Brand Me a Journalist

Using Social Media to Create a Professional Niche

Every Day (and Every Page View) is an Interview

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On any given day, being a grad student at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication can feel like being in a journalism version of Raphael’s School of Athens. We pass Pulitzer Prize and Murrow Award-winning professors in the hallways and sit in their classrooms. (More than once I’ve heard someone say, “I can’t believe I just talked to …”) Pioneering new media heavyweights teach us about digital entrepreneurship and invite sought-after venture capitalists to share their insights and encourage our creativity. Not only do we have top-tier faculty to tap into, but there’s also the steady stream of major news outlets whose representatives visit Cronkite to recruit interns and hire recent grads. The collective experience and influence at Cronkite open doors for us that simply aren’t accessible at many other journalism schools.

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Source: vatican.va

That’s why I try to approach every day in the building as an interview. No, I don’t wear a suit or bring a resume to class. But in general, I try to be aware that we could be invited at the last minute to join the faculty for lunch with a distinguished visitor. Or that the person chatting with me in the elevator could be the speaker at that evening’s event. I try to go to class prepared and participate in discussions, follow my professors and classmates on Twitter and add what I hope are thoughtful comments on their blogs. ( I’ll admit I have yet to master the typo-free tweet. I need more sleep to be able to tame that tiger…)

Professor Tim McGuire recently wondered out loud why some students aren’t more strategic in the way they approach their time at Cronkite, as if they aren’t aware that they’re making impressions and defining themselves every day in class and through social media. In fact, many professors end up becoming friends with former students on Facebook and connecting with them on LinkedIn, giving the once semester-long relationship potential for a much longer life. This added dimension to the student/professor dynamic makes it that much more important for us to build our professional networks within the school.

It may be that because I am an older student and worked in advertising before going back to school, I tend to think of school as my workplace. But I don’t think this career awareness is about age; some of the most impressive, strategic-thinking classmates of mine are –gulp– nearly half mine. They take advantage of opportunities, write well-crafted tweets and choose niche blog topics that as a whole clearly indicate the type of specialized journalist they want to be. In this era of the journalist as brand, they’re playing really good offense.

And most impressively, they’re taking risks to reach out to these seemingly larger-than-life faculty members and seeking their advice and encouragement. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re already connecting with them on LinkedIn.

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

February 21, 2010 at 11:25 pm

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  1. […] of our graduate students, Jennifer Hellum, has started a blog about the personal branding issue. It is readable, insightful and establishes her obvious credentials as a sophisticated thinker. […]


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