Return to the working world!

So it has finally happened. The Great Job Search of 2012 has come to an end. It took me about two months from beginning to end, with a big cross-country move thrown in, so I feel pretty happy with the time frame it took me, considering I have only been out of college for one year (and a few months). The job I ended up accepting is actually one I applied to a month ago, which just goes to show an inevitable part of the job search is waiting around for the other end to get back to you.

As for the actual position, it’s quite a bit different from my last job as a reporter for two weekly newspapers in Houston, and I’m excited about that. Don’t get me wrong, there were many things I loved about reporting–mainly the opportunity to write everyday and to meet lots of interesting people–and I learned so, so much about journalism, reporting, and myself through the near-yearlong experience. But there were a few things I was hoping would change with a new job:

  • Paris and Rory of Gilmore Girls know how super-fun it can be to be a part of all the drama of working as an editor at a college daily. It makes you do loopy things, like wear newspaper hats.

    more normal work hours – This just flat-out isn’t possible as a reporter because inevitably public meetings and events are in the evenings or on the weekends. Basically, everything you do is at the whim of someone else’s schedule. And I can tolerate that to a certain extent, but after working until 10 or 11 p.m. on a typical night at the daily student newspaper in college, only to have to go home and do homework or study, I was so over working evenings. I did not go to college and become an adult for that.

  • more time in the office – Sometimes, I really loved that reporting allowed me to not stay confined at a desk all day long. Eventually, however, I decided that I didn’t like having to run in and out and all over the city to meet with people.
  • This MIGHT have happened to me once or twice…but I always noticed before the interview was over!

    more opportunity to “multitask” – The thing about reporting is it changes everyday, which is great, but essentially what you are doing boils down to: finding a story, going to an event/meeting with people/calling people, interviewing, transcribing interviews, and writing an article. Sometimes you’d also have to take photos and edit them. I can’t explain it, but sometimes it just got really repetitive. I would stare at MS Word and just think, “I do not want to write today. This is a problem because that is basically my job: to write.” I’m sure this same thing happens with every one at some point with every job, but I really missed my more varied responsibilities as the Lifestyles desk editor at The Battalion (the student newspaper).

  • less inevitable downtime– This was killer for me, a person who likes to stay constantly busy. The thing with reporting is that you have to wait for people to call you back in order to get the information you need to write a story. And I’ve learned that all the phone calls and voice mails in the world cannot make anyone get back to you in a more timely fashion. While I could sometimes use this downtime to plan the next week’s budget, re-re-re-organize my Rolodex, and proofread other stories I’d finished, I really yearned for something else to do during those times. Something productive.

    I wonder if Louis Lane had this much trouble getting sources to call her back.

By the time I finished my job search, I’d applied to more than 80 jobs (diligence is key), had at least a dozen phone and office interviews, taken several reporting and copy editing tests, and written more personalized thank you notes to potential employers than  I care to count. And then in the last few days, I received two offers of employment! They were offering the same starting salary and amount of PTO, so I was fortunate to make my decision solely on the positions, companies, and interviewers and not about money. I won’t talk about the position I declined very much here because I don’t like to dwell on things like that, but I will say it was for a great company with friendly people in a ridiculously awesome location (right next to the NY Stock Exchange). In the end, I decided the position did not excite me as much nor did I feel like it would take my career in the direction I’d like.

So the full-time job I did accept is a desk editor position for a well-established B2B publications company that specializes in the retail industry. My particular job would be with the news group within that company that focuses on pharmaceutical retail and the healthcare industry. The position I declined was in financial/business journalism, and although I can think of no better city than New York, the financial capital of the world, to do such a thing, I just felt like I couldn’t inspire as much passion or interest in that topic as I can about healthcare. I guess it’s the consequence of having a second-year medical student for a best friend. 🙂

But that’s not the only reason I decided this job is the one for me. Firstly, it fulfills all of the things in the above list that I was hoping for. Here’s a quick list of other reasons why I’m excited about this position:

