What We Wish We’d Have Known

August 24, 2010 at 11:34 am 1 comment

Today’s post is an answer to a smart, far-reaching question sent to me the other day by a recent J-school graduate: What do you wish you’d have known when you were just starting out in journalism, not only about the profession but about how to succeed?

Decades into my journalism career, I have a few thoughts, and I also checked with a few other long-time, successful journalists for their ideas. And while these tips and strategies are most applicable to those embarking on a career in  journalism, the words of wisdom here could be useful to any professional — especially those in a field undergoing rapid change.

So, here is what we wish we’d have known then, but figured out along the way:

*Journalism is probably more of a business than you realize. (The same could be said for the political and policy worlds.) A long-time political journalist offers this advice: Don’t be lulled into thinking that good, hard work alone will enable you to survive in your career. Always have a contingency plan ready for what you’ll do in the event that your employer decides to put profits (in the political/policy world, substitute political considerations) ahead of all else.

*Pick your battles. Every newsroom seems to have a person who is quite talented, but who tends to go ballistic and complain whenever she or he is questioned or challenged about something. Realize that sustaining a good long-term relationship with your bosses — no matter where you are working — is more important than battling when your story is cut or rewritten. Learn acceptance and moderation, or you won’t survive in this business.

*Specialize but remain flexible and open to possibilities. These days, those who have mastered a specialty beat — such as finance, energy/environment or health care — often have more opportunities than others. It’s smart to pick a specialty area early on and develop that throughout your career. But be careful not to choose too narrow of an area or you might box yourself in. Also, even while specializing, you have to stay open to broader options and possibilities — keeping doors open is one of the best ways to ensure yourself continued employment in this field.

*Stay true to what you want to do. It’s great to work at a top news organization like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. But it’s better to be really good at what you do. Don’t automatically look to the next career rung before excelling at what you’re doing now. And remember, most news organizations look to promote those who have done an excellent job in their current role — don’t be so anxious to move forward that you look past your current role.

*Do what you love — that’s probably what you’re best at in any case. A successful financial journalist put it so well –no amount of money can compensate you for spending 8 to 10 hours a day or more each working day doing something just for money. If you follow your dream and think about what you’d do if money was no object, you’ll be much more satisfied with your career and your life.  And the chances are also good that you’ll become successful and comfortable in your career because by doing something you love, you’ll become really, really good at it.

Please send along related thoughts and strategies; if I get a batch more, I’ll follow up in a future post.

*Some very good news and congratulations today — to Chuck McCutcheon, a terrific supporter of and contributor to dcworks, will become the new co-author of The Almanac of American Politics, working at the National Journal’s D.C. office. Chuck, who is a former co-editor of Politics in America, has kept busy in the past year since leaving CQ by writing for NJ,  the Christian Science Monitor and other publications, and writing a book. He lives one of the pieces of advice given above — do what you love in journalism. Congratulations and much success in this new role to Chuck!

*Today’s fresh job leads (and one for an internship) focus on communications/PR,  policy, writing and editing positions:

*The Department of Homeland Security has an opening in D.C. for a writer-editor:

Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services – Washington, DC
Every day, Our Writer/Editor: Edits, writes and… training materials, manuals, regulations, guidebooks and a wide variety of other written communications… $74,872 – $136,771 a year
From usajobs.gov

*Hill & Knowlton has several positions open in D.C., including one for an account supervisor/VP in its health care practice:

Account Supervisor/Vice President, Health IT
Hill & Knowlton, Inc. – Washington, DC
confident, and dynamic communications senior-level… experience in a Healthcare practice, excellent writing and media relations skills, media contacts, a…
From Hill & Knowlton, Inc

*Amerigroup has an opening in D.C. for a director of government relations, focusing on health care reform:

Director Government Relations/Healthcare Reform/Washington D.C.
Amerigroup – Washington, DC
the federal regulatory and legistive process – Excellent writing, communications, presentation, interpersonal, problem-solving, analytical and organizational…
From AMERIGROUP Corporation

*The National Farmers Union in D.C. has an entry-level opening for a communications coordinator:

Position: Communications Coordinator
Supervisor: Director of Communications
Organization: National Farmers Union, Washington D.C.
Date: August 2010


Assist the Director of Communications with all department-related activities and other departments with special project requests.


· Work closely with other departments and member state organizations to gather news and member profiles.

· Create layout and content for printed and electronic newsletters.


This is an entry-level position. Requires a combination of college level coursework plus some work experience or internship in communications, journalism or closely related activities.

Experience with Adobe In Design, Photoshop, Illustrator, along with experience using Word Press or similar web content management systems a plus.


* Demonstrated ability to understand various current technologies and their application or integration into a business environment.
* Project a professional image through personal and phone interactions.
* Self-starter with an ability to prioritize tasks.

Salary Range: $30,000-$35,000

Closing Date: Open until filled

Please send cover letters and resumes to nationalfarmersunion@gmail.com, with “Communications Coordinator” in the subject line.

*AP has an opening in D.C. for a newsperson on its Latin America desk:

Newsperson – Latin America (LatAm) DeskThe Associated Presshttp://monster.moving.com/jumpresults.asp?Zip=20001” title=”” washington,=”” dc,=”” 20001=”” target=”_blank”>Washington, DC, 20001

Posted 2 days ago
The Associated Press seeks a Newsperson for its Latin America (LatAm) Desk in Washington, D.C. This position covers Latin America and the Caribbean. This newsperson writes and edits news stories using electronic newsgathering and production equi…
See details or apply

*AP has another opening in D.C. for a news editor:

News EditorThe Associated Presshttp://monster.moving.com/jumpresults.asp?Zip=20001” title=”” washington,=”” dc,=”” 20001=”” target=”_blank”>Washington, DC, 20001

>8 Years

Posted 3 days ago
The Associated Press seeks a News Editor for its Washington, D.C. operation. This editor leads a team of reporters who cover news in Washington, D.C. of interest to states and regions around the United States and the world. Must simultaneously …
See details or apply

*The Consumer Specialty Products Association in D.C. is looking for a director of communications:

Director, CommunicationsCSPAhttp://monster.moving.com/jumpresults.asp?Zip=20006” title=”” washington,=”” dc,=”” 20006=”” target=”_blank”>Washington, DC, 20006

2+ to 5 Years

Posted 3 days ago

Communications Director The Consumer Specialty Products Association, representing household and institutional products, is seeking an energetic and talented communication director. The ideal candidate will be a quick study and willing to take init…
See details or apply

*And if you know of someone looking for a fall internship, this seems like an interesting opportunity to pass along — CityGrid Media is seeking an editorial intern in its D.C. office:

Editorial InternCityGrid Mediahttp://monster.moving.com/jumpresults.asp?Zip=20001” title=”” washington=”” dc,=”” 20001=”” target=”_blank”>Washington DC, DC, 20001

Less than 1 Year

Posted 5 days ago

Tired of internships that are all about filing, faxing and fetching coffee? Think you know your community better than it knows itself? Do you possess a passion for writing, socializing, eating, and shopping? Wanna be tasked with exploring your cit…
See details or apply

Good luck on the hunt today!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Promoting Your Emotional IQ in a Job Search How to Really Help a Friend Get a Job

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. neil roland  |  August 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    1. Do what the boss says
    2. Do what the boss says
    3. When in doubt, see Nos. 1 and 2!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

DC Works has moved!

I'm now blogging at dcworks.info. I hope you'll join me there!

%d bloggers like this: