I Could Do That (ICDT) 27-9-10

September 27, 2010

A selection of jobs that might suit ex-journalists. Intended to spark thoughts, new directions and inquiries.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change wants an editor (and reading their job ad, my goodness you know it’s true). Based in Bonn, which is a very pleasant place indeed to live; and doing something interesting and worthwhile. http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/job/1028400/editor/

Editorial Director for the medical communications division of a PR agency. Involves writing, editing, managing a load of medical content. Would suit medical writer with a degree in science, and some experience outside journalism. http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/job/1029172/editorial-director/

Editorial Director for the financial services arm of a business information firm. With responsibility for the collection, reporting and quality of data and content on a new database. They want an experienced financial journalist, though the base salary is £35k…. http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/job/1029172/editorial-director/

Corporate Communications Manager (Speech Writing), Trade Body, London, £40k. Involves speeches, blogs, PR. Hard to say much more without knowing their client, but a good springboard job if you know the industry (whatever that is). Comes via Stopgap, an agency – if they had said who the trade body was, it would be easier to know who should apply for it. http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/job/1025893/corporate-communications-manager-speech-writing/

Communications Specialist, Islamic Relief, Alexandria VA. Islamic Relief is seeking a qualified individual who will be reporting to the Communications Manager in the Buena Park, California office.  Would suit a journalist with about three years experience; an interesting org. Job opportunity found on http://www.nedsjotw.com/blog.

Vice President for Marketing and Communications, Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), New York, NY. JAFI is works on all manner of issues relating to the Jewish diaspora and Israel. Vice President for Marketing and Communications is a fairly senior position. Job opportunity found on http://www.nedsjotw.com/blog.

Director, External Relations and Communications Department, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine. UNRWA is the United Nations agency responsible for the protection, care and human development of Palestine refugees . This is a pretty senior job, with a salary over $100k; based in Jerusalem. Job opportunity found on http://www.nedsjotw.com/blog.

Communications Director, International Center for Transitional Justice, NY, NY. The International Center for Transitional Justice helps countries and societies pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse. This is a fascinating job; think I will have ths one for myself, actually. Job opportunity found on http://www.nedsjotw.com/blog.

Journalists for Human Rights, a Canadian –based media development organization, seems to have a bunch of jobs of various sorts, many involving media internships in Africa. Looks an interesting organization. http://www.jhr.ca/en/contact_hp.php#

Senior Communications Manager, Witness, Brooklyn, New York. WITNESS uses video to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. It captures the stories of human rights atrocities on video and putting them at the forefront of human rights campaigns. Nive job. Might have a look at this one too, though my experience of video is mainly down to Simpson DVDs. Job opportunity found on http://www.nedsjotw.com/blog.


Why employ a journalist?

March 18, 2009

A good piece by Jill Geisler of the Poynter Institute on ten reasons to hire a journalist.

Ten Uses for an Ex-Journalist. V: Attitudes

February 6, 2009

Changing careers after journalism isn’t easy. In particular, I found that some deeply ingrained habits were hard to shift. I won’t generalise – this was my experience, and much of it may be more to do with me than with journalism. 


1.       I mistrust and criticise authority. Like most journalists I was brought up to regard hierarchy and authority with disdain and mistrust. This is not necessarily useful if you are working in a large corporation. But in virtually every place I have worked, there is more cap-doffing and saluting than in a newsroom.

2.       I like to decide how I do my job. As a journalists I tended to get a large degree of autonomy in my work. Many other professions don’t. Being supervised or guided didn’t sit easily with me though I have largely got over this.

3.       I travel fastest alone. Many journalists – not all, this is more print than anything else – get the liberty of making their own decisions, often in tough circumstances, usually in quite competitive environments. Some industries are like this but in most, you will be in a team. I am better at teams now, but initially found this a challenge.

4.       I am no corporate whore. Disdain for corporate values can manifest itself in many different ways – not shaving, not wearing ties, not turning up on time. In other industries the suits get more respect. Indeed I have now become a suit and have to act accordingly. There are few prizes for being a suit yet still pretending you are one of the guys.

5.       I resign! As a journalist I was permitted to be volatile and to threaten to resign a few times a year. My new colleagues and managers are more likely to regard such behaviour as flaky, self-obsessed and unreliable than creative and emotionally committed.

6.       Who cares about the bean-counters? Accountants and moneymen are not universally popular in the media: the real money makers, after all, are the creative professionals. This works in one or two other industries but it really doesn’t in most. Bean counting is actually pretty important so the company doesn’t go bust. I have got to know the bean counters; I count the occasional bean myself. I learnt this lesson while still in journalism, from the guys in syndication and accounts.

7.       Do you know who I am? Journalists get access to people by virtue of their names, titles, employers, press cards and public expectations. Others don’t. They queue. It can be hard to adjust to the fact that Joseph Schmoe, who used to return your calls in a minute, no longer much cares for you now that you do not write editorials for the Antimacassar Advocate.

8.       Excitement. I wouldn’t say I am an adrenaline junkie (I covered the European Union, after all). But I thrive on tension and bursts of activity. I had to learn a new work pattern: the daily grind, the deadline thrill, are now past. Most of my projects go on for weeks or even months, and I get my kicks in different ways.  

9.       Don’t you believe in me? Journalistic disagreements are often personal. Newspapers are highly individualistic places; favour and character often matter alongside ability. Other corporate environments may be more abstract and depersonalised (or perceive themselves that way).

10.   Writing is everything. I have a tendency to think things can be sorted out with clever drafting, and sometimes they can’t. Many others don’t communicate through the written word and are even suspicious of it for various reasons.

Attitudinal differences between journalists and corporate PR

CJR: “For good or ill, journalism and neurosis may be inextricably caught up together”.

ABC.AU: “Do you have to be emotionally dysfunctional to be a great journalist?”

 Index to this series

Ten uses for an ex-Journalist. III: Get Moving!

February 4, 2009

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

Index to this subject

Part Two: New Career

Tomorrow – Part Four: Your Transferable Skills

Ten (inappropriate) uses

February 3, 2009

I am running a series of articles on ten uses for an ex-journalist, which you can find here. it looks at how journalists can change careers, using their talents to find well-paid, satisfying work elsewhere, or otherwise move on in these trying times.

But some friends and former colleagues have also begun suggesting less appropriate and high-minded ideas for how to recycle large numbers of former hacks. All suggestions gratefully received. Add them as comments below. I will publish the best ten next week, and give a prize for the best one. (What? Dunno. Will work it out later).

Ten uses for an Ex-Journalist

February 2, 2009

The redundo payment is safely in the bank, you’ve paid off the tab at the Frog and Nightgown after the leaving drinks, and you’ve handed back the laptop. There are only so many  times you can watch daytime television and your friends don’t want to have their first drink of the day at 11am. So what next?

This week I will be putting up a series of five pieces, aimed mainly at print journalists, that will look at some ways to create a new professional life. What career will you aim for? What can you do to get it? What are your transferable skills? What are the less transferable attitudes you might have to relearn? Comments and suggestions from others that have been through this are welcome: it is based very much on my own experience.

Part One – Plan

It is going to take you three to six months to find work; perhaps longer. So have a strategy for how you are going to fill that time usefully, in a way that gets you out the other side.