Q: I read your column every day and I think you give excellent advice, so I'm hoping you can help me with my situation.
I'm a British journalist engaged to a New Yorker. We plan to get married as soon as my visa comes through, which our attorney says is likely to take between three and nine months. I'm excited about my wedding and the opportunities the move may present for my career but I'm a little worried about whether U.S. editors will recognize my qualifications, the variation in writing styles between English and American newspapers and how I will cope without a sound knowledge of media law and the political system in my new country.
Your column and the U.S. job adverts I've read give me the impression that the preferred route onto a newspaper there is via a journalism degree. I have a degree, but not in journalism, which doesn't matter much here. U.K. editors prefer that candidates take an intensive six-month journalism course after they graduate, which trains them in law, politics, news writing and shorthand (useful as audio recording devices are not allowed in our courts). Then, after 18 months to two years on the job, trainee reporters take a final set of exams known as the NCE. Those who pass are considered qualified senior reporters.
This is the stage I am at now. I have just passed the finals, have about two years' experience and have produced some strong clips, which have won me a couple of awards. For the last six months or so, I have been reading several U.S. papers on the internet each day and have totally fallen in love with the idea of working for a well-respected alternative weekly with a circulation of 260,000. This would be a step up for me as it is my larger than the paper I currently work for but what really appeals to me is its strong reputation for investigative journalism, which is my passion. A few days ago, I found out the editor is advertising for staff reporters. I feel I can't let this opportunity pass me by, but how can I apply when I can't be specific about when I can start?
My second dilemma concerns how to present my credentials to U.S. editors. I'm assuming that they will have little or no knowledge of our training system. Should I provide some explanation of it on my resume or save this for the interview?
Thirdly, the tabloid writing style on my paper here is very different to the more narrative, in-depth coverage of the paper I want to work for. I'm worried this will put me at a disadvantage. While I have been trying to expand my understanding of U.S. politics and intend to take classes in media law once I arrive, I am also concerned that my lack of knowledge in these areas could be hazardous during my first couple of months there.
My resume looks pretty good on this side of the pond but I’m worried that my hard work may get lost in translation. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to overcome the quite considerable obstacles this move will present and would very much appreciate your advice on the best way to go about it.
A: First off, let's not try to apply for this immediate opening. Your situation is too complicated in the short term for you to be of any interest. More openings will come along. You may find, once yo gethere and talk to your target paper, that you will need to get into another publication that they hire from. It could be that your experience just isn't yet what they desire.
You seem to have a good understanding of your obstacles. Moving to the highly competitive New York market is another.
I am not sure that you need to go back to school to, in effect, get recertified under U.S. instructors. You do need to study up on media law here and taking a class or two or three is a good idea. You also need to make sure that everything you write -- including every letter and e-mail -- is in a style that will be acceptable to editors in the States. Maybe you should recruit an American to give those a once-over, at least initially.
It could be that no American newspaper will get really interested in you until the visa issue is settled. Then, your experience should carry you. You may have to concisely explain on your resume the training you received, but the fact is that journalists do get hired here without journalism degrees and sometimes without having completed any degree at all.
Keep positioning yourself, expand your search options and plan a great wedding.