How to break into the media business

By Julie Patel

You want to break into the media business. You’re taking college courses or maybe you’re just finishing up. Now what?

Be brave and get started.

Take initiative to jumpstart your career. Now more than ever, media professionals come up with their own ideas for content for social media, brochures and marketing articles; event planning and outreach strategy for public relations; advertising campaigns and strategies; and story ideas and multimedia strategies for news outlets.

Practice taking the initiative so it starts coming natural to you.

Practice and be persistent.

Practicing the craft will improve your skills and perhaps give you something to show for on your resume.

Write articles and try out marketing pitches and write-ups on WordPress or Blogger. Maybe there is a way to practice your skills at your current workplace: Make sure the project will also benefit your employer and then pitch the idea to your boss. You can also offer to do a few free items for smaller publications but be sure your idea is well-conceived. Start building a portfolio online.

Once you have a few strong clips or items in your portfolio, starting applying for as many internships and entry-level positions as possible. My husband graduated college during a recession. He applied to about 100 jobs until he finally got one: writing stories for the Idyllwild Town Crier. When you apply, write clearly, concisely and accurately and watch the typos! Mistakes on your cover letter or resume signal to employers that you will be sloppy as a an employee working for them.

Impress employers.

Once you snag a coveted internship, that’s when the hard work really begins.

Put your heart into it and try to be as engaged as possible. Ask questions. Offer to help. Look for what’s needed or missing and try to fill those gaps. Offer to post on social media, or create a chart or video to improve the content you’re creating.

If you don’t know how to do something, look for help. Keep in mind, people in some workplaces may be too busy to do much handholding but you can look for resources online as well as ask your boss: “What would be the best way to learn ___?”

Be detailed-oriented when you’re turning in assignments. Focus on getting the facts, grammar and spelling straight. Aim to impress! You never know when an internship could turn into a job.

Build a community and work your connections.

The people you meet and make connections with are resources. We are all part of a larger community and we need each other to thrive. Set up coffees with people who might be able to help. Ask for help.

One of the best things I could have done for my career was getting involved in journalism trade groups early on. Find a trade group that matches your career interest, join it and attend conferences, panels and job fairs.

Journalism trade groups include the Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Radio Television Digital News Association, National Association of Broadcasters, Global Editors Network, Association of News Editors, Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists, National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association and Journalism and Women Symposium.

PR trade groups include the Public Relations Society of America, the PR Council, the International Public Relations Association.

Marketing trade groups include the American Marketing Association and the Business Marketing Association. (It seems there’s a trade group for every niche in marketing – legal, mobile, Internet, etc.)

Advertising trade groups include the Association of National Advertisers, American Advertising Federation and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Book publishing trade groups include the Independent Book Publishers Association, National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Entertainment industry trade groups include the National Association of Record Industry Professionals, Recording Artists’ Coalition, Songwriters Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, American Society of Composers, Authors & Radio Artists and Independent Film & Television Alliance.

Jobs and internships sites

Spend 20 minutes every couple of months checking jobs sites to assess what kinds of jobs are out there and to get a sense of the skills and experience required. Try media-specific sites such as, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies’ jobs board, and, or use keyword and location filters in broader career sites such as,, and

A list of resources, including online jobs boards, is below, categorized by media type.

Journalism jobs

Tips from my journalism friends and me: “How to snag your first journalism gig”

The Jobs Page by Joe Grimm:

Poynter’s list of 80+ journalism internships and fellowships’s “great” first jobs

Journalism internships’s jobs page

Public Relations jobs

OC PRSA’s jobs board’s PR internships in Orange County list’s list of PR jobs in Los Angeles

LinkedIn’s list of PR jobs in Orange County

Marketing and advertising jobs

Craigslist’s marketing, advertising and PR jobs in OC’s list of marketing jobs in Los Angeles

MediaBistro’s list of advertising jobs’s list of advertising jobs in L.A.

LinkedIn’s list of advertising jobs in L.A.

Career Builder’s advertising jobs

Entertainment industry jobs

National Association of Record Industry Professionals’ jobs board

Film Independent’s jobs board

TV and film production jobs

Casting calls and auditions’s list of film jobs’s list of TV jobs’s list of music jobs