Job Search Lesson from Journalism – Get Your Facts Straight
I consider unemployment to be the biggest life-changing experience since I discovered Netflix on my Xbox 360, but there are also a lot of lessons you learn in previous careers that could be helpful in your job search today.
Even though I switched careers from journalism to public relations, I have learned that the most basic lesson of good journalism should be adhered to in a job search. Always Get Your Facts Straight. You must always have enough background information to understand your story before you write it.
I learned the hard way how much this applies to the job search. I was going nowhere once I became unemployed. The millions of emails I had sent out were met with more silence than a Jimmy Fallon joke. There was immediate anger, both warranted and unwarranted – “How could I not get a PR position at a Bronx college when I was the managing editor of a newspaper in the Bronx and had written the entire Bronx Almanac?” “How can I not even get an interview with Baruch College when I graduated from the school?” And then after I had all but given up hope, calls started coming in.
I received an interview for a PR position at Mercy College. I felt I was prepared. I had several copies of my resume, writing samples and examples of press hits I had garnered during my time at The New York Public Library and a book to read on my long journey to Dobbs Ferry. I knew I had the job before I got there. I was questioning how I was going to make this trip each day, would I have to buckle down and get a car, and what it would be like to move closer to the school. I had another interview the next day – How would I choose between companies? “Sorry, you can’t have all this…I’m working at Mercy.”
I got to the school an hour early. I made small talk with my “new co-workers” and I was finally called into the office where the first question asked was – “What do you know about Mercy College?” I knew everything about Mercy College, but fear suddenly crept in to the point where I said, “I’ve covered so many schools for the paper, I think I might be mixing them up in my head.” NOOOOOOO!!!! I nailed every other part of the interview and then apologized about my earlier stumble before leaving, because I really thought reminding someone of my failure would help me in the decision-making process. “That Jon, he knows nothing about us, but he came in an hour early.”
Lesson learned. I started creating cheat sheets with both the most important and most interesting information about the company I was applying for. The more I read my cheat sheet the more I remembered and the better prepared for the interview I was. It helped when I discovered that NYIT had an amazing lacrosse team. When I interviewed for a Global Relations position at the school, I rattled off facts and then added, “You have an amazing lacrosse team,” and quickly shifted the interview to my work experience, mentioning how I used to write about lacrosse. The interview was a breeze and I picked up a second interview. I didn’t get the job, but at least I didn’t disrespect the interviewer.
“What do you know about our company” is the easiest question they could ask. It’s like an open-book test. Information is on the company’s website; it’s available in a simple Google News search; and (cheap plug alert), a more in-depth peek is available in Vault’s company profiles. The Internet does the work for you. It’s up to you to do the research and prepare. Get your facts straight. With the resources at your fingertips, if you walk in and don’t know anything about the company you are applying to, you fail before you even started.