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How to land a job out of j-school

Categories: Canada, Journalism

Wondering how to land a coveted job out of j-school? Justin Grant explains how he went from the classroom, to an internship, to a job in a newsroom within weeks of graduation, and shares some tips on surviving in the real world.

Anyone thinking of attending journalism school should know one thing: if you want a job when you graduate be prepared to hustle. That's precisely how I turned an internship at CBC News Network into a paying gig.

Enrolling in j-school, I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting myself into. But I approached it as if it were an extended job interview. As a springboard to an internship. A launching pad to a career.
Within the first month I'd started blogging, started tweeting, printed business cards and often wore a tie to class.  I stopped socializing. Stopped sleeping. Stopped exercising. Stopped watching what I ate.  

I sat in the front row and listened intently as my instructors lectured and elucidated. I destroyed ecosystems with my note taking. I asked a litany of questions, sometimes asking the same question twice just to make sure I'd understood. I was relentless.  

My classmates probably thought I was a keener, a brown-noser, an insufferable suck-up. I just called it being engaged. I quickly discovered who shared my drive and who didn't. My fellow students represented some of the best and worst humanity has to offer. But we were a family. Dysfunctionally scrapping our way toward graduation--because in this business, especially in this business, no one works in a vacuum.

It was simultaneously the most difficult and most rewarding time of my life. My efforts produced a wicked case of insomnia, a failed relationship and a 4.0 GPA.

I graduated in June 2013. A week later I was working in one of the best newsrooms in the world - CBC News Network. I'd gone from graduate to gainfully employed almost overnight. And even though I'd already spent the final two months of the school-year interning at CBC, my first day on the job felt an awful lot like the first day of school.  

 And like school, I dove in with reckless abandon, determined to navigate the maze of protocol, lingo and social politics.  

There's so much happening in a real-world newsroom from moment to moment it's easy to get overwhelmed. News moves at the speed of thought.  And putting on an eleven hour show is a lot like laying tracks down in front of a moving train--that looming locomotive isn't stopping for anyone or anything. Luckily CBC's newsroom is packed with some of the most generous and passionate people I've ever met. And I take advantage of them every chance I get. If I ever have a question, I simply ask around. There's always someone somewhere who knows the answer.

Some valuable lessons I've learned transitioning from the classroom to the newsroom:

• It's okay to make mistakes:

Professionals make them all the time.  Just try not to make the same mistake twice.

• Always say 'yes':

Be willing to do anything, and do it to the best of your ability.  But be sure to tell people where your true interests lie.

• Be fearless:
Real learning happens when extending yourself beyond your comfort zone.

• Be present:
If you'd rather be somewhere else doing something else, you should go do that. No one will begrudge you. Being complacent and apathetic you're only wasting the time of your colleagues. And, really, your own time too.

• Lose the ego:

Debate and collaborate. Chances are it'll be reflected in the finished product.  

• Don't take things personally:
Some people are just jerks. They're jerks to everyone. It's that simple. Just keep doing what you're doing.

• Maintain a positive attitude:

A smile can open many doors. I introduce myself to everyone I meet with a smile and a firm handshake. And do my best to remember their name should we meet again.

• Lunchtime is my time:

I always make sure to take my lunch-break away from the desk. Everyone's different, but I need a moment of mid-day silence. It helps me recharge and reflect.

• Ask a litany of questions:

Sometimes ask the same question twice just to make sure you understand.

College might be over, but my days as a student aren't. And while I've only been at CBC News Network a few months, I'm beginning to settle in. I approach each work-day with optimism, ready to hone a skill or learn a new one. On my days off I visit with friends. Get full nights of sleep. Exercise. And I'm eating healthy again. I still have my blog. Still tweet. Still carry around business cards.  

Enrolling in journalism school I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting myself into. But I sure am grateful for where I ended up.

Justin T. Grant is an editorial assistant and associate producer at CBC News Network. He is a graduate of Sheridan's Journalism Broadcast program, and recipient of the 2013 RTDNF Cold-FX award for Best Medical Feature.

This article appeared originally on The Canadian Journalism Project's J-Source.ca and is reprinted with the author's permission.

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