Do’s and Don’ts for the NABJ convention

With the 2013 NABJ Convention and Career Fair only eight days away, the Sports Task Force has put together an extensive list of Do’s and Don’ts for new members and young journalists. This advice is culled from convention discussions among the many Sports Task Force members.

— Compiled by Adena Andrews


DO: plan out each day of the convention before you arrive. The overall convention schedule and the workshop schedule are out so you can map out your day as best as possible. It doesn’t mean you will get to everything on your schedule but it will help you be more efficient and help you remember what you wanted to do.

DO: look at the list of recruiters coming to the career fair if you are in the market for a job. The list of companies that have confirmed their appearance is already out so scan through it and make a list of companies you want to see. The career fair schedule is already out and listed below. If you NEED a J-O-B…then you are at the career fair at 9:00 a.m. when it opens on Thursday and you are going to see the top five of your list on that day. If time permits try to see more or go back on Friday to continue down your list. Don’t wait till Saturday to make your first appearance in the career fair.

Thu. Aug. 1, 2013 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Career Fair Open
Fri. Aug. 2, 2013 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Career Fair Open
Sat. Aug. 3, 2013 9 a.m. to Noon Career Fair Open

DO: Give a business card to every person you want to stay in contact with from the NABJ convention. And ask for one of their business cards If someone is busy, doesn’t have any more business cards (get at least an e-mail address) find out what other events they are attending and talk with them at another time during the convention or after the convention is over.

DO: And speaking of business cards…please already have the standard information already on the card. Name, address, telephone number (that you actually check and return voicemails from) and a professional sounding e-mail address (that you actually check and respond to). If you have a professional website add that too and if you want people to contact you via social media add the facebook, twitter, linkedin info too. Obviously make sure those accounts have clean content on them if you are giving them out to the world.

DO: If you are a sports person make sure you attend the NABJ sports task specific events.

DO: Do attend the parties, the mixers and the social events. You don’t have to attend every party and realize some parties require invitations cost money. Networking doesn’t necessarily stop once the daytime activities end at 5 p.m. and the evening activities begin at 5:01 p.m.

DO: Post questions about the convention to any of the various listserves. This is also a great way for meeting members before you get to the convention so you can put names to faces.

DO: Bring plenty of resumes and business cards, if you have them. Make sure your resume is one page. The employee doesn’t need to know all the details of every job you’ve had. If it’s not related to journalism just put down what it was. Example: Taco Bell, June 2002 to September 2003. Oh, and make sure your name is in large type and bold face. When I’m trying to find your resume, I may not look too hard. So make it easy for me to find you.

DO: Collect business cards. After each encounter take a minute to write some notes on the back of the card. Example: “Tall brother with a blue suit, red tie and nice teeth” or “lady with really pretty earrings. She said they had an opening in Beaumont;” or “He liked my tape but said I need to slow my delivery.” When you get home, send an e-mail thanking them for talking to you and attach your resume. They’ll probably see a hundred people. It’s not uncommon for resumes to be misplaced. You’re ahead of the game because the link to your work is already there.

DO: For aspiring broadcasters, load you resume reel on YouTube. Type the url on your resume and bring 50 copies to the convention. For reporters and producers, make 13 DVDs of your reel. Buy a dozen 8 ½ x 11 envelopes. Put a DVD and resume in each envelope. Write your name, address, phone number and e-mail address on the front. Use DVD No. 13 to show at the job fair. If a recruiter asks if they can keep it, pull out an envelope and give that to them. If you give away all of your envelopes you can still show No. 13 and tell the recruiters that your work is on YouTube and the link is on your resume. For reporters, be realistic when lining up at the network (ABC, CBS, ESPN, etc) booths. Their recruiters can offer great advice but their stations are generally located in top 50 markets where they won’t consider hiring you until you have at least five years experience working as a reporter. Ask the recruiter if they know anyone at smaller stations (generally DMA 100-210) where you can be hired right out of college.

