formal and a little over the top Dress to impress – but more than that, dress with an attitude of compliance and deference. Look starry-eyed that he’s been given the opportunity. Be charming and say ‘thank you’ often.

    One more thing. Sam told me in her MBA first year they spent several classes on how to interview, and how to stay in touch with all the people you’ve ever known in business, so that they’ll remember you, help you, and give you a good references.

    Tell him to be memorable, acquiescent, accommodating – act like the kid who hasn’t been recommended by a friend – and write thank you notes afterwards. Actual, real paper thank you notes.

  3. Great stuff, Betty, your students would do well to follow your Mommy advice. I’ve often used #5 to research the people I’m interested it (you will amaze them by knowing about their interests and concerns) #6 proofreading everything I send out twice (nothing looks worse than errors in correspondence to potential clients or employers) and #7 because for almost any interesting job, what is wanted is people with ideas of their own.

  4. As always, thanks for your post, Betty! Just this week, I broke #6 by not looking up a word before using it in a huge email I sent. I felt so ashamed, especially because I usually AM so meticulous, even in my personal emails. Live and learn.

    What do you think of pitching/producing/writing on spec, BTW?

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    oh, i’m so glad that you all can relate to this post! i live by these tips when i’m hunting for work. as for pitching on spec — which means doing the work with no promise that it will be used — i’ve done it before. of course, i hate doing it. but how bad do you want the gig?

    and i always ask myself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? if i can live with that answer, then i go ahead and green light taking a chance. :-)

  6. As one of those students that feels like you’re my Media Mommy, I just wanted to say thanks for this! I’m neck-deep in the whole job application process and it can be rather disheartening, so I appreciate both the advice and the encouragement.

    I think I’m going to order some business cards tomorrow :)


  7. Great advice! Where were you when I was getting out of school!? lol

    You know it’s good advice though when some of it still applies on the job, decades later!

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    my baby!! danielle, you’ve GOT to have business cards. good move!!

    here’s the thing….when i look at students who succeed, they’re the energetic ones who know how to do the 8 things listed here. it doesn’t mean you’re a kiss-ass to the people you meet. it simple means that you’re enthusiastic about engaging with the world around you.

    i’m gearing up to do more of this networking too. i’m trying to grow my blog and position myself to market a book and paintings. sometimes i get really tired of it all. but then i take a break and get back out there. xoxox.

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    cindy and alan — your comments went to spam so i didn’t see them before! but i’m glad to hear from you. yeah, well, i watch all these young folks and learn a lot from them. then i see a lot of my old friends, my age….those that don’t want to do this stuff have trouble finding work. it’s been interesting.

  10. Great advice, Betty, even for those of us who are not-so-recent graduates. It shows that while the market and the tools may change, the basic principles are still the same: be meticulous, polite, and put yourself out there.

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      thanks, hapamama! my old school friends who are moving into these new school methods are the ones who are making the job connections. it keeps us young!

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      lee ann, i just went to your blog. and what a great tip. sharing food with folks is definitely another way to network. a great dish or dessert can really get you noticed!

  11. Betty, I will see you are really their Media Mommy!
    Re: Thank you note after the interview~ I always try to send the “Thank you” email asap within a few hours or within the same day right after my interview. Then I will mail out the paper “Thank You” cards to each individual who interviewed me that day. The best way to avoid typos by asking for their business cards.

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      they work, too. social media is especially important. even if you don’t have a blog or twitter, at least have facebook. and it’s really helpful to like the facebook pages of people and businesses that you want to connect with. they will notice you, and your comments.

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