Don’t just sit there: do something! In the third part of a series on changing careers after journalism, some ways to get started on making the change.
1. Network. Who do you know? Who do they know? Use your traditional skills and add new ones. If you aren’t already, use social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin. Get yourself on mailing lists. See all of you old friends but also get to know a few new ones. Don’t cold call – there is no need. Get friends to make introductions – most will be surprisingly happy to do so. If you can get three new contacts from every old one… Have coffee. Adopt a cafe as your place (not a bar: we do not want to give the wrong impression).
2. Broadcast. You are a journalist – use your skills. Send emails to people – a blast email is good, but better is a personalised one (“I am leaving the Suckville Gazette. I am grateful for your support and hope we can work together again some time on floristry-related issues.”). Write an article about the experience and get it published; or put it on your facebook page; or email it to people.
3. Ask for ideas not work. People are happy to be asked for ideas – on how much to charge, what to do, where to look, how to ask. Many will happily open their contact books for you. If you ask them for work, they may prefer to avoid the meeting, and it may be hard to get to see them again.
4. Charge. If work comes your way, charge for it. Think ahead of time how you much will charge for a day, a week, a month; and how much you will charge (for example) an NGO, a company, a bank. Use NUJ freelance rates as a guide; or divide your desired salary by 200 (roughly the number of working days you have a year). But in any case, charge: it is easy to get into the habit of doing favours for friends, which absorb time and make you feel comfortable but do not help. Once you have paid work, the volunteering is great and there are plenty of ways to do it.
5. Get your infrastructure sorted. Obviously, a laptop, internet connection and phone. But also: a business card, and an email address that is not obviously a family one. A website – even a simple one – is useful. So is a desk in someone’s office if you can borrow one. Get your resume updated and have someone outside journalism review it. This really matters. Also, get it PDFed and get it in various versions. Road test it thoroughly, and make sure you have the right covering letters.
6. Busk. Not literally. But if you see stuff that needs doing and someone is prepared to pay you for it, do it. The fact that you might be only the fourth-best person to do it is no obstacle: improvise. This is a critical skills most journalists develop– making the best of what you have. So – edit publications that are outside your area. Help a friend do a press plan. Advise on design of a website based on how a journalist would use it.
7. Apply for stuff. There will be job ads that come your way that aren’t quite right but look interesting. Have a go. It will help you polish your resume and your interviewing skills. The first one is worst – after that it gets easier.
8. Trade. If you see or hear of opportunities that don’t work for you, pass them on to others. Good news is always welcome, and people will be grateful – they may respond in kind. If people come to think of you as a good clearing house of opportunities, that maximises your networking potential. It may also lead to opportunities in the future. Plus it is a good thing.
9. Give yourself a break. Take weekends off, and have the occasional day when you don’t do anything at all. Even the unemployed need vacations. Go away to stay with friends, or visit a new place. It will refresh your batteries and might even give you some new ideas.
10. Get out. I know, I have said this before. But do it. Meet new people; meet old people. Go to salsa lessons or seances. Just don’t stay at home. There aren’t any jobs there.
Monster.com on creating a networking plan.
Linkedin – a good professional networking site.
How to do interviews by The Guardian
A piece I wrote about losing my job back in 2001. It got me consulting work the next day. Thank you Claire Warren.
Some good tips on getting a new job from John Zhu’s very good series
Tomorrow – Part Four: Your Transferable Skills