Archive for January, 2011
Click below to see Media Today, a short newspaper describing the lessons I learned during the trip.
All words and images by Evanne Montoya
New York City and Washington D.C. are two of the best-known cities in the world. One for it’s sheer size, popularity, and diversity; the other for the power that is wielded from within it’s limits. Both cities also have lessons to teach all of their visitors. Life lessons, practical lessons, and professional lessons abound among the blaring horns and bitter cold. I’ve decided to synthesize these lessons so that even those who didn’t partake of the trip will be able to gain all of my wisdom.
Practical Lesson #1: Pack light.
I knew the wisdom of this lesson even before leaving for the trip, but I rarely apply it to myself. I tend to pack in preparation for every occurrence, and generally end up not using most of the stuff I brought. This trip was no different. I realized this was not the wisest decision as I was traipsing through the New York subway system with a 50-pound suitcase and a God-only-knows-how-heavy duffel bag on my shoulder. From now on, unless I have a car or a personal servant, I will be trying my hardest to bring less than 80 pounds of stuff with me, even if the trip is three weeks long.
Professional Lesson #1: Do internships.
This was one of the earliest and most drilled-into-our-heads lessons of the entire trip. At least 75 percent of the places we visited made sure to tell us we didn’t have a chance at a job without internship experience. Some of the places, like Ketchum Public Relations, even told us we couldn’t get an internship with them without previous internship experience, which I found a little extreme. The point is, experience is not only valued; it’s necessary. At one of the sights we were told bluntly that the fact we have a degree will be taken for granted. That made me face the fact of how truly competitive the job market is now.
Practical Lesson #2: In New York City, the subway is probably safer than a car.
I’ve never heard so much honking or seen such a disregard for traffic laws as I did in New York City. I felt nervous even during my five-minute taxi ride from Ground Zero to Battery Park. As much as I love having a car, I would rather take my chances on an overstuffed train that zips around in tunnels underground on an electrified track than in a safety-tested vehicle that I am controlling up in open air. Of course, when I phrase it like that, it’s not all that hard to make myself and most of the other people in New York City sound nuts.
Practical Lesson #3: The cars won’t stop, so get out of the way.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but reveals a lot about the mood of New York City. Everyone is in a hurry. Everyone has places to go, people to see, and money to make. Pedestrians go when they can, including jay walking. If you’re jay walking, you run the risk of getting hit because the cars will not stop, because the people driving the cars also have places to go, people to see, and money to make. In fact, a lot of the cars don’t even slow down.
The same could be said of Washington D.C., but only as far as the practical lesson can be taken literally. There is a decidedly different mood surrounding D.C. Brian Lamb, president and CEO of C-SPAN, was our first official meeting in D.C., and in my opinion he was one of the first to treat us like actually human beings. He had a real conversation with us that included this very subject. His reasoning on the difference between New York and D.C. came down to one simple word: money. In New York, people are driven to a more stressful pace because they are earning and spending their own money. In D.C., people are spending others’ money. There isn’t as much urgency because there isn’t as much personal connection. The sad realization this revelation brings with it is that some aspect of everyone’s life will always be ruled by money, even if there are other things you would rather worry about.
Professional Lesson #2: Send thank you notes.
I knew this lesson before this trip, but everyone we visited confirmed it twice over. The best way to make sure you stand out in a potential employer’s mind is to send a thank you note. Some of the places we visited mentioned that if you don’t send a thank you note, you probably won’t be getting a job. I find it interesting that so much courtesy has died in our society, yet this custom still lives. We are expected to be courteous to the people that have power over us, like the person hiring us, even if that courtesy never reappears after getting hired. In my eyes, our world has become a strange dichotomy of self-service and respect, with respect showing up in order to further self-service. It makes me sad, but I have hope in the fact that not everyone is like this. So maybe the real lesson is this: don’t send a thank you note to get hired; send a thank you note because it’s the respectful thing to do. I think I like that lesson a lot better.
Professional Lesson #3: Many times, you end up in a career path you weren’t expecting.
I’m not sure how many of the people we met with said something along the lines of “My path to where I am now was strange.” Mike Webb of ProPublica started off in the music business and is now in communications for a journalism organization. While this lesson could be depressing, depending on how you spin it, I don’t think it has to be. All you have to do is look at it in the right light. Maybe the path you were intending was never right for you. God could simply be steering you in the right direction through a lot of seemingly disastrous or devastating turns of events. When you freak out or try to take control, things tend to go wrong. Don’t sit back and get lazy, but don’t panic when things aren’t perfect. If I don’t end up in radio or an ideal audio production job right away, that’s okay. I’m not going to die, and I’m not going to disappoint anyone. I just need to have faith. (This particular lesson ended up being more of a pep talk for myself than anything else. Sometimes pep talks to yourself are good things.)
Life Lesson #1: Sometimes you have to make compromises in order to take advantage of the best opportunities.
I knew after only a few days of being in New York City that I didn’t want to live there. That same adversity wasn’t present in Washington D.C., but it’s still a city on the opposite side of the country I’ve always known. However, as much as I would like to stay at home where I know life is safe, I can’t keep myself in a box forever. Some of the best career opportunities in the world exist in New York City. I should be able to handle three months living in a new place in order to do a once-in-a-lifetime internship.
Professional Lesson #4: Every company has it’s own personality.
I have to admit, I never thought about the fact each company has it’s own personality until I got into the work force. My first job was in a privately owned store. My current job is in a chain store owned by a massive company. It seems to me that there are more blunt discussions and less beating around the bush in a small, private store. The boss is present, and you take your problems directly to him or her. In my current job, I feel like an ant. The company has it’s own directives (primarily to make money), and I’m serving those directives without being known at all.
The same can be said about the places we visited. Saatchi and Saatchi seemed like a very laid-back atmosphere, especially after Erin Lyons told us they have a keg every Friday. Bloomberg News came across as the total opposite, the epitome of an anthill working environment. We were told multiple times that everywhere you go, the mood will be different. We need, and are expected, to have researched and know the company we are applying to. We also need to be sure that company fits our personality. The problem with this is that oftentimes, the personality a company projects on it’s website is not the true personality of the people that work there. I see the value of this lesson, and I believe everyone should adhere to it as best as possible. It could just be trickier than expected.
Practical Lesson #4: Even if you wear lots of layers, you’re still going to be cold.
I thought everyone was exaggerating about how cold it would be. Everyone else must just be a baby; it can’t possibly be any colder than Spokane. Well, I was wrong. The first night, after we landed in New York, I sincerely thought it wouldn’t be bad. It wasn’t any colder than it was in Spokane when we left. In fact, it wasn’t that bad for the first few days. I don’t remember when it got bad. All I remember is not being able to feel my hands through my gloves and my ears burning when we walked into a building. The worst day, however, was our last day in Washington D.C. I was walking back to the hostel after dinner and realized that I couldn’t feel my feet. Normally, my toes go numb; that’s nothing new. This time, both of my feet were gone, all the way up to the ankle. I learned an entirely new definition of the word cold. I was even wearing at least two layers on every part of my body at any given time. To think I scoffed at the wisdom of all those people who warned me.
Life Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid to take chances.
When the HR woman from Ketchum Public Relations told us how competitive their fellowship program is, the underlying message seemed to be “Why even try?” I know that seems like a depressing and incorrect message to hear, but it was still there, in a whisper. After some things in my personal life fell through and I realized where my future was headed, I decided not to listen to that little whisper. That whisper is the reason that some truly talented people have never recognized their calling, and I don’t want that to happen to me. So I’m going to try, and if I don’t succeed, then I’ll move on to the next challenge. The competition had better back off and realize what they’re dealing with.
Professional Lesson #5: Know your craft.
As we visited more and varied media outlets, it became clear that a working knowledge of the field and the specific company were necessities for even a hope of getting hired. Going into an interview blind to these topics is like shooting yourself in the foot. Do research, read the trades, and get as much exposure to your prospective career as possible. Brian Lamb of C-SPAN told us to go behind the obvious. Learn the history and research who owns which companies, because it may affect your view of the media and change who you want to work for. It will also help you understand why some companies function the way they do and where the market is headed. Knowing where the market is headed in your field may be the highest valued knowledge you can possess when entering the job market.
Professional Lesson #6: Know others’ crafts.
