Natalie Kostelni worked for more than 25 years as a journalist, spending most of her career—23 years—as a senior reporter with the Philadelphia Business Journal, where she covered commercial and residential real estate and economic development.
Here is what Natalie had to say when we asked her about effective communication:
GenHERation®: What experiences should you have on your resume if you want to work as a reporter?
Natalie Kostelni: You should try to work for your high school or college newspaper or magazine. Do internships, whether they are paid or not. Being around editors and reporters is great. Have an open mind, get out there, and get experience.
GenHERation®: How should you craft and articulate your own personal story?
Kostelni: The best approach is to always be honest with yourself. Also, be modest and ambitious. This might sound counterintuitive, but they’re complements. Be honest with your strengths and how you can leverage them. Are you a good writer? Good listener? By being modest I mean don’t oversell yourself. By being ambitious I mean you need to always work on yourself, skills, and achieving your next goal. This cumulative builds who you are and your story.
GenHERation®: What strategies do you utilize to complete multiple projects with competing deadlines?
Kostelni: I lived with a daily, weekly, and monthly deadline for over 20 years. The way I did, and do, is I make lists. My lists are prioritized by long-term, medium-term, and short-term. Those lists look like a leader board. Something might rise to the top and push other things down a rung. It is a constant focus. Short-term are immediate. I tackle the short-term daily, but I take bite-sized pieces out of the long-term projects. Using lists, prioritizing, and realizing when a task needs to be moved to the top keep you on track.
GenHERation®: How can you best prepare for a presentation?
Kostelni: I do a tremendous amount of research. This means reading on the topic, talking to experts, or both! I always think about the theme of my presentation. Who is my audience? What message do I want to leave them with? The more research I do, the more confident I become. Then, I practice. I also self-edit. I have adopted a philosophy that less is often more.
GenHERation®: What are three steps you should take to improve your writing skills?
Kostelni: When I first started out as a freelance writer, my weakness was writing. I am good at getting and distilling information, but I needed work on my storytelling. My mentor told me that you need to read good writing—newspapers, articles, books—to help you learn what good writing looks like and try to model your storytelling after that. That really made a difference for me. I could see that my writing improved over time and I found my voice. It took time though. You could also take a writing class. That was something I didn’t pursue, but kept it as an option. I was lucky enough to find great editors that I trusted who could help me and provided good editing.
GenHERation®: How can you increase the likelihood that someone will respond to a cold email?
Kostelni: Being persistent is probably the best way. Everyone is selling something. As a reporter, I am trying to sell myself and convincing someone to trust me to talk to me.
GenHERation®: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Kostelni: When things get tough, it’s good to know that they will get better. You can’t always see that in the moment but you have to have faith that they will improve; however, that doesn’t come without hard work. I wish someone would’ve told me that a journey isn’t linear. You can zig and zag. Every zig and zag are experiences and building blocks to the next experience. You also can’t see that in the moment, but you can see it in reflection and when you do, it’s gratifying. I started out as an accounting major and nearly failed out of it, but it led me to question what I liked to do. I joined the college newspaper as a movie reviewer because I loved writing and watching movies, which eventually led me to an exciting career in journalism.
Natalie Kostelni worked for more than 25 years as a journalist, spending most of her career—23 years—as a senior reporter with the Philadelphia Business Journal, where she covered commercial and residential real estate and economic development. In that role, she reported on the changing development landscape across the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the regional economy, and industries that support the vast real estate sector. Natalie is currently an associate director of communications in the Office of the Provost at Drexel University and an adjunct professor at Villanova University. She received her undergraduate degree from Villanova University and master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She resides in the Valley Forge area with her husband, Dan, and daughter, Audrey.