Tips from a J-Student: Picking up skills and contacts at a professional workshop

Newspaper reporters, editors and others listen to Miami Herald Multimedia Editor Rick Hirsch give opening remarks at Saturday's workshop.


Newspaper reporters, editors and others listen as Miami Herald Multimedia Editor Rick Hirsch gives opening remarks at Saturday's workshop. (From my camera phone, TwitPic)

This is the first in an occasional series called “Tips from a J-Student.” Posts will focus on ways journalism students can better prepare themselves for jobs, internships and other opportunities.

Click here for my Top 10 list of tips.

I know I’ve said this before in some form or another, but (in my Mel Brooks voice):

“It’s good to be a student.”

About 50 newspaper and other media professionals gathered at the University of Miami’s School of Communication on Saturday for a day of online and multimedia training sessions, sponsored by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and Florida Press Association.

For the second consecutive year, Matthew Bunch (@matthewsbunch) and I volunteered for the event. Deborah Acosta (@deborahacosta) a first-year graduate student, also volunteered.

Yes, we helped unload a car. Yes, we helped set up breakfast. Yes, we handed out name tags and programs. 

But why?

Well, there was free breakfast and lunch. More importantly, it was an opportunity to see old friends, meet new people and learn something (sessions were also free for volunteers).

For example, I met University of Florida journalism professor Dave Stanton (@gotoPlanB) after months of hearing about him from former students and Orlando Sentinel senior producer Danny Sanchez (@DannySanchez) after following each on Twitter for awhile.

As for learning something new, I was able to attend a session in each of the three time slots (more details). It just so happened that all of them were led by Miami Herald journalists:

I wish I could have attended all the workshops, but I picked the ones where I thought I would learn the most. 

So what good does this do you?

Find out if your school hosts any professional development events. Most UM journalism students have no idea this opportunity – though limited to a few volunteers – exists at all.

If there’s not such an event, see what you can do to lobby for workshops or some other opportunity to network and learn (somewhat related: a shameless plug for Sean Blanda‘s efforts to bring BarCamp NewsInnovation to Philadelphia). 

But the overall lesson is to take advantage of any available opportunity to improve your skill set, make new connections and continue relationships. And, if that opportunity doesn’t exist, try to make it happen.

Upcoming opportunity: From Jan. 3 to 10, Knight Char in Visual Journalism Rich Beckman will host his annual Beyond Bootcamp workshops at UM for the first time.

Students have the (paid) opportunity to assistant in one of the three-day sessions. I’ll be helping out with the video narratives sessions, Jan. 7 to 10. Of course, I plan to blog about this event.

Looking forward: Several upcoming posts in this series will related to applying for summer internships. Although it’s too late for many summer opportunities, I hope these posts will help students applying in the spring and beyond. 

Weigh in: Have you found any similar training or networking opportunities at your school? If not, what kind would you like to see?