My first job out of school was a fellowship at CNN in New York City. It was a fantastic experience and helped build my skills as a journalist, which would benefit me going forward in my career. Here’s how I landed the gig and tips for getting noticed during the hiring process!
I went to undergrad at NYU and then got my master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University. It was a one-year, intensive program – and one of the best years of my life.
During the program, I made sure to gain skills I knew I would need: editing, shooting, reporting on-camera, producing, writing. I pretty much lived at the school that year. Not only was it expensive (and I wanted my money’s worth!) but I knew in addition to the skills, networking was key to moving head in the journalism world.
building a skill set
I made sure to connect with professors and other students and people at the school. And I reached out to others who had graduated from the program, including alumni working at media outlets I one day wanted to work at and mentors who used to teach at Columbia or still worked there even part-time.
Focusing on my reel was a big part of the year. I wanted to start out as a reporter and I knew my reel would be my ticket to that (and it was! stay tuned for that part). But I also wanted to make sure I got a job right after school. I had rent to pay and I wanted to keep living in NYC.
So I looked into positions Columbia listed for students. Among them were internships and fellowships. The CNN fellowship specifically appealed to me because it seemed to offer more training than the internships. And it was a bit more competitive. I also thought it was more likely I’d get something like this at first than a full-time position (I truly wanted) in NYC.
There was a career fair at the end of the year, and I knew CNN would be there. I stood in line for a long time to meet the recruiters. Separately, I had interned at CNN undergrad and made sure to mention that and the people I had worked with (for additional references).
Career fairs are wonderful opportunities to meet people who could become future employers. So keep an eye out for them when they’re in your city, and go!
Resume & Interviewing
Working on a resume and cover letter are very important parts of any job application. Make sure you have no typos and everything is clear and concise. I highly recommend having a professional website as a journalist too when applying, where you can include reels and work samples.
Your resume should always include relevant information related to the job. If you are applying as a journalist make sure to highlight all of your journalism experience (even if it’s student work, that still counts!).
Interviewers will also look at your social media, so make sure it has appropriate material and reflects you and your work.
If you score the interview, dress appropriately, print out extra copies of your resume to take with you, and research the people you’ll be interviewing with (and the job!) in advance.
After the interview, always send a thank you letter or email. I used to always send both (handwritten note and email), but I think email is enough.
An interview can make or break you getting the job. I will always remember at the end of my CNN interview, I emphasized how much I really wanted this fellowship. I explained how I had been targeting it all year and why I wanted it so much. And I could tell this stood out to the interviewers.
A big part of being a journalist is storytelling. Make sure to talk about strong examples of your work and storytelling experiences in interviews too. I went into the interview with a pitch, which I ended up publishing while there.
Toward the end of my CNN fellowship, another job opportunity presented itself. I had also met a recruiter at the Columbia career fair from NY1 News (now Spectrum News NY1), which is a local station in NYC.
We kept in touch and she told me a position was opening for a junior reporter. It would be a one-man band, on-camera position in NYC. I had my reel ready and I sent it off. I was fortunate enough to start that position shortly after my fellowship ended.