How a Small-School Journalism Student Gets Noticed

Q. When you wrote about the Facebook guy, you mentioned he was working on his seventh internship. And it appears that played a big role in him being named to the Top 100 Collegiate Journalists in the U.S., by UWIRE.

 
That got me thinking. I’m working on my sixth daily internship right now, and if you count everything I’ve done (including a weekly, magazine, and college newspaper) like the Facebook guy did, then I’ve worked for 10 media organizations.

To add to that, I’ve won multiple national and state awards, including runner-up college journalist of the year in Michigan and two-time defending column champion in the state. I go to a small school, but I believe my experience makes up for it, and I’m confident that my feature and column clips can stand up to any student in the country.

 
For some reason, though, I can’t seem to turn the corner when it comes to the big newspapers. I know the large newspapers are competitive, but I’d expect to at least hear some positive feedback from a few of them. What am I doing wrong? What can I change? How can I get into a top-size newspaper?

Thanks,
Tim

A. The chief problem with going to a small school is not with your work, it may be with your visibility. You’ve had enough experience to be envied by many people at larger schools, but you have to work harder than them to get on radar screens.

One of the chief advantages of the bigger and better journalism schools is that recruiters come calling, though I am seeing that we have lost a lot of recruiters and the ones who remain are making fewer campus visits.

The other advantage you might be missing out on is a network. Large, established schools have legions of people out there working. Some of them are in the position to hire people, or they are doing work that gives the school a good name.

So, what do you do? If the recruiters don’t come to you, you have to go to them. It will be a rare editor, in these extremely busy times, who will give you encouragement simply based on your application.

Build your network. Get active in journalism associations that can put you in contact with people at the newsrooms you want to work in. Attend workshops. Ask for informational interviews at those newsrooms.

This will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. Networking takes time. But its advantages can stay with you for your entire career. And keep your perspective. You are looking for things that a lot of people — some from large, well-known schools — want, too.

E-mail Joe for answers to your career and job-hunting questions.

Coming Monday: Former San Francisco Chronicle reporter writes about how a buyout helped launch his career as a novelist.

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