You learn a few things after being plunged into the world of media.
(For me, it’s been the need to be absolutely ruthless with my time, because I could easily work 24/7. That’s hardly industry-specific, though.)
But there are a few other things that are totally applicable to everyone.
There are no stupid questions
Okay, maybe you’ll look stupid or feel stupid for asking for clarification for what might seem a really basic concept. But you’ll feel even stupider if you don’t, and end up getting the wrong end of the stick. “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” So never be afraid to ask simple questions – WHY? HOW? Unless it’s due to you not doing any research of your own, most people will appreciate that you’re genuinely trying to understand what’s going on, whether it’s in reference to a scientific idea, a financial concept, a new hi-tech product.
The power of silence
People chatter when they’re nervous. They want to fill the empty airspace. Silence is used by salespeople as a tactic to get what they want. Know when to shut up and use it to your advantage, i.e. in negotiations.
Ask “who else should I talk to?”
Sara Ganim won the Pulitzer for breaking the Penn State scandal. And it all started by asking a regular source, “Anything else going on?” This applies to everyone – if you’re looking for work, ask everybody you know, and ask them to put the feelers out. When dealing with a customer, ask for referrals.
Start easy, and ease into the heavy stuff
I’m not a big fan of small talk, but accept it’s a necessity. Sometimes I am even quite good at it. Getting things done is often about greasing the wheels. It’s about setting people at ease, getting them used to you, and warming them up. You wouldn’t march into your boss’ office, sit down without greeting and demand a raise at the top of your voice, right? Before getting into the nitty-gritty, hard-hitting stuff, smooth the path and lay the groundwork.
Just do it
It’s all too easy to put tasks off, to feign that you “need to do more research”. God knows we all did that countless times at journalism school. Nope. What you need to do is pick up the damn phone or send that email. I still occasionally suffer from phone phobia (and sometimes can’t help but wonder, as a die-hard shy introvert, if I’m in the wrong business) but I have no choice but to suck it up and deal to it. It’s usually a lot less scary than you imagine. Whoever is on the other end is just a person – another human being, like you or me. While the worst that could happen can be pretty embarrassing (BEING HUNG UP ON), it’s less daunting having put it behind you, rather than have it hang over your head.