  • The managing editor and EIC who interviewed me in two separate rounds were my absolute favorite interviewers of this whole job search. They were friendly, personable, and clearly very passionate about what they do. I ended up spending an hour longer than my scheduled 30 minutes with the EIC because we got involved in such an animated discussion of the evolution of media production and consumption, as well as what the recent health care reform means to the pharmacy industry and publications the company is producing. At the end of the interview, when he basically hinted that they’d really like to hire me, he bought me a bottle of water from the office vending machine. Such a simple gesture, but it was much nicer than the Dixie cups of tap water I’d received at other offices, so it really made the company stand out in my mind.
  • While the company does produce a lot of print products (various magazines), they also work with a lot of other types of media. They update their website daily, produce many daily email newsletters, manage Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin accounts, produce podcasts and videos, and are developing digital versions of the magazine and a phone app. Because it is a smaller company and a small staff within each news group, there is the opportunity for someone in a print-orient position like the one I accepted to pitch in and try their hand at other projects. Because I am young and demonstrated enthusiasm about it, the EIC seemed interested in having me provide input about their social media engagement.
  • Oh, InDesign. How I have missed you and your many toolbars and menus.

    I’ll get to work in InDesign again. I love InDesign, you guys. Kerning, gutter space, and picas are about to return to my world. I can’t wait. Doing page design, a central element of the job description, is the perfect combination of creativity and meticulous perfectionism that suits my nature.

  • I’ll get to copy edit again! I’ll put all those AP Style trivialities that have been tattooed to my brain as a reporter to good use. Basically, I’m going to get paid to wield my Grammar Queen crown. CANNOT WAIT.
  • I’ll get to work collaboratively again, kind of. I’ll be working on a close-knit three-person team with the managing editor (my direct supervisor) and another desk editor. There will also, of course, be some liaising with the art department and the staff reporters. While I like having independent responsibilities, I really, really prefer teamwork, as long as it involves other talented, hard-working individuals. Seriously, the Batt fam remains the best “group project” I’ve ever participated in. So glad I worked as an editor there for three semesters, or I’d never know that group work can actually be successful…and fun!
  • Casual dress work environment = I can wear jeans to work. Enough said. Also, I want to buy more jeans.
  • Excellent work/life balance. Although this is unheard of in my husband’s profession (accounting), it’s important to me because I get cranky if I don’t get my daily dose of leisurely reading at home. I was told they rarely work past 7 p.m., even during final production weeks, and they haven’t clocked in on a weekend in years. This is generally unheard of for a lot media jobs, which is unfortunate. Also, morning arrival times are flexible as long as you show up by 10 a.m. and put in a solid 8-hour workday.
  • Opportunity to travel for work – The managing editor annually takes one of the desk editors to one trade show/convention each. During these three-day periods, the company cranks out a daily publication for the event attendees, so I’d have to work 12+ hours day then doing page design and copy editing, but it’s three days out of the whole year. And I might get to travel to another city. Or it might just be in NYC, which is cool too. I like it here, and honestly, leaving the city is a huge pain.
  • This is the general area of my new workplace. It’s fairly close to the MetLife Building, on Park Ave.

    Less than a 30-minute commute! Unless there is some terrible traffic accident, so help us all. The office is in a nice high-rise building on Park in midtown. I can get there by taking the cross-town bus from York (the stop is literally across the street!) down to 57th & Park, and then I have to walk like two blocks more to the office. Two blocks. The 59th & Lex metro stop is also near the office, so I can take that up to 86th if I want to walk by Fairway to pick up groceries or something like that on the way home. It’s nice not having to take the subway if you don’t have to though because it gets A LOT more crowded in the mornings and early evenings than does the bus.

    Update: Just found out from HR today that I can enroll for public transit reimbursement. Even better.

  • Good future career prospects – Both of my interviewers had been the company for at least 10 years. That’s how they got to where they are in the company today. However, since it is a small company, if I get tired of waiting for someone to quit or get promoted so that I can get promoted, I wanted to make sure there was room for horizontal movement too. People say page design is a dying art as everything goes digital, but my handy-dandy Linkedin research revealed to me that a number of people who held this position in the past (at about the same point in their careers as me, a year or two out of college) have gone on to be copy editors for nationally recognized consumer magazines at Hearst and Conde Nast. One former desk editor is the current assistant managing editor for the bridal magazine The Knot. Others have transitioned into PR and marketing. I got excited learning about all this because it has kind of been my dream since I saw 13 Going On 30 and The Devil Wears Prada to work for a magazine. Technically, that’s what I’ll be doing at my new job, but you know what I mean…a non-B2B magazine (B2B = business-to-business, if you didn’t know the term. It’s a publication specifically for professionals of a certain industry/field.)

If you saw otherwise forgettable rom-com 13 Going on 30 and didn’t want to work for a magazine, something is wrong with you.

