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Jan asks, "I have been an advertising copywriter for the past 15 years. I have also done work as a stringer for a few small newspapers and magazines, and wrote a column for a major market newspaper. I would like to move more into journalism but am not sure how to position experience so that I don't have to start over. Certainly, as a copywriter I have developed strong interview and research skills, can deal with tight deadlines and high-stress, fast-paced environments, and rose to the level of creative director, so I am good at management, mentoring, and project organization from start to finish.
Any input or suggestions would be welcome. Also, I'm in my 40s.
Thank you for your help."
Well, for one thing you sold me on the short note you sent! If I'm a hiring manager I like what I see.
Some things to consider: Try to pinpoint exactly what you want to do in journalism. Is it becoming an editor on a newspaper? A magazine? A staff writer? Do you want to work for a large organization or a small one? The more you clarify that the better you will be able to target your job search.
The other thing to do is emphasize those skills, "strong interview and research skills, can deal with tight deadlines and high-stress, fast-paced environments, and rose to the level of creative director, so I am good at management, mentoring, and project organization from start to finish," at the top of the resume under your experience as a copywriter.
The experience writing for newspapers and the column are very important and should be fleshed out as much as possible.
Everyone fears age discrimination and it still occurs. But, something is happening. More and more employers are looking for mature workers to provide leadership and stability, as well as talent. It's not that you wouldn't face that in some situations but it shouldn't be a problem.
The macro questions to ask are: what is the hiring environment like in journalism now and how competitive is it? The answers are that it is improving, as the economy and advertising revenue increases. It is always competitive.
A resume will not get you a job but will get the foot in the door. If you get an interview you will need to sell the interviewer on how copywriting skills can be converted to journalism skills. So, think about that a bit. Certainly, the ability to write under pressure and compress things to fit copy are very important skills. But, there are particular journalistic writing skills necessary to have like fact-checking, knowing style books, pyramid style, etc etc.
Something else to think about: Making a transition to a full-fledged position in journalism. If, after you've done your resume and targeted what position you want and where you want to work and you simply make no head-way, then think of these options. (1) Go back to school and get some journalism writing classes. (2) Go to seminars for journalism writing (3) Get work writing or editing a small publication like a newsletter.
Depending on where you live and the opportunities in your area for journalists I think it's more likely that you could find a position in journalism going directly from copywriting.
One thing I would do is try and immerse yourself in the world of journalism. There are excellent trade magazines like Columbia Journalism Review, Editor and Publisher, and American Journalism Review. Try keeping up on what is going on. Get on Internet mailing lists for journalists and editors. Call up editors at local newspapers or magazines and ask them for an informational interview. This is an excellent way to start networking. This link has more information about them.
The more you start thinking like a journalist, the closer you'll get to finding a job in it.
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