Tag Archives: job search

Why You Should Volunteer Your Journalism Skills

This post was published on First Draft, the Society of Professional Journalist’s Generation J’s Committee blog: blogs.spjnetwork.org/genj/2016/09/01/volunteer-journalism-skills/


In a society where both new and seasoned journalists are expected to keep up with the digital revolution and competition, feelings of being overwhelmed are commonplace. How are you expected to land a job if:

  1. You just graduated and don’t have any years (or decades) of professional experience, or
  2. The skills required include either a few or ALL of the following: produce videos, manage social media, write stories and blogs, build graphics, build a rocket ship to the moon, etc.

That’s where volunteering for just a few hours a week can save you in more ways than one.

Volunteering Can Help You With Your Career

If you volunteer, you'll have a 27% higher chance of finding employment than those who don't volunteer.
Image from Non-Profit Quarterly.

According to a Forbes article, “The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that promotes volunteerism, tracked more than 70,000 jobless people between 2002 and 2012 and found that those who volunteered had a 27% better chance of finding a job than those who didn’t.”

My first journalism-related, volunteer experience was with Citiwide Pre-Vocational Center in Washington, DC, which seeks to improve and foster employment opportunities for low-income families in the metro. I had a quick email and phone interview with the founder and became the Social Media and Website Coordinator from 2012 to 2013. While there, I cleaned the website’s HTML and CSS, managed social networks, and designed a new logo for them.

One of my first logo designs I did for Citiwide Pre-Vocational Center as part of my volunteering experience.

Image above: The logo I created for Citiwide Pre-Vocational Center back in 2013, which was one of the first logos I helped design.

Another experience involved volunteering at Fuzzy Faces Refuge in North Carolina, which provides a sanctuary for common and endangered animal species and works to promote safe interaction with humans. While volunteering, I helped maintain their website and social networks, photography and videography, and even helped market a few events.

Above: Here is a video I quickly produced for one of Fuzzy Faces Refuge’s annual events. This video isn’t perfect, but to visually show and brand this event for the non-profit was worthwhile as they were extremely appreciative and it was fun! (youtu.be/i3VtAIzgSPI)

U.S. News wrote, “5 Ways Volunteering Can Save Your Job Search,” where volunteering can increase your morale, grow your network, upgrade your resume, teach you new skills or improve on existing ones, and even help you choose a career.

Every time I had an interview with a company during or after these experiences, the interviewer would be very interested in my volunteering background. Those experiences became a unique part of my background and helped me land two different jobs after college. Volunteering also helped me increase my network and skills.

Volunteering is Great for Your Physical & Mental Health

Volunteering makes people feel good about themselves because they help without expecting anything in return. People donate their time and efforts to a non-profit whose mission they believe benefits society. According to a post on Harvard’s blog, “Participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others—not to make themselves feel better.”

Searching for a job right out of college can be hard and challenging. You may be left with feelings of low self-esteem as well as a fear of the unknown, but volunteering can benefit you! According to a study from the University of Exeter Medical School in England, volunteers have lower levels of depression, enhanced well-being, and are more satisfied with life. There’s also evidence “of an approximately 20 percent reduction in mortality among volunteers compared to non-volunteers.”

Regardless of whether you’re just starting out in your career or are a seasoned journalist, you should consider volunteering your journalistic skills as it will benefit you in some way. I couldn’t wait to help at events or to promote content for the non-profit because I knew I was benefitting their mission while expanding my own skills and network!

If you’re interested in volunteering, I recommend the following sites to get started:

Sources:

Related Articles:

A Tribute to Job Seekers

A tribute to those who are searching for jobs: here are some tips and experiences I've picked up along the way while searching for past jobs.

Indeed, SimplyHired, LinkedIn. Job seekers are very familiar with these sites and use them endlessly in hopes of catching an interview, and, if things work out, grab the ultimate prize … a job!

But is applying to every open position that remotely fits your skill-set the right? Is applying to infinite jobs online worthwhile? Or are you just wasting yours and the hiring person’s time and energy (while also causing you fits of panic)?

From my experiences, I say (brace yourself for this wonderfully cliched phrase): It depends.

It depends on what area you are looking for, and what level of experience you are at (entry-level vs. mid-level). The majority of the time, probability will be against you as you blindly apply to every available position on Earth, throwing out 10 to 20 applications a day hoping to catch just one reply. What are your chances? More than likely hundreds, heck, maybe even thousands of others are applying to that same position with your same mindset.

