Independent Study – Senior Thought

This is a final entry that I wanted to leave my Independent Study/Senior Year with. As most folks know, I’ve been offered a full-time job as a reporter/paper designer at the Herald Standard (HS) in Uniontown, Pa. I’m extremely grateful and excited for this experience, not to mention a bit terrified. But something to keep in mind is that as new hires, you won’t be expected to know everything. You’ll learn on the job as you go. I just need to remember that. My new boss, Jen, confirmed that I’ll be spending pretty much the first four weeks just learning all the new beats, staff, area, and job in general. Yes, I’ll be nervous, but it’s a learning opportunity. I’ll go into it, be myself, make a few mistakes, and shine when I can.

During a conversation with Jen last evening, she mentioned why she really vouched for me to get hired to her superiors. She said it really came down to my attitude last summer. What was last summer? Well to preface my “relationship” with the HS, it all started in the summer of 2012. The Herald Standard is my hometown newspaper, so I’d read it since I was able to read pretty much. Come May 2012, I knew I needed an internship for journalism, so I approached the HS about the possibility of having one that summer. Problem was, I only had one short year of new media journalism under my belt since I was new to the program. I didn’t have enough experience, so I was turned down. Fast forward to the next summer, I approached them about doing some freelance work for them. At this point, I already had my internship credits figured out, so I just wanted some experience.

They gladly accepted my offer and gave me multiple assignments throughout the summer–mostly town hall meetings. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with those township meetings, they’re often very long, drawn out discussions over adding light poles, cutting the grass, and other community details. They weren’t exactly bustling with excitement or content. But, it was experience with newspapers and journalism…and it was a paycheck. I went to every meeting, no matter how dull, and came out with a story. That means you have to look for angles, good quotes, and stories while sifting through a lot of monotonous conversation. I never complained about it; I was actually really excited to say that I was a “reporter for Herald Standard.” At the end of the summer, I even got to write a feature story (that made the front page of the local section!!!) on one of the folks who attended the township meeting. She was opening an animal rehab center. Again, another great opportunity.

I built up a great relationship with my contacts at HS and kept in touch over the 2013-2014 school year. In January, I emailed my contact and offered to take her to lunch to discuss journalism and the HS. I just wanted to talk to a professional in the field and keep up my relationship with HS. I had been praying about what I was going to do after graduation because everyone talks about how daunting the real world and job field are. But the Lord answered my prayers that morning. Come to find out, that very morning that I emailed her about taking her to lunch, another reporter from HS resigned. From there, the wheels were in motion. We had various conversations about working for HS throughout the following weeks and it eventually worked for me to come in for two interviews and meet with the senior staff. And on April 24, they offered me the job.

Still wondering how my attitude last summer plays into this? Jen said it was because of my willing attitude to take these mundane assignments and pull a story out of it. She said I looked at things from all angles, trying to cover everything that happened. And I wouldn’t turn down any assignments. I gladly took whatever came my way and asked questions when I needed to. It was that dedication and work ethic, according to her, that helped concrete her opinion of me. Needless to say, I felt pretty darn good about myself after that. I was happy to take these experiences and any help/hints I could get. Add that to some hard work and good attitude, and you end up with some great opportunities. Everything over the past two years has happened for a reason and to help me get to this job opportunity. I believe that the Lord has worked these various facets and experiences into my life to provide me with this incredible job.

I digress from my biography now to leave you with a few tips for the future, whether it be in journalism or any other profession.

  •  Take advantage of opportunities. I took everything they passed my way. And I coupled that with the experiences from SHU. It’ll pay off in the long run.
  • Keep/build relationships with contacts. Stay in touch with them if you have them. If not, introduce yourself. You’re the future of your profession and might have to work alongside them one day. Again, it’ll pay off in the long run.
  • Freelance! It’s a great opportunity to get some experience, meet new people, learn the area/ropes, and make money. MONEY.
  • Be yourself. If have you a bad attitude, change it. People don’t want to remember you as the one who complains, the one who was sloppy, the one who wouldn’t take assignments, etc. They’ll instead want to remember you as the hard worker, the positive/smiling one, the one with the good work ethic. Don’t be someone you’re not. You can BS your way through some things in life…your job is not one of them. Don’t be anything more or less than who you are.

I hope this will help future journalists feel a bit better about their options. There are literally dozens of ways you can use your degree. Being a reporter is just one of them. But the overall message can apply to anyone in the up-and-coming job force. Best of luck…hazard, yet forward.

2 thoughts on “Independent Study – Senior Thought

  1. Pingback: This English major will walk off the graduation platform this weekend, and into a full-time job as a writer | Jerz's Literacy Weblog

  2. Congratulations! You should be very proud of your accomplishment. As a fellow SHU English Dept. alum, I wish you well. The world is not always kind to writerly folk like us, but you can make a life of writing. It is possible, but you’ll usually have mental and academic war wounds to show for it. Stay well.

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