This post was originally published on the UO Super-J in NYC Medium page and is republished here with the author's permission.
As my peers and I quickly approach the end of our tenure at the University of Oregon, we are faced with equal parts excitement and apprehension as we update our cover letters and apply for jobs across the country.
Knutson has worked for the The Wall Street Journal since 2013 as a telecommunications reporter, covering companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Apple.
Before he started at the Wall Street Journal, Knutson reported for a range of different media outlets worldwide, including PBS Frontline, ProPublica, The Oregonian and Ghana’s The Daily Graphic.
Here are Knutson’s tips for getting your dream job or internship after graduation:
1. Get involved with your student newspaper while you can
In 2006, Knutson was appointed The Oregon Daily Emerald’s editor-in-chief as a sophomore; the general manager at the paper told a reporter that she had never seen such a young student take on the position.
Knutson also covered higher education and wrote investigative stories for the newspaper. He said that each experience was a great way to get to know beat reporting and an opportunity to work on in-depth stories that might not be possible to complete during a three-month internship.
He also took advantage of other student media opportunities offered at the University of Oregon. For instance, in summer 2008 he participated in the Media in Ghana program, working as an intern for The Daily Graphic, Ghana’s largest circulating newspaper.
2. Pick up as many skills as possible
After his internship at The Oregonian in 2007, where he covered crime and breaking news, Knutson said his goal was to land a reporting position at The Oregonian after graduation.
However, after leaving the University of Oregon in 2009, he moved around the country for various internships, first to The Wall Street Journal’s San Francisco bureau, then to Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland before moving to New York City to intern for ProPublica.
These internships allowed him to pick up a variety of skills that proved valuable in his later work at ProPublica and PBS Frontline, he said. The audio and multimedia skills he cultivated were especially helpful during his time at PBS Frontline, he added, where he cast, reported and conducted on-camera interviews.
3. Write the stories you really care about, and stick with them
Knutson told us about the articles he wrote during his ProPublica internship in 2010, investigating BP in light of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He worked as an associate producer on The Spill, which led to his work for PBS Frontline.
It was at Frontline that Knutson began an investigation into the safety of independent contractors who build and fix cell towers. He had been researching the mortality rate of contractors working for BP when he heard that there was a high mortality rate for contractors working as tower climbers. Knutson led the reporting for a partnership between Frontline and ProPublica called 'Cell Tower Deaths' in May 2012.
'Cell Tower Deaths' was nominated for an Emmy and ultimately lead to his work reporting on telecommunications for The Wall Street Journal.
Knutson told us he had never covered business before being hired as a telecom reporter at The Wall Street Journal, but he caught up quickly. He bought every business journalism textbook he could find on Amazon and read every story written by his predecessor. He has been covering the beat ever since.
Knutson pointed out that some of his success has come from chance or luck, but it has also come from a passion for diving into stories and a willingness to work hard work telling important stories. By taking the right opportunities and putting effort into stories that mattered, we can do the same.
For more advice on applying for work experience, check out this article on making the most of your journalism internship, 5 alternatives to traditional internships, how to get started as a freelance journalist, and this advice for young journalists from Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron.