By Chandra Turner
If you are an editor or content creator chances are pretty good that right about now you are:
a.) recently unemployed from a Covid-related layoff
b.) still unemployed from the last round of media layoffs
c.) a recent grad who can’t believe how bad your timing is.
If you are d.) Employed and happily working at home, you can smugly skip this post.
Everyone else: You’re probably feeling a bit helpless and frustrated as you scroll the near-empty job boards for roles in media, content, and comms. The job market really does suck. But let’s try to squeeze out some lemonade here. At least you can use this pause to get yourself ready for when the jobs do come back. And they will. (Psst. We’re starting to see some movement on Ed2010’s job board.)
I’ll skip the usual advice for job searching outside of the pandemic (i.e., how to get your resume in shape and how to make yourself attractive to hiring managers and recruiters) — and share the less obvious things you can be doing right now to make yourself more marketable while you’re waiting for recruiters to flood your inbox.
1. Break out of your bubble. It happens to the best of us. After all, when you have a comfortable job, it’s easy to tune out the industry news (especially when it’s terrible). It’s work keeping up on what’s happening in the industry. If you’re a recent grad, well, college is the quintessential bubble, even if you are “in college” from your parents’ basement.
So poke your head out and get to know your industry — for the first time or again. Learn what’s going on. What conglomerates are buying each other. What brands are investing in content marketing. Who’s putting up a paywall and who’s pulling one down. What media companies are unionizing, laying folks off, or decreasing salaries. Get in the habit of reading the business or media section every day of your favorite news outlet and follow the media and marketing columnists (i.e., the NY Post’s Keith Kelly or the NY Times’ Ben Smith, and WSJ CMO’s Nate Ives).
Recruiters and hiring managers love talking shop, and they expect you to know the key players in the industry (CEOs, EICs) and the latest news surrounding them, their businesses, and their competitors. There’s always something scandalous or sensational going on in media (Don’t believe me? Read The Media Star!) Right now it’s also especially important to pay attention to what companies are doing well, and not-so-well. So when you go to apply for jobs, your eyes are wide open. And also so you don’t put your foot in your mouth and say something insensitive without knowing it.
A good way to keep up is to sign up for some industry newsletters and many of them are free. Here’s a list to follow, from an earlier Ed2010 / Talent Fairy post.
2. Become a Stalker. A better word is probably fan. This is an extension of the above tip, but more personal. Start following the brands, media companies, and industry leaders you love on social media and in the news. Would love to work for Peloton, Refinery 29, or Glossier? Set a Google alert so anytime they are mentioned in the news, you get pinged. Follow their brand or team members on social. Engage in their posts if you find them relevant. Tag them in content that you think that they’d be interested in. (It has to be authentic or it doesn’t work.)
That means Linked In too. Brands are going nuts on the platform lately and you should be there taking note of what they are posting and how they are presenting themselves to the rest of the industry and potential employees (um, you). Follow not only the brands themselves, but also the CEOs, CMOs, and other senior leadership — many are now brands in their own right and you don’t need to actually be connected to them in order to follow them. (It’s also a good idea to post yourself on Linked In so your followers — future employers! — get to know you, too.)
Then do some digging on their back story — you are a journalist after all! Go to their About Us or Wikipedia page. Download their media kit. Learn about their mission and how they present themselves to their customers or their shareholders. Look them up on Glassdoor or other job ranking sites to see how former employees talk about them. The more you pay attention, the more likely you are to learn about new initiatives or products they are developing and can connect with them before the jobs are even posted. Or catch that job post when they first share it on social media or on their careers page, before they open it up to the world on Linked In.
3. Get a Job Buddy. You know how weight loss programs say you will be more successful at sticking to your diet or exercise plan if you have a friend do it with you? Same is true on the job hunt. Team up with a friend who is also looking and keep each other accountable. Make a time to check in with each other once a week to check in what you said you’d do: Apply for those jobs, write that contact of your aunt’s, send that LOI to that CCO. Then share your successes and your shit days with each other. It’ll make you feel less alone and keep you going when you’d rather just watch reruns of Younger. (No friends to job search with you? You can hire a career coach, ahem!)
For recent grads there is another kind of buddy that is helpful — the kind who just went through it before you. They may not understand what it’s like to graduate in a global pandemic, but they do understand what it’s like to be a recent grad looking for a job in a competitive field. And chances are they have a few tips up their sleeves. Reach out to alumni who are a year ahead of you and other folks you know who have successfully made the leap in media. Don’t know anyone? Ed2010 has a Buddy System where we match up recent grads who are looking for media jobs with junior editors who are less than 5 years out of school. We are taking applications now. Oh and it’s free. Not a recent grad? Be a Buddy if only for the career karma!
4. Start shaping your “story.” I used to use the term personal branding, but it made some purists feel icky and awkward. Like you’re not a person but a product. I get it. But it’s important to have a concise story to tell people — who you are now and more importantly: where you want to be next.
Why? Because people want to help you. But they can’t help you if they don’t know how. And it’s your job at this jobless point in your life to help them help you. If they know what kind of job you are after and what you are passionate about, they will consciously (and unconsciously) be on the lookout for you.
When you are a seasoned editor with lots of previous jobs, your story can go in so many different directions, but you really need to pick a lane. Focus on where you want to be going next rather than where you have come from. Tone down or edit out everything else on your resume and Linked In profile that isn’t pushing you forward in the direction you want to go. Be as specific as possible — narrow down the industry (i.e., traditional media, content marketing, comms), the job title (i.e., content strategist, social media manager, editorial director), the subject area (health, lifestyle, travel), and the type of company you want to work for (nonprofit, btc, btb, media, non-media) and start with your first preference, first.
For recent grads, your “story” should start with picking a subject area expertise. So many whippersnappers I coach say, “I don’t care what subject area, I just want a job!” But the truth is that hiring managers (and recruiters like me) are looking for specialists or at least enthusiasts. That’s because a lot of media these days, maybe even the majority of it, is for a niche audience. Or the departments within them are. Think: Beauty. Sports. Food. Health. Fashion. Politics. Whatever. You probably don’t have deep experience if you are a recent grad, but you CAN have deep passion, or show deep passion, in a subject area. Your resume and Linked in should reflect what that passion is — and even better if you have internship or campus media experience to back it up.
5. Check in with Folks. Now’s the time to start looking up email addresses from your past and scrolling through Linked In. Hit up coworkers and bosses from past jobs and internships, track down coworkers who moved on to new roles, reconnect with that old roommate or ex who is a big wig now.
It’s not networking, it’s connecting. If you call it networking, it will feel impersonal as it sounds. What you want to do is check in with people who are closer to the jobs and opportunities than you are. They might not be hiring, but when they are, or when their friends are or their old coworker is, you want to be fresh of mind. And you want them to think well of you and want to help you.
Turns out that now’s an excellent time to check in with people and see how they are doing. How are they holding up? How is their family? Before you start talking about your jobless self, try to think about them first. Hark back to what you know about them: Did they love to cook? Send them a story about the grannie who has a 60 year old sourdough starter. Do they love the Mets? Send them a story about the future of fan-free baseball games. Whatever. Just try to avoid the “I’m unemployed, can you look out for jobs for me” as the subject. Sure, it can be the last line but not the first.
Heck, they may be even unemployed now! Maybe you can help them. Then they will owe you one. Again: Career karma!
Chandra Turner is founder and CEO of Ed2010 and Talent Fairy. She is a talent recruiter specializing in the content and media space. She also offers personalized career coaching for media professionals at all stages of their career.
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