Spent a terrific evening Thursday with former colleagues who’ve left the newsroom (we call ourselves the AJC Second Lifers, or AJC Alumni Association), and got some useful advice from those who moved on before the two buyout waves in the last couple years.
A number have gone on to successful careers in public relations, which in my ink-stained wretch days I regarded as a necessary evil. Hell, I still feel the same way, to a certain degree. Said one former reporter who made the transition to publicist:
“The worst writer in a newsroom is a better writer than the best writer in a PR firm.”
I smiled at that, and a fellow Second Lifer who briefly worked in PR nodded his head in agreement: “That’s very true.”
So we can write after all!
A career coach was euphoric about the possibilities for journalists to take their writing skills on to new horizons, as writers. Freelance writers are in high demand, she said, but cautioned getting past the emotional obstacle of forging a new career is significant:
“Following through is the hardest part. Why? Fear. Looking for a job is the hardest job of all.”
All the speakers emphasized the importance of not just making connections, but building relationships. “Make lunch appointments with the right people.” Develop yourself as a personal brand. Get on LinkedIn and Facebook. Start a blog. (Don’t do it the way Rick Redfern tried.)
Yesterday I wrote of the importance of displaced journalists to ditch their humility training and give themselves credit for doing more than they imagined. It may seem like “Well, d’oh” to folks who’ve been in the job market recently, or to younger journalists who have already moved around quite a bit early in their careers. But many of us haven’t had to confront any of this in decades.
Another ex-colleague is fighting like hell to continue to do journalism, and I can’t stop thinking about his fierce passion as I attempt travel down the same path:
“I didn’t leave journalism, it left me. What we need is better journalism, not less journalism. With all due respect to my fellow panelists, we don’t need any more PR flaks — we need more journalism.”