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8 ways young journalists can make themselves more marketable

(Flickr photo by Berto Pena, Creative Commons license)

There’s no denying it: this is a tough time to be navigating the world of journalism. With fewer people subscribing to newspapers, or choosing to subscribe to nonprofessional news sources altogether, layoffs have been more common, as was demonstrated when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went online-only four years ago last month.

The burden is even heavier for recent graduates just entering the field who have to compete with seasoned journalists. In a profession like this, young, relatively inexperienced journalists must be able to market themselves in a way that makes them more competitive and more likely to find jobs.

Here are eight ways young journalists can make themselves more competitive.

  • Develop your craft. “Be better than anyone else at what journalists do,” said Randal Beam, journalism professor at the University of Washington and SPJ board member — “getting information, determining the best way to present it, and figuring out how to get news consumers to engage with it.”
  • Be versatile. “Learn as much as you can about the various communication tools available: still cameras, story-telling software, video cameras, social media, etc.,” Beam said.
  • Network. Making connections with people can play a major part in helping you find a job. Find mentors, alumni from your university, contact journalists you admire directly, etc. Mallary Tenore, managing editor of the Poynter Institute website, has more good tips here.
  • Start now. “Don’t wait until you have a job to start journalism. Write, write, write, or if you’re a photographer shoot, shoot, shoot as much as you can,” suggests Seattle Times and GeekWire columnist Monica Guzman. If you’re still making your way through college, try to write for your school’s paper, suggests Tenore. Yes, it will add more to your already full plate, but it’s a great way to be introduced into the field and to surround yourself with like-minded people.
  • Job hunt. This is true of any career path, perhaps even more so for journalists: start browsing through job listings early to see exactly what skills future employers will want, and work to develop those skills. More on that from Emily Driscoll at
  • Get published. Try to write as a guest blogger. The pay may not be substantial (or existent) but it’ll grow your portfolio and put your name on a website that will likely get more views than your personal blog. Be aware, though, that “doing this too much can dilute your value as a writer, and as someone who deserves to be paid,” according to Guzman.
  • Internships, internships, internships. They’re still a great way to gain practical and real-life journalism skills. Plus, they often lead to full-time work once you graduate. Read more about the importance of internships from Penny Loretto of

Ola Wietecha is a University of Washington student and an intern with SPJ’s Western Washington chapter. What do you want to know about journalism in our region? Email her at

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