Once you understand the ins and outs of your aspired career, you need to understand the ins and outs, or at least the general gist, of the rest of the media field. Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism knows so many facts about media that it made my head spin. Granted, he is the head of a project that spends it’s days researching the subject of media, but every single statistic he told us affects our lives in some way, even indirectly. He was also one of the few professionals that we met with that had some solid career advice concerning radio for me. Even though it basically came down to “Get out now,” I still appreciated that he had some concrete knowledge about the future of radio.
Sree Sreenivasan of Columbia University was an inspiration to me for the sheer fact that he was so knowledgeable about seemingly everything. He was relaxed when speaking to us, and gave us advice about books, movies, new media, and New York City in the span of an hour. While he teaches journalism and social media, he is an entrepreneur of the world around him as a whole, not just the limited areas he is specifically involved with. I realized while talking to him how limited my scope of the world is, and how much more I want to know. He, among others, inspired me to become a better-rounded person, which I think will help both in my understanding of the world and in my future professional life.
Practical Lesson #5: No matter where you live, the shopping will always be better in New York City.
I should probably include a disclaimer with the lesson: for rich people who can afford designer clothes, the shopping is probably better in Europe. For modest-budgeted people like myself, the shopping isn’t better anywhere. There are illegal street vendors, specialty shops, Chinatown, and heaven in the form of a store called Century 21. I know this isn’t the ideal place for a list containing the half of Manhattan that I dragged home with me, but let me just say that I am very content. It almost makes me depressed to be home, where fake pashmina silk scarves cost twenty bucks a piece, instead of the five I paid in Chinatown.
Life Lesson #3: Everybody is scared.
We talked to a few recent college graduates during our meetings. One was at Wiley and Sons, one at Saatchi and Saatchi, and one at ProPublica. They all had similar stories. And the biggest message I got from those stories is this: everyone is scared, but you shouldn’t let it paralyze you. You will get a job. I’m on the brink of graduation, career, and an uncertain future, but I was encouraged to know that I wasn’t the only one. Many of the people on the trip with me are going through the same things. When my plans fell through for next year, I was a wreck, but everyone was supportive of me, reminding me that I’m not the only person whose future is in flux. I don’t have to go through this alone. I won’t get over being scared immediately, but it will pass and I will be okay.
Professional Lesson #7: Brand yourself.
Multiple times over the course of the trip, I heard people express how important a brand was. Naturally, this occurred at Saatchi and Saatchi advertising and Ketchum Public Relations, because both companies work with what we think of as brands all day long. I found it surprising and interesting when Paula Kerger of PBS told us that brand is more important than anything else, including the product. This subject also came up at the AP, where their stories have a certain expectation of quality because they are associated with the AP. The reality is, brands are everywhere.
One of the agencies we visited (I don’t remember which one) told us to brand ourselves. I thought this a weird concept, but when you look at PBS and the AP, it makes more sense. Both organizations carry weight simply because of their name and the qualities associated with their names. One of the best ways to market yourself to HR personnel in any given company is to use words and behaviors that exemplify who you are and what you will bring to their organization; i.e. branding yourself.
I find this easier said than done. How do you narrow yourself down to a few key words? The reality of the situation is that this skill is essential in the job market today. It goes hand-in-hand with having a resume that is limited to a page long. No matter what area you want to go into or what job you’re looking for, everyone has to have marketing skills. They will help more than you can predict.
Professional Lesson #8: You can be a professional dedicated to your job and still be a real person.
PBS, C-SPAN, and the Smoking Gun were some of my favorite meetings because the people we met were at the top of their organization. They were some of the most important people for their respective companies or publications, but they treated us like real people. All four staff members of the Smoking Gun were in our meeting, telling stories and relaying tips in a way that told me they enjoy their job and enjoy telling people about their job. Brian Lamb of C-SPAN not only asked us questions and carried on a real conversation, but also was blunt with us about the knowledge we should have that we didn’t. Even though Paula Kerger was sick, she still made our meeting, and made it enjoyable. Her passion for PBS’s mission was clear.
I also appreciated all of the people that made an effort to ask us even a little about ourselves before diving into their presentation. I might be crazy, but I thought this happened more often in Washington D.C. than in New York. I noticed and appreciated when the person giving the presentation answered my questions while looking me in the eye, remembering that I was the one that asked, rather than addressing the whole group and not necessarily making the answer personal. These were good reminders to me that the more personable you are, even with inconsequential college kids, the more people will respect your position. Don’t try to be a perfect robot, accept your mistakes and don’t be shy about them, and you will go far.
The Biggest Lesson: Love what you do.
This lesson applies to all three categories. A few years ago, a man I’d just babysat for was driving me home. We got on the subject of college, and he advised me that if I wanted to go for a higher degree, I should do my undergrad in something I truly enjoyed. The good grades would help me get into a master’s program more than the subject matter, and it would be easier to get good grade if I enjoyed the subject matter. I didn’t realize how right he was until this trip.
The job market today is more competitive than ever. It’s true that companies are firing people left and right, but many companies are also hiring new people. When it is obvious you love your field, it will be easier to find a job. Employers will be eager to hire you because they will trust you to do your job well. But beyond all the practical aspects, there is the basic fact that you’ll actually enjoy your life. It isn’t always possible to find or get hired for your dream job, but if you aim high and show your passion and heart on your sleeve, you’ll probably have more of a leg up on the competition than you realize.
This might be the most profound thing I’ve ever written. Or it could be the disjointed ramblings of a jet-lagged college student. Either way, this organization of my thoughts, feelings, and the copious amount of notes I took in meetings has helped me realize something. I don’t want to live in my box anymore. There’s a lot to life that I haven’t experienced yet, and if I try to be safe all the time, I never will. So I’m going to try my hardest to take chances, go after the impossible dream, not get hit by cars, and send my thank you notes when it’s all over.
Nothing is set in stone. The world is in constant motion and the industries that are media and journalism are no different. What journalists were originally centuries ago (party driven, biased commentators) are roles that have morphed and shifted throughout the years. As the definition of journalism has changed, so has the development of production and printing methods. News became easier to obtain and transmit with the telegraph then the complexity of news grew with the radio and television. The latest frontier to impact the transition and publication of media all comes down to digital, whether that means social media or a new way to advertise.
Just as the means of producing and accounting for news is changing, so is my perception of news. I want to change the world and serve as an inspiration for people. While some may think the easiest way of going about this would be to become a lawyer, politician or doctor, I’m taking a different route. I’d rather go to the far off reaches of the world and report on atrocities and heart-warming circumstances that would never be heard of otherwise. I have no issue (or, not at this time) with giving up everything I own and moving to Egypt or Africa, or going into a field that has extreme stigmas attached to it, such as suicidology or the non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms.
Ever since I was sixteen, these have been the only career paths I’ve ever thought of. There was that dreaming wistfulness of working as a photojournalist for National Geographic, and that’s still in the background, but the forefront is about making an impact. This idea of making an impact showed up in spurt all along this trip, in different ways than I was expecting. I never considered other possibilities as a journalist because I’ve been so set on my passions. I never knew there were so many different avenues in book publishing, or how advertising can be used to serve the world. I counted my eggs before they were hatched, and put on blinders to the rest of the world, something that, especially as a journalist, is never a good idea.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this trip is what I got out of the meetings. The meetings I discounted originally proved to be some of the most useful, whereas some of the meetings I was most looking forward to proved to be the most disappointing. Even the most dull, mundane conversation left an imprint or a new area of knowledge for me to explore. There were some meetings that left me so thrilled and excited that I instantly wanted to be back on my computer, looking up information and gaining knowledge. Then there were some meetings that did the opposite, and reinforced my, “I never want to work in this field” mentality.
The one common thread that ran through most of the meetings for me was the feeling of being overwhelmed, of needing to know so much initially and have so many connections to get a leg up. The thought of my looming future is always slightly terrifying, because how certain can one really be (especially at 20) about what they want to do with their life? I often hear the horror stories of the individuals who hate their job and, as I’ve never held a job I loathed going to every day, the fact that I may soon be one of that number makes me gulp in dread. If I want a leg up, to get myself in the door to a place that I don’t wake up and dread, the best I can do, as according to our meetings, is to have the desired skills, a willing to learn attitude and the ability to be flexible, especially early on in my career.
