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Category: Career

What is your niche?

When you want to write for a website or guest blog, or even when you manage a website of your own, you need to have what is called a “niche.”

“What is a ‘niche,’?” you may ask.

The definition in the dictionary is as follows:

1. a shallow recess, especially one in a wall to display a statue or other ornament.
2. place or position (something) in a niche.

Ok, so to put something on display is kind of like showcasing what you know (so to speak). When a person knows a lot about a certain topic and is passionate about it (or at least very interested in learning more about it), they usually try to find a way to share it with the world.

When I started my blog for an editorial college class, I wasn’t sure how or when I would use it in the future. But then I started posting the articles I wrote as they were published in the school newspaper and moved on to writing about whatever came to mind, whether it be biblical, book-based or whatever inspired me to write.

That seemed to work pretty well at the time and helped to boost my readership as posts were published month to month.

Now comes the tricky part. I want to get into freelance writing, but most websites that are looking for guest bloggers/writers want us to declare a particular niche, a certain topic that we’re specialized in.

My husband sent me an article titled “The Surprising Benefits (and Pitfalls) of Being a Jack-of-All-Trades,” which talks about those of us who are interested and knowledgable about a variety of topics.

What was the solution?

“Take your time and pick a couple things to focus on.”

Just because you’re interested in a number of topics and activities doesn’t mean you can become a short-term specialist in that area. Pick a topic and start researching. Make that your hobby for several weeks or a couple months and see what you can learn.

DSCN3678Do you enjoy food? Then cook, take photographs, jot down notes of the things you changed in the recipe and write about it! Are you into photography? Then go out into the world and snap some pictures, research terms like “aperture” and “depth of field” and post it online with a short (or long) explanation about what you did for each picture. Enjoy playing with kids? Then write some tips about what you do to keep them entertained, healthy snacks that they’ll enjoy and educational games that enhance their thinking process.

There’s a world of opportunity out there waiting to be studied! The only thing that will make it stand out from similar posts on the Internet is by making it your own. No one can think like you do, see the world like you do, crack jokes like you do or explain an interest like you do.

I encourage you (and myself) to start becoming a short-term specialist in one of the many areas that catch your interest 🙂 Who knows… you may discover something you just can’t get enough of!

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5 ways to hone your writing skills

Freelance writer. Freelance photographer.

Sounds so professional, right?

But how does one go about becoming either one of those?

I did a little poking around the Internet this past week and came across a website called Innovative Ink, created by Elna, another beginner freelance writer, and found a series she wrote called “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies.” There was a number of valuable details about honing your skills as a writer, getting your name out there, landing a client, determining your rates and writing a contract.

Here are some of the points that caught my attention:

1. Portfolio

Many journalism students are strongly encouraged to keep everything they write throughout their college career, no matter how big or small it may be. Why? Because it can be added to their portfolio. Everything you write is a sample of what you can do.

DSCN2538

As a college student, I was a reporter for the school paper and kept PDFs of every piece I wrote. Which was great, but I graduated from college three years ago and haven’t really written an article since then. I had dealt with plenty of online briefs and press releases during my employment at The Morning Call in Allentown, but I have nothing to show for it except for my knowledge and experience.

So how do you keep building your portfolio?

2. Blogging

Why blog? Because it’s a way to determine where you fit in the interwebs. What is your niche? What are you passionate about? What inspires you to write? It took me a while to figure that one out, but soon I would hear a quote or a song or snap a picture of a breathtaking view and suddenly I was inspired to write a 6 paragraph or longer blog post in under an hour. Anything you write can be used in your portfolio, whether it be professional writing or for fun. So, if you’re not in school or don’t write something new every day for work, do it on your down time in the evenings or on the weekends at home.

