Talent is important to success in media. So is hard work. But, as I’ve realized this week, they’re not the only things that can make or break your career.
When John Hill, the vice president of networks for the startup launcher Techstars, spoke to my journalism class at Michigan State, he emphasized the power in networking. Hill, who used to run the alumni network at MSU then later worked for LinkedIn, highlighted the ability to move your career forward through who you know.
Now, this might seem like a cheat. But that’s not the case. Even if you know how to network, you still have to be a diligent, hardworking person to secure a position. Knowing people is just a way to get your name to rise up in all the noise.
Hill’s advice on using LinkedIn to expand your network was a perfect example of this. Using the alumni function, he showed our class how to find people in a city or company that you may want to work for based on the people you know. You can then reach out to them and ask about their experiences and any advice they may have.
That conversation, coffee date or email exchange makes you noticeable. If your new contact hears of a position opening, they can vouch for you during the hiring process. Needless to say, that’s incredibly helpful to your success.
That advice has worked for me in the past. Several summers ago, I noticed the Capitol reporter from the Miami Herald was an MSU alumna. I cold-emailed her, asking for advice on being a college journalist. She responded with deep advice and told me about her experiences at a different Florida newspaper, The Palm Beach Post. She recommended the internship program to me and months later, during my interview, I mentioned her name.
Hours later, she DM’s me on Twitter: “Got an email just now from (the breaking news editor) at the Palm Beach Post asking about you! Good sign! 😉 Good luck in your internship search!”
That was so surprising to me to know they did a reference check beyond the ones I listed on my application — I hadn’t even worked with Kristen. But my editor valued my tenaciousness and curiosity, and that ultimately got me the position.
My journalism class also had the chance to speak with freelance journalist Julianne Pepitone. When we asked her about how to keep a successful business going, juggle multiple assignments and overall be a freelancer, she emphasized kindness.
She consistently said being friendly to editors, thanking them for the opportunity and explaining why you enjoyed the assignment and being kind and available can go a long way. Journalism is such a people-centric career and yet some writers can forget that. Pepitone said if we are kind and conscious in all of our communication, we can make work for everyone involved a lot easier.
Both of those lessons are so important to growth in a career. Take the steps to meet more people, get all the advice you can get and be nice, and you may see major success.