Written by Karen Mitchell, News Director, CTV News Winnipeg and Prairies Regional Director, RTDNA Canada So. You’ve graduated and are ready to hit the field running. There’s nothing quite as exciting as chasing that first job! The competition is tough, with many people just like you looking for a foot in the door. So how

Written by Karen Mitchell, News Director, CTV News Winnipeg and Prairies Regional Director, RTDNA Canada

So. You’ve graduated and are ready to hit the field running. There’s nothing quite as exciting as chasing that first job! The competition is tough, with many people just like you looking for a foot in the door. So how do you set yourself apart? There are some do’s and don’ts to the process. You want to be noticed but for all the right reasons, not the wrong!



If there’s one pet peeve that will see your resume hit the trash can rather than the interview pile – that’s getting the name of the hiring manager, the station, or the position wrong. Journalism is an exact art. If you don’t take care in your opening introduction to your potential new boss, then the presumption is your journalism will be sloppy, too. I will not look at a resume if it’s addressed to the wrong person or station. Yes, station. It’s happened. If these basics aren’t accurate, I have no faith you’ll get the facts right in any story you bring me.

Richard Cloutier, a 25 year veteran of the industry is an anchor/host at 680 CJOB radio in Winnipeg and Senior Reporter, Global News Winnipeg. Cloutier stresses the cover letter; resume and demo are your first chance to wow your potential new boss. No matter the changes in the industry, to Cloutier, journalism is “…still about making connections on a variety of formats and that’s what I always look for in a cover letter or resume. Are you passionate? How are you connecting with me? Tell me a story that will motivate me to want to call you for an interview.” Also, Cloutier says, be sure to take care and time to craft a well thought out cover letter. “Writing. Great writing in a cover letter requires short, declarative sentences. Be passionate, never boring” he says.

Finally, tailor your resume and demo to the job. This is not a one size fits all industry and no job is one size fits all. If you don’t take the time to be specific in your application to the job at hand, how does your potential new boss know you’ll care to be specific in your story telling and fact gathering?



Aha! The thin wedge! You have an interview, it’s in a week. Now what? Well, you prepare like this is the final exam for every course you completed to earn your credentials.
Human resources professional Roma Thorlakson is the senior consultant at Leaders & Co./Higgins Executive Search in Winnipeg. Thorlakson says there are four fatal mistakes you can make in the interview.

  • Not doing any research on the organization you’re interviewing with – the minimum is to visit their website. Be knowledgeable of their challenges, mission and values. Shows initiative and motivation for the job.
  • Not to have any questions when asked at the end of the interview if you have any questions. Minimum is 3-4 questions that relate to the job and organization. This shows that you are curious, interested and want the job.
  • Not being prepared – behavioural based questions cannot be winged. The posting tells you what they’re looking for – so prepare a story/example around each competency listed. Lack of prep shows up as rambling, not answering questions asked or not having an answer.
  • Not answering the question – listen carefully to what is being asked and answer the question.

Global Calgary News Director Chris Bassett adds it’s a mistake “…not doing basic research on the station or the company. Out of market applicants need to demonstrate some awareness of the people, stories or big issues going on here.” And don’t make excuses, “saying ‘we can’t watch your newscasts out here’, when posts are available online.”



You’re in! You might think the interview was the most intimidating and nerve wracking part of your new career. Well, the fun is about to begin! Step one is to take a look around and learn about the culture at your new chosen work place.

Thorlakson reminds, “….you’re the new kid in the sand box, so learn the rules of how everyone plays together. Every work culture has its unique ways of communicating and getting things done so take the first 90 days to observe, listen and ask questions.” She adds it’s important right away to learn who your go-to people are, and don’t be shy to go to them!

I’ve watched many young journalists try to go it alone. You need to trust it’s okay not to have the answer to everything. None of us do. You might think with more than 20 years’ experience I’d have all the answers. Not so! I learn something new every day and ask questions every day. Culturally, every single newsroom and journalist is open to answering any question you have without judgment. So ask away!

Cloutier reminds us all it’s about being a team, which means “…being honest with colleagues and owning up to your mistakes. Make mistakes, that’s the only way to learn.”



You’ll soon notice newsrooms are very, very, very busy places. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, so you need to find a way to put your hand up for attention. And do it again if no one notices. I call this being pleasantly persistent.

Bassett suggests you “book a meeting and ask for feedback rather than waiting for feedback to come to you. That shows you care about your career and helps ease the burden (and guilt) for overwhelmed news managers.”

This goes for pitching story ideas, too. Don’t think an initial “not today” will stay that way. Did you dig enough to make an awesome pitch? Is it a great story that can wait for a slower news day?



This might the toughest of all. We all want to succeed and be at the top of our game and of THE game. All in time! Bassett stresses you need “Understanding that it takes time to move into roles others have worked a lifetime to get into. That this is more of a public service job than a 9-5 job where you can punch in and punch out.”

Even if you’re passed over for a promotion, it doesn’t mean you’re not doing well. Ask why you were not chosen and how you can grow your skills to be successful next time.

Want to wow your boss? “Be available to work any shift, sit in any chair, learn from that experience and have a positive can-do attitude!” according to Bassett. Cloutier says you can “Stand out in the writing, your ideas and your passion for the job. Are you looking at the clock? I completely understand work/life balance but you still need to “pay-your-dues” to succeed.”

Remember, the people around you are willing to mentor you and help you grow. They didn’t walk in the door with no experience and take the host job or senior shooter. They were mentored, too and will be willing to help! Thorlakson encourages you to “Build a relationship, take a keen interest in what they do and convey that you want to learn from them. Look for how you can help out.”

I lied, there’s one more thing I’d like to mention which technically makes this six things you need to know etc.


Have a good one.

Your positive, upbeat, can-do attitude may be the thing that wow’s your future boss the most.

This is a mind-blowingly wonderful industry.

Embrace it, and it will embrace you.


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  • Murray Wood
    April 11, 2017, 6:16 pm

    Good job Karen. This applies to all fields of course, but especially journalism. I might also add a caveat about actually being interested in news. I’m always surprised (but perhaps I’m easily surprised) to find people in our business, who aren’t really consumers of news.

    • Karen Mitchell@Murray Wood
      April 12, 2017, 12:00 pm

      Excellent point Murray; and I couldn’t agree more.


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