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Sam Go of MSNBC.com: “Eager learners and creative thinkers are always welcome in any company”

Visualizing your future job while you are young can help you attain your intended career path. LAYLA AMAR talks to Sam Go about how she landed her dream job.

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11 Jul 2011 Print This Post Print This Post

    Sam Go, web producer, MSNBC.com (photo: Jonathan Woods, MSNBC.com)

    At a young age, Jesamyn “Sam” Go knew she wanted a career in journalism. A two-day visit to New York when she was 14 years old was enough for her to dream of someday making it in the city that never sleeps. After graduating from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Communication Arts degree, Sam made a beeline for New York and took up a graduate program in Magazine Journalism from New York University, figuring that since the city is a major media capital, it was the place for her to be. Sam has been living her dream for the past 11 years in the Big Apple and enjoys being in the midst of the action.

    As a web producer for msnbc.com, she manages a small team that publishes web content for different news and opinion shows for the network. Getting her dream job was not easy, especially because she finished her NYU program in December of 2001, post 9/11, when the job market was really tough. Fortunately for her, Sam did several internships while in NYU, including one at msnbc.com.

    When an entry-level position opened up, her old bosses encouraged her to apply. She got the job, and the experience of working in “30 Rock.” Though Sam hasn’t yet run into Tina Fey, she has ridden the elevator (silently and star struck) with Alec Baldwin.

    What would you consider is the biggest project you’ve handled so far in your career?
    “It’s tough to say: Working in news around the 2004 and 2008 elections was big. Every big news story feels like a big project – whether it was covering the Iraq war or the recent quakes in Haiti, Chile and Japan. Being in the newsroom and doing your small part during breaking news situations always feels important.

    “It was also big and exciting to be part of the team producing ‘Inside the Obama White House,‘ a 2009 NBC documentary on a day in the life in the White House, filmed a few months after President Obama took office. I worked on putting the documentary online. While we were filming, we also let the day unveil in real time in Twitter, giving our audience tidbits of what we were seeing. I also produced segments for the Web that were longer and interesting but didn’t make it on air for one reason or another.

    “As for projects, being involved with the development of our first iPad apps was exciting because it was so different. The portability and interface of the tablet feels like a game-changer, and seeing journalism in a new medium was amazing.”

    What kinds of personalities do you deal with because of your work? Are they more within the company or external? How did you learn to deal with these personalities?
    “There are a lot of different personalities – it’s that way in any big company, I think. Most of my relationships are internal. Effective relationships are a critical part of any job, particularly here when we’re dealing with different mediums, teams, and cultures. TV and Web people sometimes think and react differently. A lot of folks I work with are in Redmond, Washington (msnbc.com’s headquarters), or bureaus of NBC News like in Burbank, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and London, so it’s also important to be able manage remote relationships.

    “The great thing is that most people I work with are very smart, dedicated and hard-working. So I think being diplomatic and helpful is always welcome (and I think I am generally that way). Also if you approach everyone thinking that you have something to learn from them, you’ll find that most people are nice and will respect you. And you will learn things from them.”

    Are you in charge of hiring people? What personalities do you look for?
    “Yes. I’ve been a manager for around four years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a fair bit of hiring and recruitment. It’s one of the most fulfilling parts of my job: finding and recognizing talent, bringing them into the company, and seeing people grow.

    “The job requirements are different for the different positions, but generally, I want people who are positive and have a can-do energy about them. You want people who are excited about new things -whether it’s new ideas or new technologies. I like people who care about news and stories. I’d say eager learners (and by that I mean, learning in general) and creative thinkers are always welcome in any company.”

    What is the worst thing an applicant can do – or has done – while going through your recruitment process? How can someone stand out and be noticed in a good way?
    “I’ll give the advice I’ve given undergrads before: Do your homework, especially before an interview. If it’s a publication, read the publication or read about the company. Be familiar with a company’s product. I think an applicant is unqualified or uninterested if they haven’t done the background work.

    “There are also the resume blunders I’ve seen: Writing the name of the wrong company in the body of a cover letter, or sending a version of the resume with a filename that indicates it was meant for our competition.”

    “Also, if you are called for a phone or in-person interview, make it really easy for the recruiter to schedule an appointment. Work with their schedule. I understand that everyone’s busy, but being tough to work with on schedules sort of signals that you aren’t interested or that you’re tough to work with in general.

    “And obviously, show up early for the interview!”

    What should college students be doing while they’re still in school so that you’ll want to work with them?

    “I want people who are positive and have a can-do energy about them. You want people who are excited about new things — whether it’s new ideas or new technologies. I like people who care about news and stories. I’d say eager learners and creative thinkers are always welcome in any company.”

    “I think showing that they’re interested in journalism is critical: work for the student paper or magazine and have some writing samples (even if it was just published in your community newsletter). Internships are huge. These days, I also look for people who know new media – peoplewho blog, tweet, etc. Having been in the workforce for a decade, we’re always excited to find out ‘what the young people’ are doing, whether they’re posting their own video reports on YouTube or experimenting with Tumblr. There’s nothing more disappointing than finding out that an aspiring Web journalist doesn’t even publish to a Facebook account.”

    Are there any interests that they can pursue outside of school that you think will help them adjust to your work environment?
    “Freelance writing is a good option. It was something I used to do, just because I enjoyed writing and reporting. If you’re used to interviewing people and managing deadlines, it’s not weird to have to do it for work. Internships are also really helpful. You start to get used to working in a newsroom and what the flow of a work-day is like.

    “Also, anything that helps you understand organization or business on a higher level shows responsibility: whether it’s volunteering for non-profits, or auditing for your family’s small business.”

    Say someone starts in an entry-level position in your team. After a year, what has he/she learned? What can he/she do by then?
    “It really depends on the person. At a minimum, I imagine they’d have learned about publishing for a big online news company. They would have worked in a content management system. I’d say they could work as a writer/producer at most other online news sites.”

    What can they look forward to in five years, either in your company or within the industry?
    “It’s tough to predict given the rapidly changing market. Will there be more news Web sites but with smaller audiences? More niche sites? Will people be getting their news from Facebook? Will more people watch Nightly News on their device than at 6:30p.m.? It’s part of why I love working online is—I get to be part of figuring that out.”



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