I’ve heard for years that experience and the connections a person has are incredibly important, possibly ranking even with a tremendous skill set. Every executive we spoke with during our time in NYC and DC stressed the importance of an internship, putting the emphasis on real world experience over coursework. I found this thrilling, because I can already tell you that the skills I learned in class and were able to implement in The Whitworthian are the ones that have stuck with me. I feel comfortable utilizing that skill set in a way that I never did in class, and I’ve always thought that in the long run, applying skills to my real world life will be more beneficial for me than the grade I get in a certain subject.
This is especially true when examining the way investigative journalists use skills and knowledge to go about their business, which is particularly fascinating to me. We met with a number of groups that were brutally honest about investigative journalism and how disgruntled they were about the current trends many journalistic organizations take. Yet the ways these different journalism companies approach their jobs are much different. Some approach their work from a sensationalistic angle, where they essentially examine something just because they can. Granted, they try to pursue a new outlet and angle that hasn’t previously been covered, but sometimes I wondered if the content they publicized was really necessary and relevant. Then there are those who are funded by non-profits, and provide reports and content that really does seem objective. I’ve always loved investigative journalism, and meeting with these individuals allowed me to learn more about the inner-workings of investigative journalism, as well as giving me some tips and ideas about how to go about investigating an incident.
Another commonality between nearly all groups led me to critically examine social networking, both as a user and as a researcher. The Smoking Gun showed us an incredible use of social media for researching different people and different incidents; a demonstration that opened my mind to a whole new way of doing background research for stories. Every meeting also stressed the importance of keeping your online identity clean and secure, as once something is posted on the internet there is no getting rid of it and many of the Human Resource professionals said they would check a Facebook or Twitter account of a prospective employee.
The most rewarding part of the trip, relating to reinforcing an idea I already knew (or thought I did), was the emphasis on social media. Meeting with Sree Sreenivasan was enlightening, as his hour mostly focused on the importance of social media and following various news sites, specifically mentioning Mashable. Mashable is by far one of my favourite sites, and one of the reasons I find it most enjoyable is because I will often see tech stories posted on this site and occurring on the East coast, weeks before hearing word of it on the West coast. Monitoring it gives Jessica and I things to talk about, and gives me ideas about upcoming technologies that could increase my knowledge or be applicable for The Whitworthian.
On the other hand, it was interesting to see how many organisations were taking the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach to new media. We talked to some organisations that stated they had just begun, last year, to utilize Facebook or Twitter. Then there were others who didn’t push their content on Facebook or Twitter at all. At all. This blew my mind; as to me it’s always been common sense to meet the people where they are. Yes, there is still a market with the baby-boomers for pushing print content, but I can tell you that lately my dad has been reading on a computer screen instead of the print newspaper, because it’s easier to increase the type size. This alone shows me that, even for baby-boomers, online content is useful and beneficial.
For me personally, I only read hard copies of my local paper when I’m home, and USA Today and New York Times when I’m at school. The rest of the time, I read these publications (as well as three or four others) solely on my Tumblr and RSS feeds online. I’m 20, part of the college audience, and I know that there’s a growing number of us who use the Internet for news. So to me, saying that you don’t push your content out online is simply a bad business skill. With new media, you have to be quick to adapt, to stay on top of it, because no one knows where it’s going or the changes that will come. Stay in the old ruts for too long, and you won’t get out.
Besides this talk of social media and new media in the meetings, it was also fascinating to examine the differences between the East and West coast in how media is used. The East coast seems to be much more advanced in social media, as I noticed Microsoft Tag Reader emblems all over advertisements and publications, whereas on the West coast I’ve rarely seen them. Foursquare, Twitter and LinkedIn are also huge on the East coast, and while I have all three accounts and attempt to use them professionally, the majority of my friends use them for fun or personal use. Social media is much more corporately used on the East coast, at least it seems to be, but then again, I am a West coast college student, so I could be wrong on that assessment.
Speaking of West coast vs. East coast, I’ve learned that in order to thrive in NYC or DC, one must realise time is power and niceties aren’t always common. I rushed through a door being held by a 30 year-old gentlemen and hastily told him thanks as I scurried through. He looked at me like I was an alien and it made me wonder, have pleasantries gone by the wayside with the fast-paced culture that is NYC? On the West coast, saying nothing would have been more surprising than hearing a thank you. Something I did love about the East coast however, is what total autonomy feels like. Try walking down the street in Upper Manhattan or riding the subway down to Brooklyn and see if you run into anyone you know. You’re just another face in the crowd there, and for a woman like me who is from a small town where everyone knows everyone, that feeling of being anonymous was something I absolutely loved.
This feeling of time is power also played a role in learning to never take no for an answer. This is perhaps one of the more important lessons I learned, as I can get down when things don’t work out the way I want them to. At Ketchum, it was stressed how importance it is to look over your resume to find what area is the weakest after hearing “no”, and then going out and strengthening that area. Hopefully you know by now Jim, that I’m in love with the work of a non-profit in Florida. I applied for their internship program the first year they offered it, when I was 16, and was turned down. While this was because their interns needed to be 18, I was still quite upset, but having been told no gave me the boost to build up my resume and skill set so that hopefully, the next time I apply for an internship with them, I’ll be accepted as a crucial part of their team.
In every meeting we went to, the power of teamwork was apparent, whether showcased visibly before us in the meetings, or in the tours around the building with the many different individuals working towards a cohesive product. On the majority of the meetings we went to (TV Guide specifically stands out) I often had more interested in the people behind the scenes. At TV Guide, I thought the man who was in charge of editing the video had a much more fascinating job than the woman in charge of interviewing the celebrities. When we went to Ketchum and Saatchi and Saatchi, I was more interested in working in the creative divisions, that would allow me to work on a product from beginning to end, instead of sending it out for someone else to do the work. These fascinations with the behind the scenes activities are something I’ve always known to hold, but it was especially prevalent on this trip.
One of the greatest worries I hold about finding a job is that it will be something mundane and boring, something that doesn’t challenge my mind. This worry meant that the youthful attitude that many of the sites we visited held was quite a surprise to me. I’ve been fortunate to have worked in environments that included a variety of skills and individuals, and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to work at a stuffy corporation where there is no room to be creative. However, as seen at Ketchum and specifically, Saatchi and Saatchi, there is still a variety of work done in a 9 to 5 job, and there is definitely still a youthful vibe to many organisations.
While all the meetings we had put an emphasis on transparency, the way some go about applying this transparency can differ dramatically. Some corporations seemed to think that the “fish in a glass bowl” approach is the best way, when to me this seems like a total Orwellian approach. Monitoring the constant moves of a person as these types of corporations do infringes upon my belief in a basic need for personal privacy. On the other hand, knowing exactly where a publication stands because they blatantly tell me is transparency I like to see.
Even the organisations we visited that I didn’t agree with I enjoyed, such as Jason Mattara at Human Events. I think it’s important to be able to listen to the opinion of someone on the other side and acknowledge their point, but still be able to refute it with your own opinion and beliefs. One thing Whitworth has taught me is that asking the hard questions is okay, disagreeing is okay; that by arguing your point and hearing other’s is one of the few sure ways to refine your own argument and strengthen your core beliefs. This is much the same for Mattara’s publication because while I don’t agree with his political stance, there is still something to be learned and some common ground to be found.
The over-all theme of the trip had to do with examining media impact in media hubs and out across America. I’ve learned through my classes at Whitworth that this impact media has on society is prevalent and easy to spot. In fact, Jessica and I determined that agenda setting theory, or the idea that the media defines what the public thinks and therefore the policy that affects the public is swayed by the media’s agenda. The current idea of agenda setting theory takes into account traditional media sources. However, after meeting with so many executives that stressed the importance of digital media or social media, I’ve determined (jokingly, of course) that this theory should be edited. After meeting with Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, it was discussed that friends and acquaintances now determine what news is importance, thereby setting the public agenda. By utilizing social networking sites to dispatch this information (via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr feeds), it is easier for individuals to influence what others view. I personally often post news articles and Tumblr posts onto my Facebook, and utilize Twitter mainly for re-tweeting headlines of news articles I find particularly interesting. While many of my friends do not read the newspaper or have access to a television, I am influencing the media they consume with these postings.
