Ask the Recruiter: Joe Grimm tackles your toughest career challenges.

Ask the Recruiter column has been a privilege

This is my last Ask the Recruiter column for Poynter.

I still will host our Tuesday career chats with people who are remaking journalism jobs, and I plan to write occasional posts for Poynter, but the regular column ends today.

It has been a privilege to be in this place and I am grateful to be here. The affiliation with Poynter has been great, my editors at Poynter Online are smart and patient and have challenged me continuously to improve Ask the Recruiter.

The greatest privilege has been to hear from so many other journalists who have questions about their careers. To be trusted with such important matters and decisions is an indescribable honor. I always felt that the best parts of anything posted here were the parts written by you. Thank you for trusting me and for teaching me so much of what I know about what goes on in all kinds of newsrooms and situations. Read more


Monday, Mar. 28, 2011

How to be in the right place at the right time

We often hear that someone landed an opportunity by being in the right place at the right time. They weren’t there just by chance.

Smart people put themselves in the right places all the time in hopes of finding opportunity. They do that because, while it may be hard to know when the time is right, we can make educated guesses about which places are right.

Once, when the American Society of News Editors was holding its annual convention in Washington, D.C., I decided to visit my son there for a few evenings and to spend my days at the hotel where the convention was.

I am not a member of the group and likely would not have been approved for membership because I was not a top editor at my newspaper. But I knew people in the group and figured something good would come of being at the convention hotel. Read more


Thursday, Mar. 24, 2011

How to make the best of an old clip

Q: I came across a great opportunity with a regional magazine that’s looking for an associate editor. They’re asking for just one clip (“the piece of writing you’re most proud of”), but I have a problem with the age of what I want to submit. The rule I remember was to only send material published in the last year — perhaps 18 months if it was gangbusters stuff. Unfortunately, my freelance clips were grind-’em-out stories for small suburban papers, and the stuff I write now is completely the wrong tone for this magazine. (Everything we write is very short, aimed at a niche audience, and written very tightly — no chance to show off my writing chops.) Throw in a few years as an editor, and I have to go back to when I was a reporter, which means clips published before November 2005. That feels positively paleolithic to me.

I don’t know if I have a better option, though. Read more


Monday, Mar. 21, 2011

Learning Excel is a key for success in today’s newsrooms

In March, two smart people with very different jobs told us in separate Poynter career chats that understanding databases will help journalists find jobs. They recommended we learn Excel.

My guests for those two chats were Paul Cheung, the global interactives editor at the Associated Press, and Sandy Csizmar, a mobile specialist at the Hartford Courant. I  hardly can think of two newsroom jobs that are more different. But they are of one mind about what journalists should know.

People who participated in the chats tried to pin Cheung and Csizmar down, but each resisted recommending a program, and they challenged the idea that journalists should fit into little boxes.

When we did pin them down — a little — both said that today’s journalist has to understand and use Excel spreadsheets to succeed.

There it is. If someone told you what skill was necessary to make it in a rapidly changing news environment, you would listen. Read more


Thursday, Mar. 17, 2011

How to get around job interview screening questions

A journalist recently asked me this:

“I just applied for a job that I’m more than qualified for. The problem is that the job is in Phoenix and I don’t want to move. I was hoping that I could get an interview and then pitch that I work out of the Albuquerque office where my home is. But the recruiting company asked me to confirm that I can move before proceeding with an interview.

“Any advice on how to answer this question without blowing the chance of even being interviewed?”

This was my answer:

You have run into a screening question. It is meant to narrow the candidate pool for the people who actually make the decisions.

Other screening questions are: “Do you have permission to work in this country?” “Did you graduate from college?” “Do you have reliable transportation?” Depending on the job, a “no” answer to any of these questions could eliminate you from consideration before you get started. Read more


Monday, Mar. 14, 2011

Young and old teach each other in today’s newsrooms

Henry Jamison “Jam” Handy had a brilliant career in commercial audio and video when Detroit was the Hollywood of industrial films.

