At first, it may seem there are few greater professional jumps than hanging up the body armor and rifle with picking up pen and paper (or in the digital age – a laptop and a recorder). However, your military background has given you a lot of skills that employers in the media and journalism greatly value – including many you may not initially expect to be translatable – and can help you succeed in making your mark on the journalism world.
1. Mission-First: Every service member knows that in the military, the mission comes first whether it’s in the day-to-day of a garrison environment, or a frantic one of a deployment. As a journalist, you will often be set out into a rapidly morphing, complex world where you will need to build up your own sources, move through stories and information, deal with tight deadlines, and face pressure from both internal management and outside stakeholders. It is beneficial as a journalist to also keep this “mission-first” mindset and to not be distracted or deviated from your core goal in pursuing a story.
2. Integrity: Among the greatest challenges in the increasingly sometimes margin-crunched, fast-paced, Internet click and ad-oriented media world nowadays is keeping a sense of integrity in one’s work and refusing to cut corners. Every branch of the services instills from day one codes of ethics and conduct whose principles – such as loyalty, honor, fair-play – can increase the confidence of others in your career as a journalist too. By developing a reputation for integrity, you will be able to better cultivate sources, keep the trust of your supervisors and colleagues, build public confidence, and support the profession’s image as a whole.
3. Detail-Oriented: Many of us have some experience from initial entry training where we forgot an item for daily accountability and learned the consequences the hard way. For service members, the smallest of details can make all the difference for a plane being ready for takeoff or a naval squadron being ready to cross the seas. The ability to notice and manage details that many service members have ingrained can prove crucial to being an effective journalist.
Journalists often have to sift through, collect, and analyze enormous troves of information from many different and perhaps contradictory origins. Furthermore, it may be just a few small details that create the story or uncover deeper themes. By knowing how to work through that vast amount of data, testimonies, quotes, reports, documents, and more, you will be able to bring out a story where others may see be unable to see it.
4. Navigating Complex Processes: Does it bring a smile to your face to know all those countless hours pushing DoD paperwork, for every which matter, may pay off? For many, it may also bring profound grief to know that the black hole of bureaucracy may continue. As a journalist, knowing how to file paperwork and deal with government and corporate paper-pushing will prove crucial in matters such as gaining press credentials, scheduling interviews with government leaders or communicating with government representatives, filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, getting past gatekeepers at corporations, or even just understanding and analyzing press releases, information, and reports.
5. Getting Your Hands Dirty: As a service member, you likely know what it is to pack up your bags and quickly move halfway across the country (or world). You have already been part of a profession that is fast-paced and requires you to be adaptable. As a journalist, it pays off to get down on the ground and in with the action, boldness and endurance. Often it is that firsthand perspective, and knowing how to properly operate once in the environment or setting where a story may be, that allows a story to be pieced together or expanded upon significantly. As a journalist, who is willing to triumph through tough environments firsthand in an intelligent and effective manner, you will be able to better build strong stories that impress your editors, outside parties, and the public.
These are only some of the many skills instilled through your time in the military that can be major boosts to your media and journalism career. Military service should give you a competitive edge, and these attributes should not be left behind as you put up your uniform – rather, they can be extremely valuable in helping you make your impact.
This blog has been updated on Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 9:45 AM.