If it wasn’t for my failed attempt at being an advice columnist for my sixth grade newspaper, I wouldn’t have been the editor instead. And I wouldn’t have gotten the journalism bug.
Sure I had the writing bug for as long as I can remember, but when I visited The State newspaper for the first time that year and saw and smelled those huge rolls of newsprint, I knew this is where I wanted to be.
About eight years later when I was a student at the University of South Carolina, I managed to find myself there as a “stringer”, a casual term for a freelance writer . I think I may have just inquired around college how I could get my foot in the door.
My editor did not pull any punches. She gave me a hefty assignment – coverage of the big football rivalry between Benedict College and S.C. State University (S.C. State is in Orangeburg about 45 minutes away).
I would have to get quotes and mugshots of students talking about the game, and I eventually interviewed the coach’s wife of Benedict’s football team.
Deep down I knew why she picked me – the two schools are historically-black colleges, so walking around campus to stop and ask folks questions wouldn’t be too difficult. It was for me, because I didn’t know how people were going to respond to me. Fortunately, they were all very enthusiastic and I believe I got paid $100-$200 for it.
After college I worked at two newspapers, including The State for a total of 3 years. I learned a great deal, got to interview my share of celebrities big and small, and worked with a lot of good, hardworking people. But then another bug bit me.
This bug appeared before I stepped foot into j-school. I shadowed my Mom, who spent most of her career as an administrative assistant.
I loved watching her work. She didn’t have the easiest job in the world, but she made it seem that way. I tried to emulate her super-fast typing speed of 100+ words per minute. (I still haven’t gotten there. About 75 wpm right now!)
She ran the office during moments of quiet and during the busiest times of the year. She had to hire people. And, unfortunately, she had to fire people. Despite the craziness of it, I still wanted to do it.
When I discovered it was possible to work from home in customer service and as a virtual assistant, I jumped at the opportunity when I got passed over for a reporting position at the paper.
Remember: It’s totally okay to change your mind. Multiple times. No matter what age you are.
I’m looking forward to sharing the rest of my story with you. Have you ever made a career jump? What lessons did you learn?