Which brings me to my next point…

3. Write Daily

This is very important. If writers make it a point to write something every day – a paragraph, their rambling thoughts, a letter – it’s almost guaranteed that their writing will improve and they’ll be able to figure out what their niche is as a writer. Do you have an interest? Write about it. Do you like to cook or bake? Write about it. How about that crazy awesome book series you just finished? Write about it! (just don’t give away the ending)

4. Guest blogging

This is similar to the second point, but the difference is that it’s for another person, not for yourself. I’ve always wondered how to get into writing on another blog. When I started researching how to become a freelance writer, many sites suggested being a guest blogger. Ok, but how do I go about finding blogs that I can write for? That’s where Innovative Ink helped. She listed Google searches to try and a way to sign up for opportunities to guest blog for money (yes, apparently that is a thing at beafreelanceblogger.com). It’s just a matter of getting your name out there and letting the cyber world know what you’re capable of before you fly solo and land your own clients.

5. Social Media

This has already been a major part of getting the word out about my blog. I’ve been working on my blog since 2011 and it contains a wide variety of writing samples – poetry, devotionals, short story, news articles, features and more. By the time I moved my blog over to this website, I was nearly at 7000 views! That’s all from sharing my latests posts on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Google profiles. What I learned from blogging for fun is that social media has to be a big factor in getting the word out about my freelance career, my clients and what I can offer to the world as a writer and photographer.

So there you have it. Be creative! Write! Build that portfolio and have fun with it 🙂

I would highly recommend checking out the “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies” series, as it has helped me to form a game plan for starting my career as a freelance writer.

Thanks for reading!

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And so the adventure begins…

Welcome to my new site!! Here’s the story of how it got started and my plans and dreams for what it could become in the future:

Everything was going fine and dandy. I had just married the man I love, we had a wonderful, relaxing honeymoon in the Poconos and, with both of our full-time jobs, we were well on our way to paying off debt by the end of the year.

But it didn’t last long. The week after the honeymoon, I was back at my desk in the newsroom, trying to make some sense of the hundred or so emails I had received,  when I was called into the conference room. There the head editor and my boss gave me the bad news: the company was downsizing again and they were forced to cut my position.

As any normal person would be, I was bummed that I lost my job and the steady income, but I knew in the back of my mind that God has an ultimate plan in all of this…

.. but it was nice having the extra money.

Anyway, after spending a week getting our house set up and wedding gifts put away, I took the first step of job hunting, applied for unemployment and registered my name, email and resume with two career search sites: JobGateway.com and Monster.com.

In order to get job openings that you may be interested in, the sites recommend setting up “saved searches,” which are ongoing searches according to your pre-set career choice and where you would prefer to work. I set mine to “administrative assistant,” “writer” and “editor” near Doylestown and Quakertown and selected the daily email alerts option.

DSCN2507This was a helpful tool. I get emails every day, letting me know if there are new opportunities to apply for jobs in the area, but there are days where there is nothing new.

It is now week three, I’ve applied to at least 10-12 jobs and have either been told that they’re looking at more qualified candidates or haven’t heard anything back from them.

Then I got to thinking – what if this is my opportunity to get my dream of being a freelance writer, editor and photographer off the ground? I already have a blog that’s been an off-and-on thing since I was a junior in college and my husband created a website for me (ta-da!) to use as a foundation for freelancing and photography.

There’s so much a person can do with a writing major, including editing books and articles for publishing, so I’ll be writing weekly updates on my journey toward a career in freelance, as well as other wonderings and ponderings about life.

As I discover what works, what doesn’t work and how to establish your writing in the world of freelancing, I hope this becomes a helpful resource to those interested in a career in freelance writing.

Thanks for reading!

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Everyone Has a Story to Tell

“Hi, how are you?” 

“Good. You?”

“Good.”

Believe it or not, this could considered to be an actual conversation. It may be short, but this is all the interaction some individuals need in order to feel like they’ve done their duty in acknowledging the existence of someone they may pass on the street or in the hallway.

What could that say about our society today?

To me, it seems like communication and real conversation has gone downhill lately for several reasons:

1. People may feel as if they’re going to get stuck listening to someone’s life story if they stop and ask them how they’re doing.

2. The other person may be unsure as to how much they should share and whether or not the other person really wants to hear about it.

3. Nearly everyone has some type of technological device that keeps them in constant contact with their family, friends, co-workers, etc… without actually having to talk with them face to face.