Speaking of consuming media, another aspect that was discussed specifically at Regnery Publishing was the importance of having a variety of media outlets covering a variety of political stances. The Editorial Director, Harry Crocker, spoke of England and how the main newspaper publications in England are openly biased towards certain parties. However, a liberal publication (like The Guardian) and a conservative publication are both owned by the same corporation and the general audience in England reads both. This insures that these people will get a somewhat well-rounded news diet, as compared to the United States, where many people only choose to read publications that agree with their beliefs, such as conservatives reading Human Events or liberals reading San Francisco Chronicle. Hearing Crocker speak about England’s journalism system was fascinating, as I will hopefully have the opportunity to learn first hand next semester when I study in England.
Besides having the privilege to interact with such a number of influential media executives, I was also blessed with the opportunity to explore various museums throughout New York City and DC. Two of the most influential to me were the Holocaust Museum and Newseum. While the Holocaust Museum is a sobering and fascinating place, I couldn’t help but think of how media played a role in the Holocaust. In the Newseum, I fell in love with the Pulitzer Prize photography section. This section also led to heated debates between my classmates, as shown in previous blog posts. These debates proved fascinating to me, as they showed the differences in how my fellow comrades and I regard photojournalism.
They questioned how a photographer could shoot images of such atrocities without doing such a thing, such as helping war causalities or starving children. I, however, have the mentality that they are working for a broader picture by documenting events so that the world knows and with the hope that people would see those pictures and never let anything similar happen again. This showed different mentalities, with neither being truer than the other, and both being interesting to discuss.
This trip opened my eyes to new possibilities and new connections. I was given the opportunity to network and learn about career options during meetings, and learned more about myself in the process. While our pace was at time frantic and hectic, I was constantly engaging in the outside world and society. We were all pushed to make the most of the opportunity we had and I haven taken much that I’ve learned back to implement in my life and career.
(Now that I’ve talked about some of these experiences and how they relate to my life or a broader picture, I’m going to leave you with a word cloud of the most prevalent words we heard. The largest words were stressed the most, and the size varies on down.)
To be posted later…
I’ve been too busy going out and about in NYC and DC to sit down and edit pictures. I’ve finally gotten to work on it, and I’m posting a brief smattering of images from our time in DC. More will come later.
I feel I should start this reflection/analysis/synthesis out with a tell-all preface. I do not do reflection writing. I know, I know, I am a literature major, which involves a whole lot of writing. While this is true, the type of writing I produce as a literature major is boring, at least in comparison to journalistic, colored, personal, and creative writing found in blogs and, I am sure, in my others classmates’ reflections. My writing is usually third person, polished, researched, edited, critical literary analysis writing. The type of writing I am used to does not include feelings, emotions, personal thoughts, or, (gasp!) first person. In my youth and beyond, I have tried on multiple occasions to keep a personal journal, but would always angrily tear it apart after reading my own writing. I was embarrassed of my writing, my thoughts, and what I thought was worth writing, the “news-worthy” details of my life never seemed important a day later. However, one of the most important things I learned on this trip was how to challenge myself. I learned this while writing blog entries and comments for the first time, meeting and making new friends in what turned out to be a sometimes stressful living situation, and daring to raise my hand with a question to ask impressive and accomplished professionals. While traveling on this adventure, I learned that I wish to stretch, push, extend, and thrive to become a more successful person, professionally and personally. To stretch, push, and extend myself, I must try new things. This reflection paper is in itself, my attempt to try something new. This fact alone should demonstrate a large portion of what I have learned, and how I have grown while on this trip. This reflection paper should also demonstrate how I use the knowledge I gained as I take the skills, confidence, and ideals learned and push myself to open my Microsoft Word and type, something personal, something colorful, and hopefully something that I can call important in days, weeks, and even months to come.
Throughout this media impact tour I have become more aware of the many options available in potential future careers. My interests in such careers shifted, morphed, changed and grew through our important meetings and by exploring potential lifestyles and careers. Although this discovery of my options is an exciting revelation, it is also incredibly overwhelming and quite frightening. Sitting in on most of these discussions with such successful people I found myself scared of all the options I have and the decisions I have to make so soon. I also felt humbled by the fact that they would want to meet with us. I am, after all, just a lowly college student from Washington. Washington State. Almost all of the professionals we visited encouraged finding internships and really striving to dive into the field that most grabs our attention. Yet how do we find this field? In the short amount of time I have left before graduating and entering the “real world” it seems I must narrow down, if not pick, my career choice so that I can apply for, and hopefully receive, an internship. I must do and decide this all before I even attempt to apply for a spot in the profession I must choose to seek. An internship will then make me a stronger applicant when I choose to apply for a career. But which career? For what position? In which location? How do I “get my foot in the door” if I have dozens of doors to choose from and only two feet? Throughout this journey, I uncovered the questions I need to ask and answer of myself before moving forward in my search for a career.
I am not and have never been a procrastinator. That is my best friend. And I am glad she can do that. My friend would rather wake up during the wee hours of the morning to finish, or start, her paper due at nine that morning. She thrives and produces her best work under tight, constricting deadlines. I very much admire this about her, while I am quite opposite in this regard. I, on the other hand, would rather have my assignments done and reviewed at least a day in advance. I thrive by living with organization and daily plans to complete my work early. I enjoy extra time to look over my work. I would classify myself as an organized person, almost a perfectionist, however, I do not believe any of my work is ever perfect. Yet, the first thing I ever learned to like about myself was my strong work ethic and my organization. Conversely, I cannot shake the feeling that I am procrastinating some of the, arguably, most important decisions and actions in my life. That is, what to do when I graduate? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Which career should I choose? Do I have any chance of breaking my way into that profession? Should I have back-ups? And what should those be? How do I choose? Where do I start?
This journey made me aware of these questions and the pressing need to answer them before proceeding on into that scary, real, competitive professional world. I believe raising questions is an important part of finding answers, for how can you find the answers if you don’t know where to look for them? I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this trip and the undergo the process of uncovering these questions as I think they will have a great impact on the next stage of my life as I will soon transfer from student to working employee.
As I stated, the first portion of this trip raised all of these questions inside myself. They rebounded off my brain and I felt the pressure of them everywhere. Yet, somewhere along the trip these pesky questions seemed to dissipate. What replaced these seemingly unanswerable questions were confidence, calmness, and ease. I learned this ease through observing the professionals, through bonding with fellow travelers and through embracing the questions I have of myself while actively seeking answers. I believe that all the things I learned on this trip are valuable skills, feelings, contacts and life lessons. I am proud to have been a part of this trip and to have gained so much from this experience.
I will start this adventure of lessons and learning by describing the basic nuggets of knowledge I picked up from the cities themselves and how these views impacted my life and my future life decisions. During our time in New York City I did learn that I do not want to live in NYC. I am just not cut out for the New York big-city lifestyle. I do not thrive on crowds, high prices, always-noisy atmospheres or crowded, sometimes smelly subway cars. I do not enjoy feeling of hopeless misdirection, nor the cold stun of the freezing wind whistling between the cool, steel towers that are the buildings of the city, blocking out the sun and most of the, sometimes blue sky. I found I enjoy mountains rather than the skyscraper jungle of NYC and waiting for the “walk” signal before crossing the street. I would prefer to live in a city were the fear of being run down by a crazy, honking taxi driver is absurd, not a relatively common occurrence. Not to mention the silence I enjoy at home, in NYC broken by honk after honk of frustrated drivers blaring his/her horn for no apparent rhyme or reason. I enjoyed being a tourist in NYC, but I believe I would have a hard time living for an extended time in the Big Apple.
Our second stop, Washington DC, I found to be quite different. I do like the New York subway system better, or I was simply more used to the lines, trains, turns, and switches of that system, as opposed to the DC metro. However, on the whole, I could see myself living in DC while this image was not possible to imagine in NYC. While DC does have the big city feel, the surrounding area is much calmer. The off-the-beaten-track areas of DC are places I would not mind living it. One random detail about DC that made my day a little brighter and my thoughts on the city a little cheerier happened at a chain fast food restaurant. This fast food place was clean and the employees helpful and nice, but more than this was the softly playing Christian music in the background. While I am sure this same scene could be heard in many other places in many other cities, the fact that this organization was a chain and was still choosing to rock Christian music impressed and stuck with me. I like the area for more than one restaurant’s music selection and this fact could potential help me in deciding what job I wish to take and may be helpful in my pursuit of an internship to spice up my resume.
