Are you looking for pitching insights directly from journalists? As a follow-up to the State…
Are you a journalism student? Are you seeking ways to stand out from the crowd? Are you serious about preparing yourself for the future you’ve been dreaming of?
Due to the robust growth of the internet over the past decade, the journalism industry isn’t what it used to be. However, in some ways, it has changed for the better.
If you plan to chase your dream of becoming a journalist through higher education, there are various things you can do to improve your chances of success.
5 Habits to Take You to the Top
Before we discuss the five most important habits you can form, there’s something you need to know: the habits you cultivate during your time as a student will impact your career.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s review five habits of the most successful journalism students.
There’s more to a career in journalism than what you see on the surface. So, it’s critical that you’re able to multitask, day in and day out.
For example, you may find that you have a noon deadline for your next article, but a breaking story to cover at 8 a.m.
How will you balance your time to ensure that you make your deadline without neglecting the developing story? What will you prioritize if you begin to run behind?
As a student, you have the opportunity to learn how to balance many tasks at once. For example, if you have an internship, it won’t be long before you’re balancing work and school.
The journalism industry is fast-paced and it waits for no one. If you want to succeed, the ability to multitask is an absolute must.
2. Following the News
It doesn’t matter what type of stories you want to cover, you must get into the habit of following the news as it relates to legal cases that affect your profession. Not only does this allow you to stay current with what’s happening within the industry, but you can also take cues from journalists that you admire.
Furthermore, this increases the likelihood that your practices are supported by legal precedent, without crossing the line.
Many laws can affect your work, such as an invasion of privacy regulations. When you get into the habit of following the news, you’ll better understand new laws that pertain to you as well as mistakes that other journalists have made.
3. Taking Breaks (as necessary)
Today’s journalists are consumed by technology. You’re on your smartphone submitting a sample story to your professor. You’re on your computer taking notes for your next piece. You’re using Bluetooth technology to chat with other students about what’s due before the next class.
While it’s okay to immerse yourself in your studies, it can begin to drag you down over time (see #1 above).
Get into the habit of taking breaks throughout your day, even when you’re bogged down and can’t seem to find a spare minute in your schedule.
This is something many beginner journalists struggle with, as they want to do the best job possible while proving to their employer that they’re worthy of their position.
Just remember this: if you push yourself too hard, too often, it’ll eventually take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. And should that happen, you’ll find it more difficult to do your job as expected.
4. Finding a Mentor
Finding a mentor sounds like a tall task, but it’s quite simple when you keep an open mind.
For example, you could ask your favorite journalism professor if you could pick their mind for a few minutes after class. Soon enough, this could turn into a regular occurrence that puts you on the track to finding the perfect mentor.
There are many benefits of finding a mentor, including but not limited to:
- Someone who can answer your questions and provide professional guidance
- A sounding board for any big decisions you have to make
- The potential for your mentor to connect you with others in the industry, which could lead to employment
- An experienced professional who can help you avoid pitfalls that plagued them early in their career
The most successful journalism students are in the habit of seeking out help from others, with a focus on finding a mentor.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
Sure, you may be able to sneak through school by simply doing the work that’s assigned to you. However, if you want to become a successful journalist, get into the habit of practicing your craft.
Maybe you’re assigned the task of covering a local school board meeting, writing a story, and reporting back to your class.
You could do this and call it a day. Or you could create two or three different stories, and then ask for feedback on which one was most engaging.
It sounds cliche, but practice makes perfect. You can never practice too much, and the best and most successful journalism students understand just how true that is.
Even though the journalism industry has witnessed massive changes over the last 10 years, there’s still an opportunity to carve out a niche in this field.
As a journalism student, everything you do today will affect you in your career. By establishing the five habits above as soon as possible, you’ll feel better about your ability to complete school on time and dive into the journalism industry shortly thereafter.
Want more tips from journalists as you begin your career? 3 Journalists share their advice to new pros on what to look, tactics for building great stories, and more.
Also, check out Coffee with a Journalist, which is a weekly podcast about journalists, their inboxes, how they craft their stories, and much more. New episodes are released every Tuesday featuring new guests from top tier outlets.