DO: Be presentable and be well groomed. It should go without saying, but it needs to be said


DO: Ask questions and get involved. Speak firmly and advance discussions.

DO: Be conscious of everyone around you. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen editors irritated that young journalists became so infatuated with the stars of our group that their wandering eyes ruin the conversation they are supposedly currently involved with. Be mindful and respectful of your time with everyone.

DO: Talk to people. Everyone. Anyone. The convention is not a place designed for the non-social, inherently quiet individual. That works against you and whatever career aspirations you may have.

DO: A list of companies with booths at the convention are posted on but it’s common knowledge that some companies will not have a booth and still recruit. Be prepared for this. If you’re a student or recent graduate, have a professor or professional you trust look over your packet before you leave. I also suggest these packets should come with professional cards so you only have to pull out one thing when talking to editors. Presentation is important here, so take care with your packet.

DO: Carry something to write with you. (This should go for everything you do until the end of your days in journalism.) You’re likely to receive a pen and a notepad in the convention bag. Just make sure you don’t dump it in your hotel room.

DO: Have a place to put everything, including cards and packets. Walking out of your hotel room with only a suit or dress on will not suffice.

DO: Use common sense.

DO: Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking. Ladies, leave the heels in the closet. Fellas, wear dress shoes. This isn’t the time to break out the new Nike joints.

DO: Research the editors. Oftentimes, you get an audience and don’t know a thing about the person that can possibly change your life and career path. Do your homework before you arrive so when you meet that right editor, you can be prepared.

DO: Respect people’s opinions. If you don’t agree with someone, use intelligent discourse to express yourself.

DO: Have fun, but don’t go crazy. Remember, this is NOT a college scene.

DO: Remember that much of the most important stuff transpires in the lobbies and other parts of the hotel. 
I once began a convention by sharing an elevator with the editor of The Washington Post (on my way back down to the front desk after they assigned me a room that was already occupied). By the end of the weekend I had a job offer from the Post. (– J.A. Adande)

DO: Be the first to ask a question. No one remembers second place.

DO: Download the bump app on your iPhone. It lets you swap phone numbers and information with other iPhone people. This way you can avoid the awkward “What’s your number?” and standing there trying to put your number into their phone.


DON’T : Come to the convention without business cards if you are a student or young member. Professionals can get away with this because you can probably look them up on their company website. You can get them done for cheap from a variety of places and even free from companies like Vista Print.

DON’T: Avoid the workshops, early morning activities like the breakfasts, the healthy nabj events, or exploring the city the nabj convention is in etc. Your goal is to maximize the $$$ you spent to attend the convention and try almost everything your first time so you can get a feel of what the total convention experience is like.

DON’T: Typos on your resume? Unacceptable. Clips too dark to read? Do them over. E-mail address unprofessional? Don’t even think about it.

DON’T: At night, when it’s party time, do not forget who you’re partying with. Your attire, drinking habits and general attitude to people should still reflect your professionalism.

DON’T: Go around the lobbies, workshops, and panels asking for a job in journalism. That’s what the job fair is for. However, allow recruiters to come to you.

DON’T: Interrupt other people that are trying to network. You will always have people coming up to you.

DON’T: Misrepresent yourself. If you are a freelancer or student, mention it. Do not mislead people to believe you area full-time reporter for The Washington Post when you only freelance for them. No one will misjudge you.

DON’T: Wear exotic clothing, sports jerseys or bright contact lenses. You want to look presentable at all times, especially at the job fair.

DON’T: Act as a typical fan if you meet a celebrity at the convention. In other words, do not jump up and down or scream with excitement if you meet that celebrity. The celebrities and the big-time journalists we have at NABJ expect you to act professional. You can take pictures but do not ask for autographs.

DON’T: When you ask a question, don’t let it be one of these long-winded, state of the union announcements. You want to be in journalism? Learn to ask short, concise but effective questions.

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About Zuri

I am the deputy managing editor for news and multimedia at the Boston Herald. I'm originally from San Francisco and I’m a graduate of California State University, Chico.