The Secret to Success for Undergraduates
Journalism alumni from The University of Texas at Austin last Thursday shared their methods of success for scoring a job after graduation: internships, work experience, and networking. In front of a classroom of over 130 undergraduate journalism students, the panel answered questions from students regarding concerns about their future in the workforce.
The special guests included: David Muto with The Texas Tribune, Jazmine Ulloa with the Austin American-Statesman, Suzanne Haberman with Texas Co-op Power Magazine, and Jackie Vega with KXAN. The graduates emphasized “how they got from there to here” by becoming experienced and known professionally.
Although earning good grades and utilizing formal education are essential, employers are looking for students who took their knowledge gained in the classroom and applied it to real-life situations. Thus, the panelists’ main interest and emphasis was the importance of internships, work experience, and connections.
“When it comes to internships, getting your foot through the door is really what makes it,” Vega with KXAN said.
Vega said acquiring an internship is the “first step” to gaining successful full-time employment and relationships. In fact, the majority of the alumni panelists obtained at least one internship while at UT. For example, David Muto with Texas Tribune worked at The Daily Texan’s copy editing department for a year, which gave him “the most experience in college.”
In addition, Muto said, “Working at The Daily Texan was fun, a busy experience, and granted networking opportunities while in college.”
Not having an internship, or work experience, on one’s resume may be the deciding factor when competing against other graduates for jobs after college. In some instances, work experience is a precursor to internships, as was the case with Michael Aaron, sophomore UT journalism major.
“I believe my work experience as a volunteer with Texas Student Media helped me earn my internship with KAUZ-TV in Wichita Falls,” explained Aaron.
The other panelists agreed that work experience leads to internships. An internship could lead to a permanent job offer at the same company and/or connections to a different job offer in the future. Internships are stepping-stones to other internships in the same companies.
“Once you get your foot in the door, make sure the rest of your body follows,” Vega commented.
After the “first step” of obtaining an internship, the work is not over. Vega encouraged students to step out of their comfort zones to maintain relationships and connections in order “to get through the door”. Similarly, Jazmine Ulloa, reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, agreed that networking is crucial for journalism jobs.
“The most important thing is learning how to build relationships,” stated Ulloa.
The panelists agreed that building relationships creates a positive rapport among co-workers and sets the stage for long-term contacts. In the real world, it is not always what you know, but who you know and who knows you. Additionally, UT J310 Reporting Words Professor Diana Dawson later emphasized the importance of building relationships and connections.
“It’s about how good you are at what you do, and how nice you are when doing it,” explained Dawson.