This kind of reminds me of the song “(Everybody’s Gotta) Song to Sing” by Group 1 Crew:

“Everybody’s got a song to sing, so won’t you come now and sing with me,
It doesn’t really matter where you’re from or what you’ve done.
Everybody’s got a story to tell, times we’ve tried and times we’ve failed,
So when you feel like hope is gone, keep holding on
This is your song.
Everybody’s got a story to tell.”

I love that! And it’s something that our culture has shoved to the wayside. Not many of us actually take the time to intentionally ask how someone is doing in order to find out how things are going in their life.

We all like to put on a face when it comes with interacting with other people. Technology helps a lot with that and people have gotten so used to hiding behind their cyber personality, that it’s hard for them to have a real, face-to-face conversation with someone.

While surfing the Internet on this fun site called StumbleUpon (you click the “Stumble” button and, according to the interests you selected in your profile, it takes you to random sites that you may be interested in), I came across a website called Humans of New York.

This site has a homepage full of portraits of people the photographer had met around New York City: old folk, toddlers in brightly colored outfits, men with six-inch gauges, women with full-sleeve tattoos… you name it, he’s probably met someone like that.
Each individual featured in their own photo and each photo has a quote from that person. Some of them are longer than others, yet even some of the shorter ones can be very profound and moving, such as:

“I’m afraid of sliding back to a place when I didn’t have the tools to be strong.”

“Sometimes, when I go home to see her, I think: ‘Nobody should be this happy on a Tuesday.'”

“When I was 20, I made a plan to get a good job and be secure. Now I’m 35 and I need a plan to be happy.”

“I’m trying to keep him away from all the negativity so that he has a fighting chance. There are so many cracks to fall through. But I already got his older brother to college.”

See what I mean? This is what you get when you take an interest in someone’s life. You discover that there is more to someone than what you first see.

You ever hear the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”? It applies to people too!

That creepy guy on the corner? He has a story to tell.

That group of young boys skating down the sidewalk and attempting tricks that they’re not quite ready to do yet? Each of them has a story to tell.

That shy girl you pass in the hallway every day at school and who everyone else seems to avoid because she seems odd? She has a story to tell.

That NFL football linebacker who seems to be living the dream? He has a story to tell.

As Group 1 Crew says,

“Yo, everybody has a story and it needs to be heard,
So let it play and resonate from the hood to the burbs,
Whether your sky is gray and you been through it all,
There is somebody on this earth that is singing the same song.”

Each person in this world is on a journey. A journey to find themselves, to discover who God is, who He wants them to be and a journey to find out what life has for them.

Each journey results in a unique story. We may go through similar trials and experiences, but each person has a different perspective on life which brings about a variety of results. No one experiences life in the same way and it’s interesting to hear how others see the world.

So take the time to be intentional about the questions you ask. When you say, “Hi, how are you?” try actually making eye contact and stopping to talk with the other person instead of rushing off to the next thing on your schedule.

Don’t pretend to be texting/talking on your phone in the hopes that the person walking past you won’t try to strike up a conversation.

Take the time to listen. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s a really awesome feeling knowing that someone cares enough to listen to what you have to say.

Like I said, everyone’s got a story that’s worth listening to 🙂

Oh, and if you’re interested in that Humans of New York site (it’s completely worth checking out!!), I recommend the first story I read: The Boxer. Check it!

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For I know the plans I have for you…

As I sat at a table in Applebee’s last Thursday, surrounded by at least 20 of my good friends from Awaken Young Adult Ministry, it was interesting to listen in on the various conversations that were happening all around me.

Some were making plans to hang out one more time before the summer ended, others were discussing their jobs and summer vacations and still others were talking about more serious topics, such as what God has been teaching them over the past week.

Yet, amidst the laughter, joking and animated voices, I noticed one underlying theme for each of these very different conversations:

What may be in store for them in the future.

Understandably, each of us like to have an idea of what’s coming our way so that we can be ready for it. In order to prepare for that future, most students in the U.S. graduate from high school and then make the transition to college in order to study various career fields.

