A well-written piece from a University of Wisconsin journalism major recently got me thinking: Are PR, marketing, and advertising the fallback plans for would-be journalists?
After detailing his oft-doubted decision to major in journalism, Brian Weidy closes a recent article on PolicyMic with the following:
And if three more years pass and the real-world comes knocking, I could find myself working in PR or advertising. But until then, my dreams of having a column in the Times or in The New Yorker are still firmly intact.
Thinking about my own career trajectory, I started as a journalist, worked my way into some major newsrooms, and then took a sharp left turn a few years ago, shifting to social media marketing.
The reasons weren’t because I felt I had failed as a journalist or didn’t think I could “make it.” It was much more a quality-of-life issue. During my three years at the Chicago Sun-Times, I was constantly living under the fear that I would be laid off. My salary during my tenure was reduced from barely living wage to not even close to living wage.
I left for ESPN (and then FoxSports), and it took roughly 18 months for it to dawn on me that sports generally happen on nights and weekends. So if I wanted to enjoy my nights and weekends (and in my late 20s, I really did), I would have to switch careers.
I knew, however, that the ability to edit, write, and aggregate compelling content would serve me no matter what profession would take me in.
Increasingly, I’m seeing that people who hire for the types of jobs my colleagues and I go after are looking for people with a journalist’s skill set: The ability to write well, tell compelling stories and think critically are chief among them.
So, it’s a natural fit—though hardly indicative of “failure”—when journalists shift to some other field. Evidenced by my writing of columns for this website, you don’t stop being a journalist just because a news outlet isn’t subsidizing your health insurance.
I’m still a journalist, and always will be—I just may never go back to making journalism per se my primary source of income. I like food and making on-time bill payments too much to ever do that again.
I joined a new company recently, and during my job search I was asked in every single interview where I saw myself in five years. Well, five years ago I was a professional journalist. And now I was pursuing jobs in the social media marketing field. My answer was simple: Whatever it is, I know it will be in a creative capacity that will require me to write.
So I think Brian is smart. He understands that a dream and a goal are just that. Reality sets in, opportunities present themselves and it’s healthy to be open to life’s possibilities.