I think I'm not suited for my dream career of being a journalist. I'm having a really hard time dealing with this fact. (REALLY long)
posted by dean_deen to Work & Money (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I am 24 and three years out of college. I have been interested in being a journalist since the start of undergrad, but I never fully committed to it, due to perfectionism. I'm a very all-or-nothing person. I felt that I could not commit to doing well in my classes and be part of a newspaper staff. Judging from the newsroom simulation exercises I did in a journalism class, I also felt that I wrote too slowly compared to my peers. So I only wrote the occasional article and commentary for my school's publications.
My mother is an immigrant doctor who strongly believes in the value of education. She believes that going to grad school, particularly a prestigious one like Columbia, would increase my chances of getting a job. (She has offered to help pay, with the expectation that I also take out a loan). But after browsing AskMetafilter threads about journalism school, I resisted, thinking that it would be a poor investment of her money and I wrote too slowly to succeed as a journalist anyway.
After graduation, I moved back home and did some freelance writing for a few months. When that folded, I got a job blogging at a dysfunctional start-up that paid me $12 an hour. We were expected to research and write 600-word blogs in as close to an hour as possible. My coworkers had an easier time with this. I eventually sped up too, but my work was less meticulous as a result.
To feel like I was fulfilling my journalism passion, I also kept a blog on the side. I posted film and book reviews and interviewed people for the occasional profile/news story. But it still didn't feel like it was enough, and after getting fed up with the toxic environment of my marketing job, I decided to move to a different city. I figured I could be happy with an admin job and just do marketing writing and personal blogging on the side.
This was not the case--I hated being an admin--so I quit my temp receptionist job, decided I did indeed want to go to journalism school, and landed a four-month internship with an alt-weekly. I admit I went into it with a cocky attitude, thinking that I wouldn't face anything I hadn't done before, since I'd interned at an alt-weekly before and had experience from other writing gigs.
Boy was I wrong. My careless attitude led to mistakes in the beginning (forgetting the orientation time I SUGGESTED and showing up late on my first day) and after trying to shape up, I still made some major errors.
One was that I tried to write quickly, which led to me getting the titles of certain works and the spelling of certain names wrong through the course of the internship. On top of that, however--and this is the big one--in my email communications with my editor (I worked remotely one day a week), I would sometimes completely misunderstand some of the things he was telling me.
For example, one person I profiled asked whether she could see the story before it was published. I sent my editor an email, and he said that generally they don't allow subjects to see stories before publication, though reading some quotes/paraphrases over the phone was okay.
I guess I took the "before publication" part quite literally. I thought he meant we could not show the story in its final form, so I emailed him asking if I could just email her the draft as it was. He responded saying he thought he'd made himself clear: It wasn't an option.
Something similar happened just a few days earlier, after my internship had ended and I moved back home. He wanted to know where a community class I'd written about took place. "Not the exact address, just something like 'an office in X area,'" his message said.
I paid more attention to his "Where did it take place?" question than the part about not providing an exact address, and as a result I was really confused, since I did name the building in the article. Our email exchange went something like this: Did he mean the office of the organization sponsoring the program? No. Maybe he was asking for the specific room in the building where the class took place? No.
He had to literally spell out for me that he just wanted the neighborhood the class took place in. (There was one other instance of me misinterpreting info, but suffice to say, things just did not compute with me sometimes.)
I was already feeling insecure about the many mistakes I'd made during this internship, but this was the straw that broke the camel's back. I emailed my editor later that day, asking him if he thought my need to have things spelled out was a red flag. He admitted that this tendency of mine concerned him at times, but I got more right than wrong, so he thought I had it in me to do the work correctly, if I buckled down more.
But I think that he was probably just being nice. Even if he wasn't, I don't know if this is a trait I can change. For the past few days, I've cried on and off over the situation. After years of telling myself that I couldn't be a journalist, I had finally allowed myself to acknowledge that it was my perfectionism limiting me, and maybe I could be a reporter, if I gave it a shot. But it looks like I literally can't. The job requires understanding and conveying information clearly, and I failed several times on the first part, thanks to the weird way my brain works.
Journalism was the one career path I was actually excited about. The thought of letting it go and facing the uncertainty of millenial career angst is terrifying, but so is the prospect of having my mom fund my education, only to find out that I'm ill-suited for the field. And what little self-confidence I had in my professional abilities has really plunged. In my worse moments, I wonder if I should pursue any type of writing job at all, journalistic or otherwise. And that just leads to me feeling even worse, because writing is the only marketable skill I have. I fear that I'll never get a salaried job and will be doomed to admin work forever.
Yes, I need therapy for my anxiety and perfectionism issues. But until I find a good therapist, how can I come to terms with the fact that, no matter how enthusiastic I am about being a journalist, it probably isn't the right job for me? How can I not feel so inadequate?