Put experience, networking to work finding jobs, internships

From the New York City bureau of the entertainment publication Variety, University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism major Carson Vaughan writes stories and soaks up experience. His job at Variety is Vaughan's second internship. He scored his first internship last year at The Onion, a national publication that specializes in satire and "fake news."

Unlike his paid Variety internship, Vaughan worked for free at The Onion.

"It was worth it," Vaughan said. "When you're in the job market, experience is No. 1."

Vaughan, a native of Broken Bow, will graduate next year from the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications. In preparation for hitting the dwindling job market, Vaughan's resume is packed with experience. In addition to two internships, Vaughan started the Dailyer Nebraskan, a satirical newspaper produced by Vaughan and other UNL students.

Vaughan also knows the importance of working his connections. For example, he keeps in touch with staff from The Onion, calling on them for help in finding sources for Dailyer Nebraskan stories. And he was hired at Variety after interviewing with Kristin Wilder, Variety's deputy managing editor and a UNL graduate.

"I tell other students to go out of their way to meet people and talk to people. Networking is huge and it's probably 85 percent of finding a job," Vaughan said.

In a slow job market, it's even more critical for students of all ages to gain experience and make connections, said Larry Routh, director of Career Services at UNL. Recruiting for student internships and jobs is down, said Routh. But the jobs are still out there.

"I've been through economic downturns before and I know that students get discouraged and give up after a few rejections," Routh said. "There are a lot of strategies students can use to maximize opportunities for internships and jobs."

Routh said UNL's Career Services offers plenty of advice and resources for students looking for internships or jobs:

  • Don't just "sit and click." It's okay to search for jobs online, said Routh, but you also need to access the hidden -- unadvertised -- job market. Contact people in your networks, including family, friends and virtual friends on Facebook or other social networking groups. Keep in mind previous jobs and organizations and don't be shy about contacting people who may be able to help you out.
  • Get work experience. Internships may be harder to come by now but they can still be found. If you can't find a paying gig, be willing to volunteer. Involvement in school, campus or community organizations can also be considered work experience.
  • Look inward. What are your strengths? What do you do well? What do you enjoy doing? Work with a career counselor to identify job opportunities that use your strengths and then build on those strengths with activities or experience that complement your major.

"I hate to see students force themselves to major in something just because they think there's a job market for it," said Routh. "By seeking expert help and using your imagination, you might find potential careers you hadn't thought about." 

You can read more of the Back-to-School series at http://newsroom.unl.edu/releases/.