Q: I'm 25 and more than a year and a half into my first reporting job. I work at a small (so small we don't even have a website) weekly paper but have always dreamed of moving on to a daily. I worked my butt off in college and reported for the school paper. I was even part of a group of students who won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for stories we wrote that were published all across the state.
I give every story my all and people have always complimented my writing. I've applied to several larger papers and was interviewed by some, but, almost invariably, I have been told they won't hire me because I don't have enough experience. The papers I tried for seemed like the next logical step up from where I am, but I've run into a catch-22: If you don't already have the experience, employers won't allow you to get it.
I've always been passed over by dailies for internships and jobs. How can I ever get a job at a daily if prior daily experience is a requirement? The thing is, I know I can handle anything life throws at me, but I've never discovered the magic words that will convince a prospective employer of that.
Am I just too ambitious and too impatient? Should I wait longer when I feel small-town newspapering has already taught me most everything it can teach me? How do you convince the big guys you are not a lightweight?
A: I can understand your frustration.
But don't fall into the trap that so many people do: "how can I get experience if no one will give me experience?" What those editors are really telling you -- they should say it -- is that they are hiring more experience people.
This suggests two directions: Keep working and apply later or, better, apply to smaller places where you will be more competitive. It sounds as though you're good, you're just applying within pools of people who have more daily experience than you do. Keep trying, but apply to smaller dailies or dailies in places where you think they'll get less-experienced applicants.