Posts Tagged ‘employment’

Passion in uncertainty

The need to seek truth and report it is more important than ever. If you want to do it, pursue it. (Photo: Pixabay/CC)

This past week, a column appeared in the Business section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, encouraging students to find a vocation that they would find themselves useful in, instead of following their passion.

The observations of columnist Lee Schafer, intertwined with a conversation with a career counselor at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, argues that finding a job that one will be useful in should be prioritized over doing something that will make one happy.

“Vocation may sound a little like a life of toil for little pay, but it is a very useful idea when approaching a decision on any kind of work,” Schafer wrote. “All it really means is work that is worthy of respect and with a reward that is bigger than just a paycheck. Passion for your work sounds great, but by now it is pretty clear people have a tough time figuring out what will make them happy. It is a lot easier to figure out what will make them feel useful.”

While Schafer’s piece raises some interesting points, including the need for conversations about what it means to work, I disagree with its core thesis – finding a vocation for a vocation’s sake, instead of following your passion and finding something that makes one happy.

My disagreement derives from the story that led me to pursue work in what are uneasy times for the industry. If I hadn’t stumbled upon to the BBC World Service through public radio one night in March 2009 as I suffered from insomnia, it is likely that I would be doing something else – though I suspect I would have no idea what it was. I was encouraged to follow this passion I had for journalism despite the uncertainty.

We all have stories that led us to decide to pursue work in this industry. Journalism is a calling, and the need to inform, engage and educate people about the events of the time, as well as holding those in power to account still is a necessity.

However, I’m not naive to suggest that things are perfect in this industry. Yes, times are hard for journalism, and yes, prospects, especially for early career journalists like myself, are uncertain – as we debate future business models as well as how to maintain trust with audiences, especially in the digital age. At the end of the year, the questions are still present, as well as the uneasiness that comes with not knowing what is next.

When my mom on one occasion saw that the thought of these uncertainties was a bit much for me, and I was ready to give up, she asked what I would do if I did. I didn’t know, as I found what I had wanted to do in the first place. Perhaps the pros of finding your passion can outweigh the cons.

Fred Rogers famously said that life is for service, and as life is for service, then certainly one of the best professions to have in life is a role in journalism.

Last week, I resolved for journalism to keep itself honest in 2018. I’ll resolve for one more thing – if you have a desire to work in journalism, pursue it. Have conversations with people, be it in your local media, across the country or around the world, and, to quote my mom once more – keep going.

It may not be easy, but it’s better to pursue what you’re passionate about and what makes you happy, instead of finding something for the sake of it. Besides, we’ll be a better industry because of your work in helping us do what we set out to do – seek truth and report it.

Happy New Year.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Should Students Pursue Journalism?

A headline from HuffPost Media this week stopped me in my Twitter-prowling tracks: “Employment Rates Are Improving For Everyone But Journalism Majors.”

My first reaction was to cringe. I’ve always considered myself capable of well-reasoned decisions. Prone to follow the logical path, I have a reputation of calculated intelligence.

So why was the most important decision of my academic career – to pursue an undergraduate degree in journalism – singled out as a seemingly embarrassing career choice?

It’s true: the odds aren’t exactly in my favor when it comes to a predictable job market in journalism.

With the decline of print newspapers and the surge in freemium, online news models, journalists must now enter the market with a secured internship or a potential job offering in mind – or risk getting swallowed up in the sea of unemployment.

Journalists-in-training like me are learning not only the basics of inverted pyramid structure and AP Style nuances but also the importance of networking and social connections. Because no matter how well a journalist can write, the business has become a who-knows-who arena of opportunities.

Eat or be eaten, as they say.

But despite these unfavorable odds of security and market prospects in the field of journalism, I couldn’t be more firm in my resolve to continue my journalism education.

Journalists are the gatekeepers of information – independent seekers of truth.

We ask the questions bubbling inside the human head.  We are animals of curiosity with a desire to inform, to educate, and to entertain our audiences.  We don’t just tell you what you want to know, but we tell you what you need to know.

My advice to young journalists: decide for yourself if this profession is merely a hobby or a lifelong devotion.

If you’re looking for a passive, ‘9-to-5’ work schedule, I’d suggest taking a different path. Those guarantees aren’t likely to come in a typical journalism job description.

But if you value the ability of language to shape and transform a community, stick with it.  Dream up a destination. Carve out a goal. Give yourself a concrete reason for persisting in this evolving and unpredictable craft.

Take the responsibility of finding and discovering the truth of our world into your hands. Own it. Embrace it.

I am proud to call myself a truth-seeking journalist. What could be a more honorable job description than that?

Bethany N. Bella is a multimedia journalist studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bnbjourno or browse her work at

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Throw away your résumé

Find a Job keyboardFile this under “W” for “wake-up call.”

This week, online clothing retailer Zappos gave job seekers a kick in the pants by announcing it now prefers social networking to résumé reading when it chooses hires.

That means instead of sifting through millions of digital missives to find qualified candidates, Zappos will opt for tools that allow it to talk directly with potential hires — social media among them — and hear their responses before even thinking of reading a résumé.

Why the change?

“The problem is, our recruiters are too damn busy,” wrote Zappos senior HR manager Mike Bailen in a post on “Too busy to build real relationships, too busy to WOW our candidates, and too busy to strategically seek out thought leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs who will advance our business and drive our culture forward.”

Zappos last year had about 31,000 job applicants, of which only 1.5 percent of them were hired. “That’s 30,000 times a recruiter had to click and scan through a résumé and cover letter, 30,000 times a rejection template had to be sent, and 30,000 missed opportunities on doing something more meaningful,” Bailen said. Meanwhile, good-fit candidates are trampled by the crowd and may think the company has wasted their time.

So, instead of sending résumés and cover letters as introductions, Zappos prefers prospects first join one of its social networks to get to know the company better, then pursue any further interest by becoming a Zappos Insider, where visitors can strike up conversations with Zappos’s employees and managers about corporate culture.

Zappos’s idea of hiring based on relationships instead of résumés is not new to the marketplace, but this particular approach has a whiff of innovation to it, so it’s wise to think other companies will consider similar approaches — at least in theory.

Sure, it’s time-consuming to sift résumés, and keyword sifting ignores personality and character. But shifting a chunk of the hiring burden to employees and trying to establish personal relationships with applicants at the outset eats up even more of the clock.

Furthermore, the process has a privacy issue; Zappos expects some Insider dialog to take place in public.

“My guess is that Zappos will have thousands of inquiries. Some of them will be from people who are very needy and want to keep checking in,” Peter Cappelli of the Wharton Center for Human Resources told E-Commerce Times. “If the recruiters don’t have time to do that, will the regular employees? How are they going to get their work done?”

To be clear, Zappos isn’t dispensing with résumés entirely. The company still will request a printable version of a prospect’s work history as a marker. Zappos also will employ talent-acquisition technology to sort through desired qualifications and aptitudes in those histories.

But by trying what seems an audacious approach, Zappos serves up a reminder that the way we look for jobs is changing just as fast as the job market itself, and that job hunters should plan to do more than just hand out résumés and cover letters.


David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.



Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