Working at newspapers isn’t what it used to be.
We know this from Allyson Bird’s post on why she left news, and we know it from a recent survey on CareerCast.com, which ranked “newspaper reporter” as the worst job of 2013. And if you’ve had the experience of working in a newsroom, you know it from the involuntary nodding you found yourself doing as you read both of those pieces.
The truth is, I never expected to leave journalism. Reporting was my love. But as the world around us changes, sometimes our dreams change, too. And just as I never expected to leave my life as a reporter, I never thought I’d love my second career as a digital entrepreneur as much as I do — perhaps, gasp, even more than I loved journalism.
If you’re a journalist who needs an escape plan or is even thinking about moving into a different profession, here are a few practical steps for moving forward, from someone who’s been there.
Go ahead and work your butt off to grow a loyal community for your employer. But then grow one for yourself, too. One of the biggest mistakes professionals make in this new digital world of work is putting all their eggs in their employer’s basket and failing to invest in themselves.
Build a network and portfolio you can bring with you even after you decide to leave your employer (or, let’s be realistic, are laid off). This isn’t always easy to do as a journalist because of ethics rules, but if you’re creative, you’ll find a way to pull it off.
If your employer is smart, they’ll actually want you to build your own brand in addition to theirs, because you’ll likely bring the eyes of your own loyal community to your employer’s site. That makes you more valuable, which means your employer might actually do more things to keep you happy.
Growing your own freelancing portfolio, small business or blog on the side of your day job is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only will it help you bring in extra money every month (which, let’s face it, is pretty necessary considering how much you’re making at the day job), you’ll also make new contacts and learn new skills. Your side hustle could eventually serve as the gateway to a new source of income.
This can be tricky depending on your beat and newsroom policies, but once again, if you really want it, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Usually only the top publications have policies that are strict enough to keep you from launching a side hustle, and if you’re working there, you’re probably not looking to make a move anyhow.
You’ll never figure out that next step unless you start digging around and checking out your options. We all know journalists who have gone into public relations, but plenty of other avenues are available to you, too, if you can manage to think beyond the inverted pyramid.
My friend AJ, formerly a business reporter, is now a stock analyst. Another j-school friend, Dana, went from television personality to novelist. And yours truly has a business creating and selling guides and courses and helping small businesses create online content. (If you’re wondering how, exactly, I make my living, here’s a post that explains the details.)
Your skills are oh-so-transferable, you just have to figure out how to use them.
So don’t stand still. If you don’t know what you want, take your best guess so you can move ahead. Even if it’s not the right direction, at least you’re moving.
Right now it might seem like working in news is the only job you could ever love, but that will likely change as soon as you give other jobs or industries a chance.
Let me tell you for just one minute HOW MUCH I LOVE MY JOB. I love it for a lot of the same reasons I loved journalism: I’m constantly learning, always writing, often feeling the rush of a win. And I’m still helping people and making the world a better place, just in a different way.
But I also love this new career for reasons I never experienced as a journalist. I have the autonomy to get sh*t done, to make decisions rather than waiting for approval. I get to choose who I work with, which means being able to avoid people who induce frustration headaches. And I’m making far more money now than I ever did in my full-time journalism job. Earning a decent income that will help me support a family is more important to me now than it was in my early-20s, and IT FEELS SO GOOD to actually see financial rewards for working my butt off.
Can’t find a traditional job you’ll love as much as reporting? Create your own! If I can do it, so can you.
Stop waiting for someone to hand you the perfect gig — it ain’t gonna happen. Get out there and create something awesome.
Like the stories you write, your life has a nut graf. It’s always changing, always being redefined. And because there’s only so much room in that graf, adding a new element means letting go of something else.
So don’t be a slave to the career. Journalists tend to feel a strong sense of loyalty to the news, to getting the facts out there, often to the detriment of our personal and professional lives. But you can make a positive difference in this world in other ways, ways that are less frustrating, more financially rewarding, and yes, FUN.
Let’s use the comment section to chat about two topics:
1. If you’re a journalist who’s thinking about making a transition, what sorts of resources would help you make a decision and start moving toward it?
2. If you’re a former journalist who’s already transitioned to another career, what industry are you working in now, and what practical steps did you make to get there?