In contrast to the earlier, almost negative sounding, newly developed opinions I hold about New York City, I discovered some parts of NYC that I truly appreciated and enjoyed. I liked how there was always a new restaurant to try, and new street to see and new cultures to observe on the subway. I also liked that there always seemed to be people to make an impression on, to greet or to help. I surprised me how appreciative waiters, doormen, security guards, etc were to receive a simple, “thank you” for the simplest of actions. Yet, their responses cemented in my mind that perhaps city dwellers do not thank a waitress for refilling an empty water glass or thank an aging security guard for holding open the door. While I was in New York City I was happy to do these things, to give money to awful, disruptive singers on the subway and thank and smile at everyone I could, but I believe I empirically learned this is not a common action. I believe that I could survive and function in a place like New York City. I think I could navigate the subway stations effectively, find good, A-Rated places to get, and use common sense to maintain a decent lifestyle in the never-sleeping city. Yet, I am not sure this is an environment I wish to spend a large portion of my life in. I am scared the city would dampen my view of the world and kill the “thank you” before it slipped out of my mouth, while frightening away the appreciation I have for cultures and cities, new and remembered. These big-city lessons and independence I learned may influence my decision to look for a profession that could function without the big-city lifestyle in New York City.
Thus ends my, hopefully colorful, lessons learned from the city. To sum it up, I liked both, would visit both again, I learned from both, I could live and enjoy myself in one, while I would not like living in the other. I feel more mature because of our visit, because of the experience gained, and the independence found. I hope it is clear how much and how completely I enjoyed this trip. It was educational, eye opening, and fun. I found the cities exciting and invigorating. I enjoyed trying new food, seeing a show on Broadway, pushing onto compacted subway cars like native New Yorkers and all the rest of the adventures we took part in. It is my opinion that I l grew as a person, a friend and a student on this trip. I truly believed I learned something valuable from each of these experiences and locations.
Valuable experiences were also gained in our “classroom”, or our meetings. From the beginning of the trip the importance of internships were clearly expressed. Professionals from our first stop, John Wiley & Sons, and almost every stop since that first meeting with those very first muffins in New Jersey discussed the importance internships carry. Internships hold importance because they represent experience, selection and qualification. It was voiced over and over again at different locations, where various people in the same conference-style setting stated and showed how internships must be found and completed before expecting to be looked seriously at or apply for a major position within a company. In some cases, internships must be competed before applying for higher and more prestigious internships. In all honesty, I had never thoughts much about internships before this trip. In complete honesty, before this trip I never really thought about marketing myself, my resume, or even the fact that there might be a struggle to find a job. I never imagined the competition, the economic ramifications or the lack of jobs available. I guess I thought a job would just magically fall onto my lap upon earning my degree. My perception changed seriously as I learned more about the reality of the professional world on this trip. This is one huge aspect in which this trip gave me eye opening insight and ideas for tools for access in the future, professional world. The importance of internships now weights down on me like a heavy fur coat pulls a trapped individual deeper into the dark of the freezing pool of murky water. The murky water here is the future, the coat the lack of an internship and solid resume, the trapped individual represents myself. Internships are now my glass ceiling keeping me from fresh air and the outside world. I cannot get to where I could be hired without an internship. However, there is another blocking point that I must address before I push through the fur coat and the glass ceiling and get an internship. I must decide what I want to do first. Knowing what I want to do will give me an idea of what internship I should look for, which will then give me experience and a fuller and stronger resume. I learned I needed these important trade tools because of this trip and the advice we received during our meetings. Because of this lesson I now know what I need to accomplish before entering the professional realm.
While I feel the weight of internships and my empty resume, the people I meet and their attitudes about their work truly touched and inspired me. The people that we meet with seemed happy with the careers they chose, expect for one instance at an entertainment news organization, in which I perceived the want of more substance in writing from three of the people we met with. This common reality of enjoying work, I learned, is inspiring to me as we visited so many various places doing so many different things, while all had the common denominator of happy, passionate employees. It was also good for me to learn that the individuals we meet with have so many different backgrounds. Various majors, activities, clubs, jobs, etc, landed these individuals were they are today. This encouraged me and by discovering this I learned to hope for the future. Many of the people I met tried other jobs first and worked their way to where they are now. I feel like I could do this and be successful. I believe this was a main goal of the trip. To learn what you are capable of, to learn how others have accomplished what they have, and to see where to potentially fit in to the professional world. I believe I learned this and it deeply influenced my worldview and my perceptions about occupations and the future. All of these values I found in the meetings we were a part of in both in New York City and in Washington DC, through the individuals we meet, and through the passion those inspiring individuals illustrated.
In a different way, I believe that the unenthused professionals at the entertainment news group taught me a very important life lesson. This lesson was observed, not by the words that were said or through the tour they directed us on, neither was this idea found in the research and background information on the organization I completed before the trip. I learned from the individuals’ lack of passion that you must care what you do, as this is a necessary part of being successful. You must think that your work matters, holds significance and makes a difference. Like the professionals at the book publishing fair stated again and again, passion must be evident in actions, statements, resumes, and work. I decided these employees must lack passion for the work they do. While there are nice individuals and were kind enough to take time out of their busy day to meet us, the lack of enthusiasm displayed on their faces, in their words, actions, and in their work spoke louder than their words. Because of this, I strive to seek a career that matters to me. I wish to be positive about what I do. More often than not, I want to wake up happy to be allowed the opportunity to go into work. I want to lead and inspire by example while making a difference. I appreciate this lesson learned as well as the people and professionals I feel embrace this lesson and lead me by example.
At these meetings in which I picked up on the positive attitude of the speakers and the significance of internships, I also learned how no one that is anyone would look at you twice if you don’t have experience and knowledge on how to market yourself. I learned that resumes are a reflection on you and show what you can do. How to “get your foot into the door” is then not to send a single shoe to the company you want to hire you, but is to have an intelligent, error-free, complete resume detailing internship, skills, and experience. More than this, your resume and cover letter must illustrate your passion for working and for working for that particular organization. Why you want the job must be included as well as the foundational question, “why you?” What makes you so much more special than anyone else? More qualified? Harder working? While some of the information gained at the long meetings was, in fact, common-knowledge, other bits were helpful. I learned your resume must market you, because no one else is going to do it for you. You must also believe in yourself, your skills and qualifications in order to market yourself and get a job. I certainly felt that the individuals without the nametags and security badges, with steady salaries and fancy offices sitting at the front of the table marketed themselves very well. I also felt these professionals believed in themselves. This ties back into the life lesson of enjoying and believing in what you do, passionately. This experience of meeting these professionals who truly practicing what they preached may have helped me truly understand what it means to be a successful business professional in today’s world. I will use and apply this lesson by picking a career that means something to me. While I acknowledge that I will not start out in my dream job, I will do my best to act passionate about whatever job I manage to find that I believe in.
I believe because of and during this trip I learned how to act confidently. I saw professionals in job settings I could someday see myself fulfilling, all who acted and spoke with confidence. I saw Kara confidently leading our little group through crowded streets, sometimes knowing exactly where to go. I saw students, normally so shy, asking question and speaking to the president of PBS and other impressive individuals. To me, this trip was more than a checklist of places to go to take pictures of while having a few meetings along the way. This trip built friendships, it strengthen bonds in relationships already developed and developing, it brought ideas and people together to produce common idea and to further individual ideals. In me, this trip created confidence in myself. I may not have a sparkling resume and an impressive big city, big company internships, or a detailed plan and researched history of the organization I wish to someday join. Not yet anyway. But I do have the ideas, the mind power, and the help to reach these things and to achieve my goals, confidently, because of experiences I had while on this journey.
My, lets call them… creative ideas can be seen as I walked away with lasting life lessons after visiting the Smithsonian in DC. While admiring the many things there are to admire at various Smithsonian museums during our trip, I realized that the kid-friendly text surrounding and describing the exhibits are, in reality, life lessons more than descriptions of museum displays. These miniature life lessons can, will, and have taught me quite a lot about life, survival, and simply being myself. The ability of mine to think cognitively during my “break”/free time makes me smile at the level of maturity I have reached. Even when that maturity leads me to making cheesy statements about life from small phrases describing museum displays.
