Saturday, August 30, 2008

Advice from an ex

Harriet Blake is a former staff member who was a lifestyles and metro editor among many hats she wore during her 20-plus years here. She now is a freelance writer for Noofangle Media, a Web news organization started by two other exes, Tom and Bobbi Kessler.

It's been two years since I took the '06 buyout. It truly stinks to have to make a decision like this when you were not planning to "retire" for many years. I was in a better place than most since I was planning to leave the DMN in the summer of '07 to join my husband in Boston. But determining what to do in the next chapter of life isn't easy.

I started out sending numerous online resumes to companies that had posted their jobs on journalismjobs.com, craigslist and mediabistro.com. These sites are good for seeing what's out there, but most employers don't seem to look at these online resumes, no matter how "clever" the cover letter.

Out of the many queries I sent out, I received one call. I later found out it was ecause the woman doing the hiring had a kid who had attended my alma mater. It had nothing to do with my experience. Knowing someone on the inside seems to be the way to go and after so many years in the business, most of us know someone who knows someone.

I finally decided to pursue freelancing. I now specialize in writing about the environment, something I've always had an interest in. Freelancing works for me since I had a teenager who needed rides to school, sports, social events, etc. Freelancing has its pluses -- your time is your own, no commute (and with price of gas this was very nice) and you can work in your PJs. The down side is obvious -- until you become firmly established, your pay is minimal compared to what you were previously earning and there are no health benefits. If you can swing dealing with the latter (a working spouse certainly helps), freelancing is not a bad way to go.

You might also think about freelancing for just the short term, while you search for something more stable. It's a way to keep your hand in journalism, whether you choose to remain in the biz or not.

There are jobs out there that require our writing and editing skills. As they say, it's who you know. Keep networking. Talk to friends in and out of the business. If leaving the area is an option, check out other parts of the country. Many of our former colleagues have found success outside of the DFW area.

And as our friend Barry Horn once told me, "if we let any of our kids major in journalism in college, we should be reported to CPS."

(Maybe it runs in the genes, but my son IS majoring in journalism, albeit broadcast. Sigh)

1 comment:

doug said...

It's the bloviating Bedell here, and I second the esteemed Tim Wyatt and the incredible Harriet Blake.

All of us loved the J profession to a fault. And all of us still use the newsroom/interviewing/editing/research skills we used with The Daily. Only now they're really valued.

I'm the one who told Tim that corporate America can't write worth a flip. It's true.

If you look hard enough, you can find a niche that is extremely comfortable, challenging and enlightening. In my case, the niche found me. But no matter how it happens, it's better for you as a person than the current state of upheaval.

Frankly, I've learned more in the last four years than I did in the last ten at the DMN. Getting out of that grind is exhilarating.

Best luck to you all. I'm going dark on this whole thing. It's too painful to watch any more.

-=drb