By Holly Edgell | March 21st, 2012
Tara Puckey is a freelance journalist based in Indianapolis. An active member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Puckey served as campus representative on the SPJ National Board from 2009-2011. She serves as co-chair for campus affairs on the SPJ Membership Committee and is active an active member of the SPJ Freelance Committee.
I just returned from New York City, where I worked to make sure that SPJ was visible at the
College Media Advisers convention, a whirlwind of sessions, workshops and tours for more than 1,200 college students and their advisers.
Once the jet lag and remnants of the city wore off, I realized there were some important things I saw during my time there. Things that I’d like to tell student members of SPJ, if no one else, because they matter to who these budding journalists are, who they’re becoming and their professional careers in the future.
1. Dress the Part - Sure, CMA is college-oriented, so it’s more casual than many other conventions. However, there were several professionals there who are, were, or will be looking for someone crazy-talented to join their ranks in the future.
- I’m not saying you need to sport your tux or gown, but for venues and events where you are likely to meet future employers don’t wear jeans with stains or holes, wash your hair and look put-together.
- It sounds simple enough, but the point is – someone is always looking at you for something: to represent their organization, offer you a job or just keep you around as a professional contact. Think about that one.
2. Bring Resume - I always, always have a copy of my resume on hand. Even if I’m out walking the dog, it’s on my phone and I’d be more than happy to break it out in case the New York Times is trying to track me down.
- Any convention, journalism or not, is a place to make connections, soak up advice and better yourself. If you don’t have a resume, get one. You never know when you’ll need it. Your campus career office can help. Ask a trusted mentor to help you polish it.
- More on Resumes: Check out these pointers from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
3. Join, join, join – Join every organization possible. Students at CMA had a fantastic opportunity to hear people talk about networking, (NYT’s David Carr, Mashable peeps, The Onion and more) among other things. It’s because of their affiliation with CMA that these students had this amazing experience.
- Students who join groups like SPJ or PRSSA have those same experiences – to learn great tools to take into the professional world, along with people who will help guide you.
- MORE: How to join SPJ
4. Social Media is your Frenemy – More than one speaker at CMA talked about social media and how vital it is that students and pros alike have a visible presence. But, almost every one of them mentioned how dangerous it can be.
- Don’t wipe out all traces of your social life, but think before you post. Nothing is really gone forever, so consider your future career before you Tweet those incriminating photos from Spring Break.
5. Stand Out - The NYT’s Brian Stelter told students to find something they can do better than everyone else. Be outgoing, start conversation, sell your skills. These days it’s not about a book of clips; it’s about being unique in what you can do.
- Want to contact Tara? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Got dos and don’ts for student members? Please share in the comments section!