The first life lesson I learned was in the Museum of Natural History. The “survival hint” simple stated, “Don’t Get Eaten”. While this certainly applies to life in the deep sea, as the sign intended, it can also apply to my life, as I begin to try and separate myself from the pack and find a career. I do not wish to get swallowed up by the competition; I do not want to fade away into the background, or into the acidic stomach of a much bigger, and probably more mean-looking fish. I want to stand out and survive. Of course, I must remember that skills; agility, brains, brawns and just a wee bit of luck are all needed to survive in the deep sea and in the professional world. I must also remember the skills I learned through this trip and apply them to my goal of standing out and surviving.
Another sign/life tip read, “What’s for Dinner? Anything!” This works in my life as, again I hunt for jobs, opportunities, experience, etc. What will I accept? Almost anything at this point, as long as it matches my morals and I can feel passionate about the work I am doing. The hope is someday I will work my way up the food chain/corporate ladder and move on to better things. This is a reminder to be patient, to accept what you get without being to picky and to constantly work up to something greater. This sign is a signal for me to be more accepting. Yes, I did get all that from a sign by a tank of old fish bones.
Another sign at the museum read, “The Work is Never Finished” Well said, Smithsonian, well said. The work to educate myself I don’t believe will ever be complete, nor should it, because one cannot know everything. This is not an excuse to quit, but a ploy egging you on to continue. I will never stop learning and (hopefully) never stop trying or caring. The work of a museum curator, of a person seeking employment, and of an educated individual is trying, never ending, and never finished.
At the Julia Child model kitchen, displayed proudly in a corner of the Smithsonian, this colorful quote can be found, “You can never have enough of these tools”. While, of course the legendary chief is referencing frying pans, spatulas, mixers, and the like, I read this quote as an invitation to welcome more knowledge and skills. We have heard a lot about resumes this trip and you can never have enough skills, experience (INTERNSHIPS!!!) or knowledge. (As long as your resume is only one page… front and back, right??) These career and life tools are helpful and I believe the opportunity to use them and to expand them is always present. You simply can’t have enough skills or, referring back to the earlier quote, you simply don’t have enough time to explore and expand all these skills, but you should try nonetheless. While you are trying you should remember this last quote found again in Julia Child’s kitchen, “Above all, Have a Good Time!” This note cheerily inspires me to remember to have a good time. If I am making a disastrous mess in the kitchen, getting rejected by graduate schools, hunting for non-existent jobs, limping around on a suddenly sore knee or icing the “good” leg because it is sore from supporting the bad one, I must remember that this is my life, my experiences, my hurt, and accomplishes and I can choose to make the best of it. I can have a good time! In expanding this quote to embrace the ideologies I learned on this trip, I can have a good time while doing what I want, passionately. As I have learned that passion is a key ingredient to success in the professional business, in getting hired, while on a trip with others, and, like Julia Child, in the kitchen.
I did have a good time on this trip. I think, more importantly, I learned how to have a good time. I learned confidence, I learned life skills, important future job tips, and how to act and fake it until I do make it, while having confidence that I will make it. I have also learned how to be okay with myself. I don’t have every detail of my life planned out picture perfectly. I don’t know how I am going to get from Point A, where I am now, to Point B, where I want to be in X amount of years. In fact, I hardly know what Point B is and I feel I have a dozen different, and sometimes-conflicting paths leading me there. However, the confidence and “real world” experience I gained during this trip has made me more accepting of the fact that I don’t have every answer and every portion of my life planned out. Upon hearing many of the professionals round-a-bout ways of making it to his/her dream job, I found more faith in the fact that I do not know where I am going, but with the skills I have and developed on this journey, I can fake it until I make it and can find my way to where I want to be. This confidence has also made me aware of the areas I need to work on to get to point B and has given me the courage and energy I need to start addressing these issues.
While I did learn many practical things on this trip like what will earn me a job, what will make my resume more likely to get noticed, and what internships are the cream of the crop, I also learned many and insightful things about myself, what I can and can not handle and what I want in my future. For example, I am not a New York City type of girl; I can’t handle all the nonsensical taxicab honking. Also, I am learned that while I am unsure of what I want my future career to be, but because of this trip I know what I want it to look like. While I do not need the fancy marble buildings that we saw at a large portion of the places we visited, I do need to feel that my job matters. Like most of the professionals we visited I wish to be passionate about my job and be surrounded by others that feel the way I do and act passionately about the work we will accomplish together.
On a different note related to lessons learned about myself, I learned that I am more of a follower than a leader. This comes to me as quite a shock after my high school days of being a section leader in band and teaching myself through directed studies. I now find myself more comfortable following others around the city. While this may simple be because my aged phone does not have GPS or a fancy interactive topical and subway map however, I think the root of my new follow-the-leader issue runs deeper than my technology. During our meeting at the PEW foundation in Washington DC we were asked to introduce ourselves and give the location of where we live. However, my fellow students started listing the commonly stated majors, minors and activities instead. While I knew this was not the exact answer that was asked, I followed the herd and gave my routine answer. This small example, to me, speaks volumes, as I follow more than I have the courage to lead. Again, in scheduling sightseeing activities, I feel simply along for the ride, as I brought no thought-out or preconceived notions of what I wanted to see in either city we visited. While this did not make the trip any less enjoyable, this feeling of follow-the-leader and my new lack of the ability to lead concerns me. Because of my experiences on this trip, I have identified this follower status as a quality I wish to address in my life. This drive to better myself, in addition with the sense of purpose and drive to get more involved was uncovered on this trip. I believe addressing and working on these personal issues will help me as a person, a student, a leader, and a prospective employee.
This trip impacted my academic life and future simply by inspiring me to work harder and not forget my end goals. In addition, upon hearing all the things some of the professionals juggled while earning an undergraduate degree, I feel urged to do more myself. I wish to stand apart from others, on paper and in person. Because of this trip I wish to get more involved with a wide variety of activities, academic and otherwise. I believe that I can and will do this. Because of this trip I will apply for as many internships as I can receive and juggle. Because of the lessons I learned on this trip I will remember to think positively and look for a career, not just a job or a manner of means and money. Because of the values I saw on this trip I choose to seek a career that I am passionate about, that matches my values and moral, a profession that means something to me. I now know, because of this trip that I want a profession that I enjoy so much I want to invite, receive, and talk to college kids from a school across the country I know next to nothing about. I want a job that makes me want to inspire others and inspires myself. Because of the sights I saw, the people I met, and the experiences I had on this journey I will strive to be a better individual and work passionately to become a well-represented, experienced, passionate, and charismatic potential employee.
I feel that before I invite you to embark upon this journey with me I should explain in more detail what such a journey will entail in order that you may fully understand what you are getting yourself into.
After spending a month in the heart of the city you truly learn more than you bargained for. And although I planned to be grasping for content, I instead find myself struggling to narrow down and categorize what I’ve learned into some kind of manageable format. Not to mention the more of these places I go and the more people I talk to, the less I feel like I know what I want to do with the rest of my forever. Thus I’ve worked hard as you’ll see, to approach these lessons broadly, in a way that will make them applicable to whatever field I decide to pursue.
So presented in the following pages, you’ll find my feeble attempt to consolidate a month of knowledge; professional insight, my own ingenuity, and even wisdom from some of New York’s finest. I hope you enjoy recounting said knowledge as much as I, throughout the compilation process, enjoyed reminiscing the means by which I acquired it. Thus I am proud to present to you, in no particular order, a few small bites out of the Big Apple.
Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better
You have to have something that makes you better than them. And they have to know about it. Something has to make them want to come to you for what you do. Whatever your profession, to some degree you end up selling yourself.
You can’t just stand on a street corner and scream at people, although you could, and people do “Comedy show, indoors, starting in 10 minutes” but do you hear that… even that guy on the street has a competitive advantage. “Indoors.” It’s 10 degrees outside, snow is falling, I’m packed onto the slushy sidewalk with 200 other people who don’t know where they’re going, a gust of wind has just blown my hood clear off my head, my eyebrows are frozen and I hear the word “indoor.” Well frick yeah, that has to be better than what I’m doing.
I mean… I don’t really need to buy anything at Toys R Us (I don’t really need see a comedy show either but that’s beside the point) … and I’ve already seen M & M world in Vegas, so sure Mr. ugly guy with the funny hat and stupid comedy show sign, I’ll come see your thing, why not.
Regardless of what you do, you have to do it better than anyone else in some regard, from some angle you have to be better. You have to believe it, you have to sell it like you believe it, and soon enough, they’ll believe it to. And then… and only then, will you be successful. You’d better find a street corner and start yelling.
