In this series, recent grads share their journey to landing that first job out of college. After years of studying and working toward a degree, these Panthers’ hard work paid off. Now they’re paying it forward by letting you know how they did it.
Name? Clara-Meretan “Tani” Kiah ’15
Hometown? Ogdensburg, NY
How did you get your job? Three years ago, I saw an opening for an External Relations internship in “The Ship,” the School of Communication + Journalism’s newsletter. I had always envisioned myself working for a magazine, so, with almost no real writing experience outside of class, I gave it a shot and emailed the editor. I got a call that same day for an interview! The team here is amazing – we’re a big family – and I quickly realized this is the kind of writing I want to do in my career. So when it came time to graduate nine months later, I told them, “I’d really like to stay here.” And that was that.
What was your greatest fear going into your first job and how did you face it or overcome it? When I started here as an intern, my only professional experience was publishing a few pieces in the Beacon (now known as Panther Press). I had no experience in magazine production or online publishing. And at the time, it seemed like even applying for internships required you to have at least a year of experience in the field of journalism. It was daunting. So, to make up for my lack of experience, I taught myself how to make free webpages on WordPress.com and created a website for myself to house my few clips and resume. This turned out to be a great help in my job, as News.FIU.edu is a WordPress site, and I spend a lot of time designing layouts for magazine and news stories in the backend of the platform.
What does a day on the job look like? I do many things. First and foremost, I conduct research and interviews for FIU News and FIU Magazine stories. During this process, I work closely with editors, videographers and photographers on our team to develop multimedia. I also specialize in creating interactive web content, like timelines and maps, which requires me to research new tools to reimagine how our stories can be told online. Our team also handles copywriting for various publications that go out to the community, so I’ve had the chance to write bios on speakers at commencement, ads for the Miami Herald and copy for pamphlets that promote the university. I’ve been able to develop a diverse copywriting background here.
What surprised you the most about your first job? What surprised me most about this job is the amount of learning I continue to do every day. As is the nature of journalism, I learn new things every time I write about a new subject. But the diversity of topics I’ve covered here is broader than I probably would’ve experienced writing for any other media outlet. I’ve written about advice for students, politics, engineering, art and music. I met a heart-warming father-and-daughter team who studied and graduated together with architecture degrees. I profiled an alumnus who, despite being blind his whole life, has become a prominent NASA engineer. I even got to cover high-profile visits to campus from Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama (my fancy White House press credentials are on permanent display at my desk). The opportunities have been endless.
How does your job connect back to your coursework? I use the basic principles of journalism – AP Style, reporting and interviewing, etc. – every single day. FIU journalism professors really emphasize learning by doing, which prepared me to dive headfirst into my job.
How has your transition from school to work been? How do you balance your time? The transition was weird for me, since I graduated and then just came right back to FIU for work the next day. I guess I loved FIU so much, I never left. As far as time management goes, I find that writing out to-do lists every morning helps me keep track of deadlines and appointments for the multiple stories I’m working on at any given time.
What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far? The coolest thing about my job is how much autonomy I have, despite this being an entry-level position. I can try out new tools I find online. I come up with my own story ideas. I even co-starred in a Facebook Live news segment we produced earlier this year.
What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process? The job search process is scary for everyone, but particularly for budding journalists in a time when the media is under constant scrutiny and news outlets are being forced to cut staff left and right. Even though I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time position by the organization I interned for, I still went through a period where I applied to more than 50 different jobs, because it wasn’t 100 percent certain that I would be able stay at FIU.
My advice to those trying to break into the field of communications is to keep your options open. There are many jobs available that allow you to write or publish digitally that aren’t with traditional news outlets. For instance, while I report, interview and write every single day, what I do isn’t traditional journalism. Our team consists of “brand journalists” – people who tell the ever-developing story of our organization in the style of news. It’s not exactly what I pictured when I applied for journalism school; but it’s a very rewarding career, and I meet new and inspiring people every day.