May 13, 2016

Last year, we asked journalists what advice they’d give journalism school graduates. Through Facebook and Twitter, we’ve collected your comments and cobbled them into our own crowdsourced commencement speech. The words in bold are ours, the rest came from our readers. If it helps, read this sitting in the hot sun surrounded by people you know and make plans to have a tense meal with your extended family directly after. You can find more advice for new journalists here.

Well class, my advice to you is to start drinking heavily. When you move to a new town, make keen note of the nearest speakeasy. Go to the Midwest.

Related Training: Flourish, Don’t Flounder At Your First Journalism Job or Internship

Honestly, you’ve gotta want this. If you’re soft or thin-skinned, this isn’t for you. You have to earn everything you get. If you truly want this, be prepared to work your ass off every day. This isn’t a job you can do half-assed and thrive. You’re not good enough to work at ESPN. Go get some experience. You’ll make more money waiting tables and freelancing than at your first journalism job. Consider your first job as your internship to the next. Your second job is your internship to your third gig. So learn everything you can, and give it your all. Success will come.

You probably know this already, but your integrity is everything. Also, never cut — always copy. And don’t forget to paste. Learn all the basics. Then ignore them. (Order matters.)

And don’t read the comments. Don’t. Have some non-journo friends to keep you sane. Keep protein bars and many pens in your purse. Yeah, I said purse.

Also, do the stories YOU want to do. Don’t let a bad editor — and you’ll have them — sour you. Find a good editor (they’re worth their weight in gold). Do the kind of stories you dream of doing. Fight for it. Find ways to say yes to as many assignments and opportunities as you can. And keep specific ideas/pitches on hand at all times. Get out of the office. Knock on doors — sometimes the person behind the door is Flavor Flav.

Oh, and hustle. Mentors may crack the door, but you’re the one who has to push it open. Network, and be persistent.

Never stop learning and always, always, always take good notes even when recording, because no matter how great technology is, it can and does fail on occasion.

For the love of God, get some PR and marketing experience, too.

And really, don’t expect to change the world in a day. Do it one story at a time.

And remember, don’t open any link that says “My best advice to young journalists.” Don’t listen to any advice.

Oh, and one more: Don’t lose your sense of humor; tomorrow is a new day full of great stories waiting for someone to tell them.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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