Watch Your Step
Who’s toes are you stepping on to get where you want to go? Something I discovered throughout this trip is that the value of journalistic integrity (or integrity as could be applied to any profession) is relatively subjective, and truthfully, varies greatly between institutions.
A balance needs to be found when answering the question “what kind of (insert choice profession here) are you going to be?” If you want to be well respected, it’s important to not hide behind the safety curtain that your “title” may offer, but it’s also important to not bite the hand that feeds you. If you’re stepping on toes (and arms and legs and faces) to get to the top, when you get there, you aren’t going to have much of a support system behind you.
Shhhh… it Happens
It’s inevitable. Bad stuff happens. It sucks but it’s life, and sadly enough there’s people whose job it is to deal with it. Every time. Even more so, it’s their job to expect it to happen, and to be ready when it does.
Prepare for the worst. Know what to expect and when it happens, have a plan. Know how to communicate what you need to communicate. Know where you need to go and what you need to do and do it calmly.
And remember to be glad that when everything does go wrong, you’ve got someone around who’s skilled in handling your problems. They’ve thought about and prepared for far worse. And while you’re at it, be glad you don’t have their job.
Passing the Bar
This job market, in case you weren’t aware, is horrendous. College graduates look at themselves in the mirror on graduation day, diploma in one hand, tassel in the other, clad in their wrinkled cheap Jostens robe and think to themselves ‘Cool, I just spent more money than I have on an education, and then spent even more for this crappy robe, to walk down an aisle that leads to nowhere, no job, no money, and maybe after some twists and turns, mom and dad’s house.’ Every college grad’s dream right?
But it’s important to remember that even though the market is awful and it’d be exciting to get offered any job at all, it isn’t going to matter that you have a job in a month if you hate it so much that you wish you were unemployed. Have standards. Don’t settle. Something great will come. Patience is a virtue and Bloomberg is an ant farm.
Talking the Talk
It takes little effort to express in words ones desire to accomplish a given thing. It takes constant effort however to accomplish that which one desires to accomplish. Anyone can claim to be anything but if their actions do not defend said claim, no one will label them as that which they are not, but rather they will be labeled according to their actions, and what they appear to be.
In the world of journalism and “news” and “media” I have realized that it is one thing to claim to be ethical, or even to try to be ethical. It is another thing entirely to actually act ethically, to in fact strive daily, outwardly, and to accomplish ethical tasks by ethical means.
Very few self-proclaimed “ethical” news entities are in fact “ethical.” (And more broadly even still, very few self-proclamations hold remote degrees of validity regardless of what the proclamation may be) And those who think they are, or even more so, claim they are, may well be worse off than those who know they aren’t and never claim to be. Distorted self-perceptions may be one of our societies greatest pitfalls.
It’s All Greek to Me
“Regardless of what profession you seek, you need to know some degree of HTML,” they said to me.
Now it would behoove you to understand one thing about me. The only thing I know about HTML is how to spell it. So it follows logically that in this given conversation my jaw would drop, my shoulders would slouch, and my brain would think, “well there go my chances of ever getting out of Visalia.” So what do you presume happened at this point in the conversation? Well… exactly that.
Soon I’ll be picking up the phone, ringing John Wiley and Sons’ number, and in 7 to 10 business days, a 300 page “HTML for Dummies” will appear on my doorstep. Let the job search begin.
And I imagine chapter one will begin much like this. “Now that we all know how to spell our subject matter, let us move forward…” This is bound to be a long 300 pages.
And The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon
I learned in New York that it’s ok to steal. But you can’t steal what you would think. If an educated business professional writes a 700-word article and puts in online, it’s totally ok for you to highlight the text, copy it, paste it and post it. And if you forget to copy their name and give them credit, they’ll shrug it off, say “it happens” and move on.
However, if you approach the homeless man on the subway and steal his piccolo in hopes of salvaging what little hearing you have left, he might cut you, he might chase you, he might fight you, and he’ll definitely scream profanities at you.
The costs associated with piccolo theft are much graver than those that accompany the pilfering of intellectual property. Noted.
Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer
Our society has deemed “skeptical” as such a Debbie-downer sort of word but I gained new perspective on the term during my stay in New York.
“I’m an early tester and a late adopter,” one of our professionals said of his Facebook habits. He proceeded to explain that it’s ok to be skeptical, to test things with an objective perspective. You don’t have to pick one side or the other right away most of the time; and often we think we do.
Be skeptical. Get the facts. Make an educated decision. Don’t be a follower. Don’t do it just because, whatever “it” is, you’ll get much farther in life being skeptical than you will being gullible.
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
So. I may not shower daily, I may not always shampoo and condition, I may not wash my face thoroughly every time. But I do brush my teeth twice daily, I do (most often) brush my hair and I only wear the same clothes two days in a row if they’re really cute and totally worth it.
I can’t say the same for approximately 48% of the New York subway system population. This idea of cleanliness is much more important to me than I anticipated. Life lesson: I like to be clean, I want to be clean and I like clean people.
Washing my hands has never felt so good. I would probably be O.K. if I never rode the subway again for the rest of my life.
A Bird in the Hand is Better than a Foot in the Door
If I were to summarize this lesson any more bluntly it would simply state, “don’t be a tool.” Essentially, professional businesses are professional. They want the people they hire to be professional. They want to be treated and respected as professionals. Thus, sending a shoe to a company with a note that says “I just want to get my foot in the door” attached to your resume isn’t going to work.
You may ask “even if I’m qualified?” The answer is no. It won’t work, even if you’re Bill Gates. It’s tacky, it’s lame, and well… it’s unprofessional.
So. Don’t be stupid, and keep your dirty shoes to yourself.
I love it when things come together and the world for once seems to make something obvious and easy. There were two times on this trip that this happened. The following is my account of the of those times:
It seemed that every place we went we talked about (in a vague sort of “I don’t want to hurt the media’s feelings” way) how corrupt our society is. It’s pathetic really when you think about what sells today.
It’s not intellect, it’s tweets that get hits. Editors are switching college vocabulary with Google keywords because it’s what society reads. The entertainment industry is a testament to this.
What’s logical isn’t competitive. Our society isn’t lacking intellectual individuals, it’s lacking intellectual consumers, and in turn it’s wasting the hard work of its educational institutions.
Internships > Professional Degrees
The other lesson beat over my head was a simple equation “internship = important.” This is great for me considering the fact that I’ve had three. However for a lot of people it can be rather disheartening. Here you’ve just spent a quarter of a million dollars on an education, you’ve struggled to choose a degree that fits your “personality” and “what you want to do” and now they’re telling you that your college degree is nothing more than “a placeholder”.
Essentially you’re diploma isn’t going to get you anything but a pat on the back, a hole in your wallet and maybe, if you’re lucky, an internship. Then that internship will get you a job. Cool.
But it’s all a journey, they’re all stepping-stones, and looking at college as a waste of time would be the wrong thing to do. Unfortunately for us (although, fortunately for society) the majority of our population has college degrees, so it’s just not as respected as it once was. We have to take it one step further. That step is experience: internships.
Have a Cold One, on the House
Lately we’ve talked a lot about elections and about what wins votes, we talked about policy and entertainment. And throughout the conversation one thought kept coming back to my mind. The guys this morning talked about an election rating system they had based on which candidate you’d rather have a beer with. Since when was THAT what made a good president of the United States of America?! Do you really (and more importantly should you really) want a president that would share any of the traits you look for in a wingman?
Every person we talk to seems to say “the people want “x”…” I get it, we’re a government by the people, for the people, of the people. Yeah yeah yeah. but to some point, how much do the people really know about what they need. Isn’t that, after all, why we elect people to make decisions for us?
So where then do you draw the line? How much do you cater to the uninformed, uneducated public? How much do you use keywords instead of intellectual content? How far do we let it go before all we are is a society of twitter feeds, dumbed down campaign messages, and funny talk shows. NO! The fact that Sarah Palin entered the realm of reality television isn’t good. It may be good for her campaign, it may be what the people want, but it’s not good for the people, it’s not good that it’s what the people want.
I hate that it becomes about winning instead of about the right. (not the left vs. right right but the wrong vs. right right.) Someone needs to stand up for what they believe in. Someone needs to expect more out of our society. Someone needs to call them to a higher standard and remind them what’s important. Someone needs to tell them what they need.
