June 8, 2011

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 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: and

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. 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.