Career Coach: Journalist
I caught up with travel writer Aaron Drake for a bit of career advice.
What led you to explore a career in journalism and writing?
I’ve loved to write since I was a kid. I wrote my first ‘book’ in elementary school, and haven’t stopped since. It was one of my elementary school teachers who shared with me that she thought that I’d enjoy and be good in a career as a journalist - she also advised me to always tell the truth!.
How did you land your first journalism job?
I wrote letters to the editor of the local paper about local issues when I was a teenager. In college, I started freelancing a column about issues facing gay youth for a local LGBTQ newspaper in Columbus, Ohio.
Had you done any study or obtained any qualifications in the field?
I studied mass communications during my undergraduate degree, focusing on journalism. I worked my way up from being a freelance journalist to a magazine and web editor.
Was being a journalist what you thought it would be?
The writing part is everything I thought it would be, but there’s a lot more to the business side of being a freelance writer than I knew about in college. It’s been a constant learning curve.
What are some of the skills or attributes that you need to build a successful career as a journalist?
A love of writing is important. Other important attributes are self-motivation and perseverance. You’ll constantly be pitching ideas to editors that you may or may not ever hear from.
If someone was thinking about becoming a journalist, what advice or guidance would you give them?
Definitely you should have a love of writing and a curiosity about the world. Beware of publications that will ask you to write for free - there’s no shortage of them. Know your skill level and value of your work. Also, don’t be afraid to stretch your expertise area. There’s no limit to the topics you can write about if you put your mind to it.