Obama was right. We do need change. But what he brought and what our society thinks is change, is conformity, it’s a crowd, it’s a follower. How can you lead the people if you’re operating by their stipulations? Is it even possible? It seems our government leaders are so afraid of biting the hand that feeds them (losing votes) that they won’t stand up for the principles they used to believe in (the principles for which they were elected). That is the downfall of our government, it’s not republican, it’s not democrat, right, left, liberal, conservative, House, Senate, President…. it’s the lack of leadership (creativity, innovation, courage, CHANGE) from the top, any “top”, all “tops.”
Papyrus: An Endangered Species?
A lot of people have been asking questions about new media. Where is the media as a whole headed? What about the newspaper industry, is it going solely to online? It’s become apparent in our conversations that really, no one knows. They can pretend to know, they can speculate, and they may be right, but no one really knows what’s going to happen.
Especially with the spectrum battle between broadcast and broadband, the industry could go anywhere. Right now most agencies are spreading themselves over both sides, just trying to break even.
You have to ‘fake it til’ you make it,’ whether it’s high up in a corporate powerhouse, or fresh out of college attending your first job interview. You have to do the best you can with what you’ve got. You have to make educated guesses and take action in one direction or another without really knowing how it’s going to turn out. And then when something does happen, you may have to turn around quickly and go the other way.
It may not be your insight that makes you an industry leader but rather your ability to follow quickly.
It’s Business Time
When I told people I was a Business major my freshman year of college, I got a lot of strange looks, even some chuckles. “So, you don’t know what you want to do?” or “Figured you’d get the easiest degree they’ve got?” were among some of the snide remarks. But what they didn’t understand was that I wasn’t looking for a way out, I wasn’t looking for a catchall. I was looking for a basic understanding of what drives everything.
If you work at a newspaper, you are producing a product for profit. You’re a paid employee, a part of a hierarchy. You have a boss who has a boss who has a boss. You are a part of a business.
Someone has to understand that business, someone has to run it, and while it may behoove the company to have that person understand the newspaper industry and the role of media, it behooves them even more to have that person understand business, enterprise, cost benefit analysis and economics.
Business is the cornerstone of every organization. Everything is about business, at some point what you do is about money and if you understand that you can understand your role in that company, you can understand the actions of your employer and you can better both yourself and your organization.
Young children always ask “why,” oftentimes to the point of parental frustration. As we grow older we assume that we understand the way things work, and if we don’t understand, we assume that we should. We stop asking “why?”
This is a terrible thing. The “why” question is not only the question that should be at the forefront of every good reporters mind but it should also be at the heart of everything we do.
Whether it’s applying for a job, conducting an interview, or choosing where to go for dinner, there’s a reason and a motive. Find it. The easiest way to do this is to as “why.” And one step beyond that, we must always be prepared to answer “why?”
It’s a question we should never stop asking, both of others and ourselves. Why does my company exist? Why do you want this job? Why should we hire you? Why should I move all my content to online. People are going to ask, and you best be ready with an answer.
Our society is disgustingly afraid of being alone. I’m not talking about the “finding your soul mate” alone, I’m talking about day-to-day, moment-to-moment alone.
Do you ever notice that we can’t ride in a car for 15 minutes without turning the radio on, answering a phone call, sending a text message or talking to the person next to us?
What’s wrong with silence? When did solitude become a curse? What happened to being able to entertain ourselves? It’s disgusting in truth that Facebook will soon appear in your car. Because God forbid that you may have to go on a 3-hour car ride and not be able to update your status.
We see this everywhere, the movie “The Proposal” shows Sandra Bullock, a book publisher, on a weekend getaway. Her phone is taken by an eagle and what happens? She calls and has a new one over-nighted to Sitka, Alaska. That’s absurd. And even more, in 24 hours she had received 37 voicemails.
It truthfully scares me to think what could become of our society? Where is it going to stop? How long until Facebook and iPod are recognized by Microsoft’s dictionary as “real words?” How long until Webster deems “tweet” and “facebook” verbs? Will there ever be silence or solitude again? Or will the muffled noise of our neighbor’s iPod remain the soundtrack of our lives for eternity?
Money Can’t Buy Happiness
No matter what job we have, what car we drive, where we live or how much we make, it’s never going to be enough.
This course led me to the doorstep of some of New York’s finest and much to my surprise I still heard them say things like “there I was circling things in ads that I couldn’t afford,” or “we waste our time looking at things we wish we had.” I was somewhat discouraged to think about how much these people had and how unsatisfied they still were.
At first I lost a little hope, but then something came back to me, the idea that more important than how much you make, or what your job title is, is that you love what you do.
I finally understood. It’s not because you’ll be the best at that and consequently climb the corporate ladder faster, it’s because even if you climb the ladder doing something you love, you’ll still find reasons to be unsatisfied (be it financially or otherwise). Loving what you do is compensation for the fact that you’re never going to make “enough” to not want to make more.
I remember when I was little my dad once told me “there’s always going to be someone better than you.” I don’t remember what he was talking about anymore, it could have been soccer, piano, geometry, or a multitude of other things, but it really doesn’t matter. It sort of applies to all facets of life. If you’re only going to be happy being the best or making the most, you’re never going to be happy.
Find something to put your happiness in that you can control, measure it by means you can attain, not because you want to sell yourself short but because you actually desire to be happy.
Journalism is like Snowboarding
There are a multitude of things in life (reporting being one of them) that by their nature are not difficult tasks. The difficulty lies in the mastery of the art.
Take swimming for example. A 4-year-old can swim but could a toddler hold his own in a race for the Olympic gold? The answer is, “of course not.” They don’t have the stamina. They haven’t been taught. They haven’t practiced enough.
Much like in life, in order to be really good at what you do, you have to practice. Yes, you can be naturally good at something. Good. Remember in 2nd grade when your teachers didn’t want to hurt your feelings with A’s and B’s and F’s so they gave you grades like “satisfactory”, “excellent”, “poor” and “good”? Well… if you don’t recall, “good” wasn’t “good,” it was at best, “mediocre” and mediocre isn’t good enough. It wasn’t in 2nd grade and it isn’t now, nor will it ever be.
No One Gets Lucky Without Being Ready
After our meeting at an advertising agency, I emailed the account executive we talked to and set up a one-on-one the following day. Everyone was really jealous of my “professional meeting” because my subject was rather good looking. I shrugged off his good looks and went straight to the valuable conversation I came for. We talked a lot about agency life, about learning to ask the right questions, about the value of experience and a relatively lengthy list of other things.
We talked for a while and he had some really insightful things to say. I really appreciated the perspective he brought to the table. One thing he said stuck out in my mind was this, “no one gets lucky without being ready.” What he meant was rather simple but quite valid: essentially if you meet the right person at the right time (say the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in a bar downtown) and he thinks you’re great, he’ll go to HR and say “I want this kid, she’s something else” and when HR looks at your rap sheet and finds nothing more than “oh cool, they go to college,” you’re gone. It doesn’t matter if you met the President of the United States, you aren’t going to catch a lucky break if you don’t have your ducks in a row.
Are you ready for your lucky break?
You Can’t Not Communicate
Last but certainly not least, after a month of media saturation and corporate conversation I’ve learned one thing that I think is far more valuable than the rest. Communication is everywhere. We cannot escape it. Whether it’s in the form of a press release, an advertisement, a news article, a Facebook post, a tweet, a sign on a street corner or a song on the radio, we are surrounded by communication.
On the flip side, whatever you do, you communicate. Positive or negative, you are sending a message, whether by your presence by your posture or by your proclamations.
We must be careful of what we “say,” and in order to do that we must first be aware of the fact that we are always “saying” something.
In this culture, more than ever, it’s important to be able to send a message: an accurate, consistent, concise message. That ability alone will put you leaps and bounds above the competition.
I hope you have enjoyed the tidbits of information I managed to gather from my world travels. I hope you found it applicable to your life, and I hope you continue to find it useful as you proceed whichever direction you feel called.
Remember that there are lessons to be learned everywhere, from everyone. Keep your eyes and ears open as to not miss what this world has to offer. And bear in mind that it may not be perfect place and it’s certainly full of imperfect people but it has perfect opportunities and outstanding potential. Go find it.