Literary journals are a great resource for anyone trying to get published; in the twenties, writers such as Hemmingway, Faulkner, and Fitgerald were known best for their short stories appearing in magazines, and other authors made a living selling stories to magazines without ever writing a novel. Today, fewer magazines publish short stories, but literary journals and magazines are still a great way to gain recognition and earn a few bucks.
The benefits of getting published in a literary journal are enormous: First, it requires much less effort than publishing a novel, especially if you know what you're doing. You don't have to go through a literary agent-middle man, whihc is an entirely necessary step to getting a novel published. Second, if you have anything published anywhere, your bio will look a thousand times more sttractive to potential literary agents than if you have nothing published at all; Getting short stories published will make it easier to publish your novel. Finally, if you can get a short story published a The New Yorker, you will have agents as well as publishers banging at your door and begging to represent anything else you've written.
A century ago, short strories were a way for authors to earn a decent living. Now, they are only the gateway to something bigger and better: Topping a best-seller list and seeing your name go down in history. Theoretically, of course.