Friday, September 3, 2010

Balancing a smile and sore soul

My quest to change careers is worse than any marathon I ever ran and I have done three marathons.

“They” said TV news was one of the most difficult industries to get into. Yeah, okay. (Insert sarcasm). I managed to land a job as a TV news producer 2 months after I graduated college. Well, it actuality it was at a very small station and I was paid just barely above minimum wage (Thank God I was able to still live at home), I was still able to “land” that first job. Even more difficult, “they” said, would be to land that first “on-air” TV news job.

Fast-forward a year later. I was on the road to Fairbanks, AK. Okay, so it was in the Last Frontier, at one of the smallest TV markets in the US. Still, I got a job and I was on my way to a successful decade working in the TV News business. It was a career that took me across the continent, exploring some of the most interesting places in the US, meeting fascinating people, and attending some of the most exciting events I ever dreamed about. The Iditarod. A Space shuttle launch on Independence Day. Reporting live from a helicopter. Presidential visits. The list goes on and on.

However, when I rounded the age of 30, my spirit began to fade. Some days the work was honestly boring. For crying out loud, I DO NOT want to go to any more city council meetings!

Other days the stress started to weigh heavily on my heart. After ten years, how many different ways can you report on a house fire? I am terribly sorry for the victims and the circumstances are so unfortunate, but how can you do the story justice if the factors are pretty much all the same? Fire + house = injured or deceased victim & displaced residents.

I was so sick of knocking on the doors of families and friends who just lost a loved one to an accident, shooting, mishap. (On a side note: The media does take a lot of heat for that type of story, but I do have to say, in my opinion, people at home do watch those stories with a voyeuristic curiosity, even though they would never admit it.)

I was tired of standing on the side of the road in a snow storm telling people to stay home. I was sick of getting soaking wet during tropical storms and hurricanes.

The TV News business is changing fast. Triple the work and one-third of the pay. Lay-offs and cut-backs are the way of the future.

Why couldn’t I have a normal job, a normal life, where you get weekends and holidays off? 9-5 work day? They are all but a dream in “TV News Land.”

At 31 I got an epiphany. Make the transition to Public Relations! It is not an uncommon leap for news-professionals. In fact, many people I had worked with in the past are now working in PR in cities across the US.

I reluctantly decided to go “home” to Philadelphia, pursue a Masters Degree and pursue a career in PR. Two years later, I am still in school, still working in broadcasting and still looking for a job in public relations. It is incredibly humbling to be an intern at 33. Yes, intern = work for free. An entire summer spent at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Saturdays were my only day off. Now I am entering my third semester of grad school and I am starting another internship – this one at a small PR agency.

It is a sacrifice I continue to make in order to build my resume and experience. I have re-formatted and changed my resume more times than I can remember. I am networking. I am pretty much doing “all I can do” to get the “first job.”
Everyone tries to sooth my fears. “Be patient,” they say. “Something is bound to happen.” I am starting to question my quest for a career in PR and my pursuit for a higher education. Yet, when I take a hard look at my career options, I can’t fathom going back into TV. Even though I know I was very good at my job, I know I would be miserable. I hate sales. Business bores me.

I apply and apply and it feels like the resumes get sucked into some black hole. I am getting the impression employers see my extensive work history and experience and put my resume in the trash. Either I am over-qualified for an entry-level position, which they think they can’t meet salary expectations or they think they won’t be able to keep me very long… or I am under-qualified for a senior-level position. I need a job, people. I don’t care about a high salary at this point.

I am sending out an S-O-S. I am waving the white flag. Someone please assure me my efforts are not in vain.

I ran my first marathon in 2007. It was the most challenging and rewarding feat I ever encountered. At this point, my quest to enter the PR world, in its own way, has matched, perhaps even surpassed, the mental and physical energy to finish a marathon. I am tired and sore. I have blisters.

If I ever thought I would be in the same place two years later, I don’t think I would have taken this route. But I did. I am here. I must keep on, keeping on.

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