So what is a job seeker to do in this day and age?

  1. Remove the Blindfold and Research
  2. Applying to companies that you’ve never heard of, or don’t connect with (or even known) their missions, isn’t very strategic. Let’s say that you did land a job at a company you could care less about, would you be happy after some time has passed? If you apply to be, let’s say, a social media manager for a high-end fashion company whereas you never stepped foot in any designer store or despise anything and everything clothing-related, what are your chances of being satisfied? (I’m sure there are many out there who would be more than satisfied, as I am merely speaking out of contrasting interests). If you narrow down areas that you would love to work in, or are already experienced in, then that will help out your job search IMMENSELY.

    I am experienced in the science communications realm where I absolutely love science and all that it stands for in terms of benefiting the world and humanity, though I am no expert in calculus or physics, I still think the process and results are exciting and relevant. Working at the U.S. EPA for two and a half years, I learned much about research and the science world, and I discovered that my passion lies in the environment, nature, technology, and anything science-related. After pinpointing those areas of interest, I started to narrow my search down to science-related positions in North Carolina. Lo’ and behold, I started receiving more interview requests and found that I was way more comfortable in those interviews. Why? Because I love communicating science and am experienced in it!

  3. Network. Network. Network!
  4. I cannot stress this word enough. You have a much higher chance of leveling up in your application process of a company if you know someone who works there, has worked there, or have a connection who knows someone there. Networking, especially to entry-level seekers, sounds terrifying. ‘How can I compare to those who have been in the field for years or even decades? Why should they care about knowing or talking to me?’

    Here in lies the rub. Every person has or knows something that another person may not know. You have some form of expertise in some area or experience that a person out there would love to know about, maybe even without knowing it themselves! Once you start to share your knowledge and opinions with others, then you can start talking about career goals, how you could work or volunteer with them, or help them network with people you know. I was 23-years-old when I first truly started to network, and I was nervous…but confident. I figured, I will promote what I do at my current job, explain why I believe communicating what I do in progressive forms of media (e.g. videography, online) is important, and hear what they have to say in return and how I can service them. Basically, introduce yourself, listen to them, and find a common topic to talk about. From there, you can get into the details of networking, companies, skills, etc. Sell yourself!

    Pass out your business card like candy! People will research you especially if they were interested in what you said or represented. You not only make great connections (some strong, some weak), but you also learn from and meet great, professional and motivated individuals in return!

    Resource: How to Network Like a Pro. (Business Insider)

  5. Become Digital
  6. Since I am a digital journalist, I have an online portfolio that I update and keep organized as often as possible and a blog (what you are reading), a LinkedIn profile, Twitter, and a Google+ page. My personal accounts are locked away, private and are there to keep up with friends and family. My public accounts are as professional as absolutely possible with a hint of my personal brand or representation of where I currently work or volunteer.

    If you have an online site–be it an online portfolio (if needed, which doesn’t hurt!), an online blog or a social networking site (I recommend LinkedIn)–then it shows that you are motivated, keep up with the times, and confident in your work. There are great sites out there that are free, or cost a minuscule amount to get started. I use WordPress hosting through GoDaddy and bought a template for my site, and I helped a few other people get started with their personal websites, as well. From there, you can use analytic tools (Google Analytics, or WordPress’ analytical tool/apps) to see which pages are most popular, which have the highest bounce rate, etc., where you can improve your site based off of such data.

I could give more advice and tips on how to improve your job searching skills and how to represent yourself to a potential employer or network connection, but these three are very important to master. Needless to say, I am writing these tips from my own experiences and from many articles, other blogs and studies I’ve read online.

By following these tips and actions above, I recently landed a new position at a company that I already love (their mission, and what they represent) and will be doing what I love to do. I also saw an increase in interview requests leading up to my current opportunity because of my change in how I searched for positions.

It pays off in the end, but there are two things you must NEVER lose on your journey in job searching: Patience and Confidence.

Never lose these very important traits. You are an awesome person to get where you are in life, and you will always face bumps. If you are currently in a bump, just know, as my mother always said during my bumps, ‘it’s always darkest before the dawn.’

Don’t give up! Learn from experiences and go from there! Please feel free to comment or email any questions or comments you may have.