It can be exciting and terrifying at the same time – heading out to college for another semester of classes and getting one step closer to earning that diploma and degree… but then the question is.. what’s next?

Let me tell you my story.

I had no idea what God had in store for me after high school. Coming from a homeschooling family, I didn’t feel like I completely fit in with the public school students and didn’t know where my place was in the adult world. So, I went with the money-saving plan of going to community college until I figured out which career choice best fit the talents that I have.

That’s where I fell in love with journalism.

After getting a bunch of my articles published on the front page of The Commuter (the college newspaper) and completing the necessary courses in order to earn my Associates Degree in Journalism, I was ready to figure out what college I should go to in order to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I felt like I was starting back at square one!

I prayerfully looked through the mountain of pamphlets and brochures that had been endlessly spewing from my family’s mailbox ever since I graduated high school and finally found a nice state college out in the middle of nowhere: Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. The best thing is that the college accepted nearly all of my credits and had the exact major I was looking for: Print Journalism!

This started the next chapter of my life in Edinboro, PA, and boy was that a crazy ride. Without going into every single detail, let’s just say many of the experiences I had during my time there really stretched my faith and helped me to figure out where I fit in ministry and how God can use little ol’ me to further His kingdom on a college campus.

Ultimately, my time at EUP allowed me to make my faith and relationship with God my own and discover who I am as a unique individual… who God created me to be.

Coming back home was bittersweet after graduating in 2012 and having to leave all of my new friends behind. I felt like, once I was home and back working at Red Robin again, I was just plugging along at life, wondering exactly what God had in store for me, and not really taking a step in either direction, whether good or bad.

This one verse kept popping up in my mind during this time and it really helped to cling to the fact that God’s plan will come to pass as long as we wait on His timing:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond
anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts”
Isaiah 55:8-9

Also, the well-known passage:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good and not for disaster,
to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

The bottom line is this: none of us can hurry or slow down God’s plans for our lives. He will fulfill it when the time is right and all we need to do is trust Him and rely on His guidance no matter how long or tough the road may get.

Easier said than done, right? That’s definitely what it feels like at times.

Like I said before, when I came back home, I wasn’t really sure what the next step was. Here I had my Bachelor’s Degree in Print Journalism, but no idea of where or how to even begin looking for a “big girl” job… and the motivation just wasn’t there. I was burned out.

Then, a crazy thing happened.

I took my laptop with me for our family vacation back in June 2012 (just on a whim, since I normally swear off electronics during vacations). The moment I logged on to check Facebook, I found an online message from my community college advisor (who I hadn’t talked to in a little over 2 years) and he alerted me about an opening at one of the major local papers. He told me that they were looking for recent college graduates and urged me to contact them as soon as possible.

I called the number, got a phone interview on the spot and set up a face-to-face interview with one of the editors for when I got back from vacation… and within the next couple of weeks, I was offered the job of News Assistant at The Morning Call in Allentown, which is only half an hour from my parents’ house!

It still amazes me how, when I was feeling completely overwhelmed with the task of trying to apply for jobs in my career field, a newspaper job dropped right into my lap!

And it’s different for everyone.

Some will land a job in their career right away. Others may have to wait a year or more before they get their chance. It may get super frustrating when doors keep getting shut in our faces, but in the midst of all this, we need to remember:

“Until God opens the next door for you, praise Him in the hallway!”

So, while listening to all of my friends talk about heading back to college and getting ready to start up a whole new school year, it’s exciting for me too, even though I’m not heading back with them.

Why?

Because I know that while the future may seem so uncertain now for them… there’s an amazing God behind the scenes orchestrating a plan that goes way beyond anything we’ve ever dreamed of! And I can’t wait to see what adventures He has in store for each of my family and friends!

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Cancer Survivor Issues Wake Up Call

Photo courtesy of Paige Omartian

In life or death situations, it can be easy to blame God for what’s happening, to sink down into a state of depression and lose all hope of ever being able to go back to living a normal life. Paige Omartian, a 22-year-old Christian speaker, author, and singer, knows how tempting it is to despair. Doctors diagnosed Omartian with cancer when she was just 11-years-old. But as she struggled for her life, Omartian found strength through her faith, emerging with a different perspective on life and a new sense of purpose.

