Today marks one year at the St. Petersburg Times in some capacity or another. I didn’t officially start as a full-time real person/employee until Aug. 24, 2009, but I started as an intern May 18. Close enough, dammit.
As I sit here enjoying my Fancy Beer, I didn’t think it’d hurt to list six things I’ve learned in the Real World.
6. Get a hobby. Now that you’re not in college, life gets kinda boring. Life becomes…like life. You have to buy groceries. Clean your apartment. Pay your car insurance/Internet/rent/electricity on time. You need something to do that’s uniquely you and helps you relax. I ride my bike and run. Other friends are in craft clubs (snicker). One guy I know kayaks. Find something that’s incredibly not-related to your job and find passion in it.
5. Be flexible. A year ago I didn’t expect to be filling in at 6 a.m. on occasion, covering decapitated bodies, girl scout cookies or penguin puke. I thought my gig would be more web-centric/programming-oriented. After some people lost their jobs, I was moved to the breaking news desk and covered whatever was thrown at me. I didn’t expect to shoot video. Or photo. Or help find information for charts and graphs. But because I never tried to myself a one-trick pony, I think I’ve done alright covering whatever’s come my way.
4. Know your support team. Journalism at a newspaper isn’t a solo act. A reporter does one thing, an editor makes that thing readable, a copy editor double/triple/quadruple checks, a designer designs. But now you may have to talk with the front page editor to make sure your story gets sent into the CMS from your writing program (which is linked to the digital pagination program). You may have to double-check with a graphic artist to get a map correct. Then call the video people to make sure they’ve got your photos/video/audio. And maybe you’ll need to go on TV to get some publicity with a local media partner. You need to know the rest of your team and have a good working relationship with them in order to succeed. You are not a rock, you are not an island. You’re part of a group.
3. Don’t be afraid of failure. I’ve had multiple successful projects get launched in a year. I’ve seen a few “fail,” or never launch. Some never got out of the memo stage. A few were spiked close to completion. That’s how it goes at any organization, and I’ve learned to not get so worked up when it happens. I always saw a project failure as being completely my fault. I slowly learned that a large organization has many levels you need to get through in order for a project to be successful. Lots of folks need to buy in to your idea. Without it, why would anyone else care about its success besides you?
2. Don’t be so serious. The people you work with are exactly that — people. Be nice. Make jokes. Laugh. Care. High-five whenever possible. We cover horrible stuff every day. We read affidavits about child molesters. Sometimes we cover cases where someone was stabbed, beaten and burned alive. You’re reminded on a daily basis about the horrible realities of the world we live in. Try and be nice to your coworkers and let off a bit of steam. You’ll need to. Trust me.
1. You don’t know everything. You’re what, 22 or 23 when you start your first job? Oh neat, you know how to tweetblag the nettospheres? Some people at my paper have folders on their desks older than me. I’m nothing compared to most of these people. My desk in St. Pete is across from a woman who has not one but four Pulitzers. FOUR. So lay off whatever ego you have. Listen. Learn. Offer your newly found (read: Learned about that day on TechCrunch/Mashable) insight when you can, and understand that not everyone wants to hear it. When you can help out, help out. But if you start throwing bombs, you’re going to have some not-happy coworkers.
What do you think, fine reader(s)? What am I leaving out from my list?
(Also: I don’t update this blog nearly as much as I should, so consider this my attempt to do that.)