Career Advice and Journalists Don’t Mix

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I talked to more than a dozen reporters and freelance writers during the month of November. This happens every month, actually, because I am a source.

What does this mean? Sometimes we talk about HR. Sometimes we talk about the intricacies of looking for a job. Most of the time I refer journalists to other sources who might have something more interesting to say. At this point in my career, I am sick of talking about using Facebook to find a job.

So if you’re a writer who is covering the ‘career beat’ or anything related to unemployment, I owe you an apology. Sorta. I’ve been a little cranky, lately, because I’m irritated.

I think it is a fundamental failure of this country—and journalism—that we have a ‘career beat’ in the first place. What the heck is wrong with the world when banks and lending institutions are profitable but small businesses can’t get loans? Why do journalists want to talk to me about LinkedIn when the Dow Jones is on a record run but unemployment will only come down to 9% in 2011?

I find it odd that journalists are trying to advise and fix job seekers because some of the people hardest hit by unemployment in our country are journalists and writers. A good job in media with benefits is hard to find. When you finally get that job, dear journalist, please don’t give me The Ten Things I Need to Do to Find a Job on Twitter.

Give me something serious & meaningful. Have some common sense while you’re at it. You know that social media can’t get anyone a job because social media didn’t get you your job. And there are more unemployed people than jobs. There is no amount of career advice or guidance will help you get a job in an economy that isn’t creating new jobs. No article or blog post will fill a vacancy if a company has decided to take that job and move it to India.

Now of course it’s important to educate readers. Yes, it is important to help people find work. I think it is essential to teach basic skills to job seekers. I just don’t think it’s the job of a journalist to do that work. Journalists should meet the awesome people who in the trenches (schools, colleges, community centers, as well as students in programs for masters degrees online) and give them a platform to help Americans get back to work.

  • Tell me who these resources are, what they offer, and how and where to find ’em.
  • Highlight the local institutions and resources where the real expertise is located.
  • Use the critical mass of your audience to drive eyeballs to those centers of excellence that are putting people back to work.

I’m no Howard Kurtz, but I think journalists are getting it all wrong. I wonder why don’t we have more reporters investigating age & gender discrimination cases in the community. Why doesn’t the local paper tell me who is under investigation by the EEOC and which companies engage in unfair labor practices? And as a consumer of news—and a plain old consumer—I want to know why it takes an unforgivable amount of days to hire someone in America.

I’d like journalists to talk to more job seekers, business owners, and political leaders about the local economic issues in my community.

Sound boring? It is. But the economy isn’t celebrity gossip.

Right now, it’s of no comfort when the media offers ‘tips and tricks to master an interview’. Who is getting an interview? Who’s hiring? And how do I get a chance to speak to that person?

Tell me that.

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So I don’t mind speaking with great reporters who want to get to the heart of a story, but I’m not fond reporters and freelance writers who operate as advisors and counselors. Don’t ask me for the 50 things your HR department won’t share with you. Tell me a story, report on issues, and lead me to the real career experts. Don’t try to fix me.

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