During her illness, Omartian got the chance, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to go to Nashville, Tenn., and record a Christian album. Some of her songs made their way onto the Bath & Body Works 2005 Holiday CD.

After losing all of her hair to chemotherapy, having to use a wheelchair because she had trouble walking, and enduring the pain that comes with cancer treatments, Omartian finally got a clean bill of health in 2002. Ten years later, she is still cancer free.

In 2007, the year before she was supposed to graduate from Plumstead Christian High School, in Plumsteadville, Pa., Omartian moved to Nashville and joined iShine Live, a national tour of speakers and musicians reaching out to a young teenage audience. At the same time, Omartian signed with Whiplash Records and released her first rock album, “Wake Up.” Several of her songs, including “Episode” and “Wake Up,” made it to Christian music’s Top 30.

Recently, through Harvest House Publishers, Omartian signed a contract to publish her first book, called “Wake Up, Generation.” It is scheduled for release in August. Using Bible verses and her own personal testimony, Omartian hopes to reach out to young people and help them to discover their God-given mission: “If you’re still breathing, there’s a reason why you’re still here,” Omartian recently told readers on her blog (paigehasastory.wordpress.com).

Anna Tielmann 

*Author’s note –  If you want to read the Q&A section, you can find the full story at World on Campus (but you have to be registered in order to view the entire thing) 

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Communications Chair Selected to Attend Leadership Academy

Tony Peyronel, Department of Communication & Media Studies chair, has been chosen to attend and participate in the 6th annual Scripps Howard Leadership Academy being held at Louisiana State University (LSU) on June 4-7.

“I haven’t been involved in anything like this before,” said Peyronel. “There are a lot of interesting people, not just academic, but working journalists who come (to the Academy) and do panels and speak,” said Peyronel. “I’m sure that it’s a top tier and national level program. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The selection process is nationally competitive, said Peyronel. Applications come in from all over the country and applicants were required to send in a cover letter explaining their interest in academic administration, a current biographical sketch, and two letters of reference.

More than a third of past participants now hold leadership positions at their universities, according to LSU’s website, and they have applied what they learned to each of their universities in order to create room for progress.

“I haven’t been involved in anything like this,” said Peyronel. “The Leadership Academy is funded by the Scripps Howard Foundation, a major news service, and hosted by Louisiana State University. I’m not exactly sure what to expect because this is the first specialized training type thing that I’ve done.”

Peyronel holds a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication from Edinboro University, where he reported for The Spectator, and also has a master’s degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington D.C.

“That’s one of the top graduate journalism programs in the country,” said Peyronel. “I was fortunate to go there right after I graduated from Edinboro. One of the ironies is (that) Greg Luft, who chairs the journalism and technical department at Colorado State University, went to American University with me and he is the person who recommended that I check into the Academy.”

Luft had attended the Leadership Academy last year and he was the person that persuaded Peyronel to consider applying for it. Peyronel said that Luft also wrote one of the required recommendation letters needed for the application process.

Peyronel said that he then found a job as a reporter with the Kittanning (Pa.) Leader-Times and then, after a couple years, moved on to become a public relations writer at Penn State University.

In 1992, Peyronel came back to Edinboro University and was the coordinator for the former undergraduate programs in Speech Communication, broadcast journalism and print journalism, as well as advisor for the campus newspaper and radio station, The Spectator and WFSE-FM. He was then named the department chair in 2005.

The Leadership Academy, according to LSU’s website, brings “select up-and-coming mass communication professionals and scholars together with seasoned administrators to share administrative strategies and insights [on academic programs in journalism and mass communication].”

“It is exciting both to represent Edinboro University in this national arena and to have the opportunity to bring back valuable information and ideas that can strengthen our own academic programs,” Peyronel said.

Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator, Vol. III, Issue 20)
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