Story by Becky Hoag
UO School of Journalism and Communication students were back in force last week, ready to start absorbing knowledge from their instructors and the many speakers who come to campus.
The second day of term, SOJC journalism alumnus Ryan Knutson, BS ’09, and advertising alumna Molly Bedford, BA ’08, visited Allen Hall to share their experiences and advice with a room of wide-eyed SOJC students.
After meeting at the SOJC and tying the knot, the power couple landed their dream jobs in New York City: Knutson is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and Bedford is an editorial designer for the New York Times.
How did they get to where they are today? Here’s a breakdown of their advice to current SOJC students:
- Pick up as many skills as possible. The SOJC gives students a plethora of opportunities to strengthen their skills. While it is important to eventually narrow down what you want to do, Knutson and Bedford say don’t “pigeon-hole” yourself too early. They had a leg up over some of their competitors because they obtained a diverse skillset. They particularly recommend learning photography and grammar.
- Network, network, network. As Bedford said, “Plant a lot of seeds.” This means you should always take the interview, because even if you say no in the end, you might make contacts who are useful in the future.
While you’re still in school, make as many friends in the SOJC as possible because they all end up doing cool things in many different parts of the nation. Knutson and Bedford found their alumni network extremely helpful when they first moved to New York. The connections the couple made during their time at the SOJC helped them obtain interviews and jobs, and they connected with other Ducks in the city when they were looking for a place to live. They still meet friends at Duck watch parties and other social gatherings.
When you’re in the working world, Knutson and Bedford said don’t be afraid to schedule short meetups. They found that asking people to go get coffee is an excellent way to stay connected, see what opportunities are open and ask for help. If coffee isn’t an option, stay connected through email or social media.
- Apply your education. Take internships, join clubs, apply for jobs or launch personal projects. Always be creating something. This will improve your skills and build up your portfolio — which every SOJC student should have. Finding SOJC mentors to help you along the way is highly recommended, as is taking the Media in Ghana trip, according to the couple.
Internships are also a great way to find out what you like to do and what you don’t. Jobs were hard to come by when they graduated from the SOJC during the Great Recession, so they relied on internships to apply their skills and make connections. Although they may have lacked long-term job security, the frequent movement between jobs allowed them to learn which fields they enjoy and which tasks they don’t.
- Be a storyteller first. This comment came from Bedford, the designer. She found that tackling a task through a storytelling lens allows her to do better work.
The couple recommends reading great journalism to become a great storyteller. Get your grammar and your facts right, and look for ways to engage your audience.
Maintain a good image. Your social media is part of your portfolio, including both current posts and past posts. Bedford and Knutson recommend keeping your political views and anything that could be deemed inappropriate off your social channels. When a company employs you, your image becomes connected to its image, so employers are less likely to hire people with controversial opinions.
In the office, Knutson and Bedford recommend having your own opinion but avoiding coming across as a know-it-all. When you first graduate, you will be a small fish in a very big pool, and you will be treated like a newbie sometimes. Accept criticism openly and keep offering ideas and saying yes to tasks. Having a good attitude will take you far.
- Living in New York, even for a short period of time, is a valuable experience. The couple know many people who work in New York for a year and then head back to the West Coast. Even if a big city is not your scene, throwing yourself in the deep end helps you learn fast. There are many Ducks in NYC to help you adjust, and having the experience on your résumé will make you look more attractive to employers everywhere else. Start with the SOJC’s NYC Creative Week Experience or Journalism in NYC trip to see if it is something you would be interested in doing.
- Pressure is good, but don’t overdo it. It is good to be competitive because it keeps you doing your best work. But too much pressure is counterproductive. Look at other successful student works for inspiration, but don’t become overwhelmed. Focus on your individual path and the skills you want to build instead of obsessing on your ideal job. No path is set in stone, so feel free to take risks, because the reward is out there — even if you can’t see it yet. And if you don’t get to do everything you want before you graduate, it is not the end of the world. In fact, while graduation may mark the end of your time at the SOJC, it’s the beginning of a whole new chapter with more learning opportunities than you can imagine.
Becky Hoag is a junior double-majoring in journalism and marine biology, with an environmental studies minor. This is her second term interning for the SOJC Communications Office. She is the editor-in-chief of UO’s environmental publication, Envision Magazine, and the president of UO’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter. She is interested in being a research scientist and freelance environmental and scientific journalist. You can view her work at beckyhoag.com.