Before that, Handy had been a campus correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and earned a footnote in Olympics history by competing in two Olympics 20 years apart, winning an individual bronze for swimming in 1904 and being on the bronze-winning U.S. water polo team in 1924.

As a young man, Handy invented several swimming strokes, including the Australian crawl.

He lived to be 97 and died in 1983. I interviewed him once as he watched children swim at a pool at the Detroit Yacht Club. “I learn from watching the children,” said the inventor of the stroke they were using.

That’s the way journalism feels to me today.

I have not invented anything, but I am constantly learning about journalism from younger people. In my journalism classes at Michigan State University, my students frequently surprise me with new ways of telling or illustrating stories. Read more


Thursday, Mar. 10, 2011

Science, medicine and business seek journalists

A chat on Tuesday that featured Neil Holdway, treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society, revealed potential avenues for copy editors and, one would think, other journalists.

Some of those strategies came from people who participated in the copy editing careers chat on Tuesday, including one person whose suggestion came in too late to make the chat, so I bring it to you here.

Chris Smith wrote, “Enjoying the talk. Happy Mardi Gras from New Orleans. Sorry I can’t be at ACES event this year. As someone working outside journalism but blessed with a moderate copy editor portion of my job, I worry a little that pros looking to move to corporate jobs may overestimate how much time they’ll get to spend doing copy editor work on the other side.

“But that shouldn’t stop them from applying; our bigger problem on the corporate communications side is a declining number of people with a journalism education on resume.”

The laws of supply and demand, which hold true even in a staggering economy, mean that Smith’s observation is a hopeful one for journalists who can treat their degree and experience as a good jumping-off place. Read more


Monday, Mar. 07, 2011

U.S. News internship list reinforces value of hustle and pay

This week, U.S. News & World Report checked in on the universities that produce the most internships. The list is a timely reminder of how important internships are to students and how career services centers operate at universities.

The missing ingredients from the report, though, are an X factor — hustle on the part of students — and a $ factor — whether or not the internships pay.

Through 20 years of journalism recruiting, I periodically have run into college students who complained that career services did not find them an internship. That is not the way things work. Such dependency makes me wonder how the student will survive later when, clearly, he or she will have to find jobs for themselves. When I hear a student complain that someone else has not worked hard enough to find work for him or her, I move that student down my list.

The best interns are self-starters who land multiple internships. Read more


Thursday, Mar. 03, 2011

Skills makeover takes work, not money

I recommend all journalists — not just the ink-stained variety — take a look at BetaTales’ “Digital makeover of a journalist.” The site and the makeover are written by John Einar Sandvand, editor at Media Norway Digital.

Sandvand was a newspaper editor in Norway in 2006 when he decided to aim himself toward evolving technologies rather than stick with what he was familiar with.

John Einar Sandvand

John Einar Sandvand

It is a decision that many are making, whether by choice or necessity.

Having made the journey, Sandvand has scripted a one-year makeover for print journalists who want to or need to follow suit.

Sandvand has a smart, seven-part plan. I like it because it is broad, rather than narrow. In Poynter career chats, which we hold weekly, at 3 p.m. Tuesdays, guests often ask what skill or skills they should be learning.

Sandvand proposes a suite of skills. His makeover includes social media, photo editing, video, interactive elements and analytics. Read more


Monday, Feb. 28, 2011

Resignation memo shows us how to create a resume

On Thursday, word came that David Eun will leave his job as president of AOL Media and Studios.

TechCrunch posted the resignation memo Eun sent to staffers. It contains examples of what goes into a good resume. Here are some excerpts, with the lessons they carry.

“I am extremely proud of all that you have accomplished this year. Recent days have given me an opportunity to reflect on just how far we’ve come, and the progress is striking.”

Lavish praise on your team and co-workers. Amateurs suck up all the credit. Professionals spread it around, knowing that the credit will reflect on them. Praising your team in a resume allows you to highlight accomplishments without making your resume be all about you, which is awkward for some and artificial for most.

“We rolled-out Project Devil with Sales and Eng colleagues in the Fall and are on our way of rolling it across every Town.

Read more