Life after graduation: The ups and downs of a post-college reporter

Home and Best in Care magazinesStory by Amanda Linares

Photos courtesy of Amanda Linares

As aspiring journalists and storytellers, we’ve all made the same unwritten pledge and promise to dedicate ourselves wholly to a career path that demands constant attention and heart. Regardless of your chosen medium or position, you probably are in this for the same things I am: to seek the truth, share stories and inform and engage the communities around us. As we all learned early on, the news waits for no one.

That’s why I went to J-school in the first place and why I’ve returned for a graduate degree.

Before enrolling as professional Journalism Master’s student at the UO School of Journalism and Communication, I graduated from the University of Florida with a BA in journalism.  As a senior there, I was lucky enough to garner a few internships and freelancing practice to prepare me for my first professional, post-graduate position.

But as many recent graduates realize, launching a career in journalism takes dedication. I spent most of my time as a recent graduate balancing a management position at a retail store while interning for Florida Hospital’s Best in Care magazine (now a blog) as a writer.

I learned a lot during this time. Working at a professional publication is a lot like busting your butt during your reporting class. At school your professors become your editors and your fellow classmates become your coworkers. It’s not so different when you get a real job, except that the work you produce is for publication instead of a grade.

I spent a lot of my time at Florida Hospital getting to know the staff and the resources around me. My days were filled with researching procedures, interviewing patients and doctors, and doing plenty of writing and rewriting. I even had the chance to watch a surgical procedure, but due to my weak stomach had to opt out. I got to shadow my editors and help rewrite and update our physician biographies on the magazine’s website.

I won’t lie. It was intimidating to enter a new environment and to sit around a table with seasoned professionals during an editorial meeting, planning out the month’s magazine content. I got through it with many self-pep talks, reminding myself to trust that the four years I spent in school had prepared me for this. I learned quickly that being a successful employee meant continuing the same habits I had as a journalism student

Of course, school didn’t prepare me for everything. The industry can be tough and complex to navigate, filled with barriers, challenges and long hours. Yes, there are advantages to being a fresh-faced reporter eager to hit the ground running, but you also have to be a performer of sorts, trying to fit in being a student, friend, daughter/son/sibling and, of course, an employee. For me, it was a delicate balancing act in which I had to always be careful not to miscalculate or overshoot what I took on in the hopes of keeping everything afloat and progressing along in my new career in what often seemed like a chaotic circus environment. It wasn’t always easy, but it was definitely worth it.

At Florida Hospital, I learned the workings of a publication. Unlike a class, the publication must still continue on without you, and but making your deadlines and proving you are a reliable employee will increase your odds of getting more stories and pitches heard at future meetings.

I also learned to:

  • Always be prepared.
  • Come in early.
  • Take direction and learn from your staff.
  • Participate as much as possible.
  • Never make excuses.

During the course of working and interning, I found the time to check out a few more writing opportunities and job postings as well. I wanted to be able to further my experience and get to a publication with a higher circulation. But it quickly became apparent that more and more publications were looking for writers who could also take photographs, produce short video clips, or create audio slideshows. The newspapers and magazines I was interested in wanted to me add digital elements to their written stories and elevate them to another level.

That’s when I realized that, if I were to really get a chance at working for a national or big-city publication, I would need to further my education. I knew grad school was the answer. Before I knew it, I was moving across the country to attend the SOJC.

Now that I’m about to graduate with a master’s in journalism, I feel confident that my combination of schooling and real-world experience will help me write and produce powerful multimedia pieces for any publication.

Amanda Linares joined the SOJC Communications team as a multimedia intern while studying as a graduate student in the professional Journalism Master’s program. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida’s School of Journalism and Communications and has written for the unofficial school paper, The Independent Florida Alligator, as well as a variety of other publications, including Alachua County Today newspaper and Florida Hospital’s Best In Care magazine. She’s also worked as a guest anchor and producer for WUFT-TV’s Afternoon News In 90 in Gainesville, Florida. In her graduate program, she has shifted her focus from print to multimedia production and photojournalism. Linares hopes to grow her journalism skills across multiple platforms and plans on graduating this spring.