Tips: How to Find a Job or Internship

Jeff Cole, a Wall Street Journal editor who died in a plane crash in 2001, developed a method for finding a job that helped him rise from a small newspaper to one of the top newspapers in the world. The Columbia Journalism Review published these tips in January 2002.

His approach makes sense. It mixes research, contact, politeness and determination. Any employer would admire this approach, and all students, whether in public relations or news-editorial, can learn from his wisdom. The following list draws heavily on his strategy as CJR reported it.

Hunting for a job

  • Look for a job in a place where you want to live and work.
  • Pick a place and order two weeks of back issues from the local newspaper.
  • Call one of the reporters from that paper. Ask about possible job openings, details about the person who does the hiring and interviewing, the newspaper's philosophy, its competition. Be sure to ask about how the editor hopes to improve the newspaper.
  • Write a cover letter and use the information you received. Be sure to explain how you will fit into the newspaper's future.
  • Be sure to end your letter with promise that you will soon call the editor.
  • Include with your clips a typewritten line on the bottom of each clip that concisely explains why the clip is special. For example, Cole suggested: "It was written 45 minutes before deadline.
  • Call a few days after you send the letter and even if the editor is not hiring ask to come by for a chat.
  • A nice gesture is to bring a thank-you gift for the reporter who helped you.
  • After any interview, write a thank-you note to the people who took time to talk to you.
  • Don't give up. Keep checking to make sure that you are considered for any job opening.

Variations for finding internships

The journalism department has an active internship program for students who meet the criteria. But many students find their own internships every summer.

Many small newspapers and businesses in your hometown may not be able to afford to pay interns and may have never hired one. Sure, you may need to have that summer job at the corner restaurant, but you also might find a few hours a week to volunteer to work for your hometown editor. The benefits are clear. You gain valuable professional experience, you have a contact who might hire you when you graduate, and in some cases, you might even make a few extra dollars.

Here are a few ideas for making that contact:

  • During the winter break or spring break, visit the employer. But before you visit: do some research (read numerous issues of the newspaper), write a letter introducing yourself as a journalism student, and be sure to say that you hope to visit during break.
  • Call and make an appointment
  • Bring work samples and a resume. If the best that you have is that "A" on a Jour 060 assignment, bring that.
  • Optional: Based on your research, come up with a story idea for the newspaper and actually write the story during the break. It should be short but good. Offer it to the editor. It's a rare editor who would refuse to print a good news story.
  • Show enthusiasm, eagerness and desire. Editors have a soft spot for young people who have a burning desire for news.
  • Try to get some commitment from the editor.
  • Write a thank-you letter after the visit. Remind the editor about the commitment.
  • About a week before summer break, contact the editor and remind the editor that you will be home soon. This is a good time to set up an appointment.
  • Persistence pays off. Dr. Glen Bleske still remembers the journalism school student who showed up at his office every day for two weeks asking for work. After the student offered to work for free and suggested three story ideas, Bleske gave the student an assignment. The student published five good clips that summer plus earned an extra $300.