Print to Digital Career Switch May Mean Rebranding

Lots of companies these days are rebranding themselves. How about you? Maybe it's time.

An Advertising Age article this week reports that print professionals are having an increasingly tougher time moving to digital advertising jobs.

The article said, "Now digital media has become so intricate -- with so much of ad sales revolving around technology and ongoing campaign optimization -- and the talent pool has so deepened that print devotees are no longer go-to candidates. In fact, it's closer to the opposite." Ouch!

The article is on my mind this week as I talk about professional branding and networking in a Knight Digital Media Center seminar. Twenty professionals are here for a week called "Web Publishing for Independent Journalists." Many of them are print journalists crossing over after layoffs and other hasty departures.

Paul Grabowicz
, associate dean and director of the New Media Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, helped create the seminar and had also read the Advertising Age article. We agreed that it raises some flags for both journalists and ad people.

"The days of marketing yourself as a general assignment reporter are fading fast," Grabowicz said.

To make the switch to digital, print journalists take two steps, he told me. First, they promote their expertise. Nowadays we are seeing more and more people with deep knowledge on a particular subject, such as the environment, business and crime. Those subject areas become part of the journalists' brands.

Secondly, these journalists have to get the word out about their expertise. That's the branding, or rebranding.

There is a third piece. Journalists coming from traditional jobs have to develop their digital expertise and get the word out about that, too. A little digital experience is a good thing, but more is so much better.

"If you are a generalist with no digital skills," Grabowicz said, "I think you're going to be in trouble."

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We rebrand our careers in the same ways that companies rebrand. We become more deliberate and more precise about describing ourselves, update our methods and reinforce the new ways we deliver our core values.

Very few print products are print-only, so many have potential opportunities in Web work, video and audio. These can boost your rebranding. Try to get some of that experience and push it up to the top of your resume and toward the front of the job interview.

Drop outdated titles in favor of contemporary skill sets. Know what new job markets are looking for, and learn or present those qualities.

Question about your career or job? E-mail Joe for an answer.

Coming Monday: A former Los Angeles Times environmental writer started working on his transition early.

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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