So that’s that! We are just waiting for my criminal background to clear, which it should, and then HR is emailing me a new hire packet with some forms to fill out before my first day, this upcoming Monday.

If you’re wondering what all went into getting this job, I started by sending a cover letter, my resume, and a design clip to the managing editor through a job posting I saw on Mediabistro. I cannot recommend Mediabistro enough to everyone else in the media industry. It’s a great place to find media jobs of all kinds, from book- and magazine-publishing to news wires and PR agencies, and they send out really comprehensive, informative morning newsletters that give you the quick scoop on the latest news about the media industry (news about the news business, basically).

About two weeks later, I got a call from the managing editor, and we talked for 15 minutes or so about my InDesign, copy editing, and CMS experience. Then she decided to invite me in for an interview and copy editing test. That first interview was last Wednesday. I met with her for about 30 minutes, then spent 2 1/2 hours (yeah, I know) on the test. I had to copy edit five short articles, write headlines for them, reformat photos in Photoshop and add them to the page layout with cut lines, transfer numerical table data from Excel to a specially formatted table in InDesign, and generally do page design things using a premade template. The second part of the test was making a creative features story layout that mimicked some element of a premade front cover.

I felt like I did pretty well on the test because (thank God) I had gone to the UES Barnes & Noble a few days before and spent nearly two hours studying InDesign instructional books to refresh my memory. The only thing I struggled with was getting cut-outs I made in Photoshop go into InDesign with a transparent background AND edge-detecting text wrap without the cut-out getting a little screwed-up on the edges. Also, I had to use Mac OS for the first time since graduating from college, so that took me at least 30 minutes to readapt to. Fortunately, the EIC said I’ll get a refresher training course my first week and my work load will be a little lighter at first than it will be at full capacity–about five pages of articles copy edited and designed per day, plus copy editing either all of the day’s online stories or all of the day’s e-newsletters.

I also left the managing editor after that first interview with five different page design clips (one front page and two lifestyles blanks from The Battalion and two pages of Cornerstone, which I designed for Liberal Arts Student Council). She liked the clips, my test results, and me enough to invite me back on Friday for a 30-minute interview with the EIC. As you know, he seemed to like me enough to talk to me for quite a while, and he was impressed with my work. I think the highlight of my interview was when the EIC asked me in his rather frank Yankee way (he’s from Boston, and you can tell from his heavy accent), “So you’re young, you’re just starting out in this world, and you’ve decided to enter the dying industry of publishing. Why do you want to be a journalist so badly?”

For about half a millisecond, I was thrown off. Then I launched into this spiel about how it’s NOT dying, it’s just transforming and how that’s exciting and I’m young and I want to be a part of it (it was a lot more eloquent then that it is now). He just stared at me for a second when I finished, threw his pen down, and said, “Wow. That is the best answer I’ve ever gotten to that question. And you know what? I completely agree. It’s not a dying industry.”

So if I had any interview advice for anyone, it’s definitely to apply to jobs you know you are genuinely interested in. Your interviewers can tell. It’s why I did not perform so well at interviews for marketing-related writing positions (*cough*sell-outs*cough*) but apparently impressed two seasoned editors that I was worth hiring.

That’s enough about a job I haven’t started yet for now, haha. As you can tell, I’m so excited and happy and grateful! I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to do what I truly wanted to do when we came to New York. I feel like once I’m settled into the working routine, I’ll have this dream life-come-true: married to my best friend of 4+ years, living with the best rescued cat ever in one of the greatest cities on earth, doing exactly what I love–working with words. I know I’ve worked truly hard to get here, but sometimes I can’t help but feel incredibly humble and grateful.

So there’s the portion of Little Women where Jo moves to NYC away from everything she knows to pursue her dream of becoming a published writer and basically since I saw this movie in elementary school, I decided “That, THAT is what I want to do.” Sadly, there aren’t nearly as many horses around this city these days.

That said, I’m determined to enjoy my last few days of freedom, the first time this summer that I don’t have to be the least concerned with wedding planning, a big move, or the job search. I kicked off this mini-summer on this rainy Wednesday with an afternoon at The Met. More on that adventure soon!

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Return to the working world!

  1. So happy for you, Rebecca! You are truly living the dream. That interview sounds straight out of a movie, ha. Love it. Congratulations.

  2. Janet Price-Haughey

    Rebecca, you brought tears to my eyes reading about your “dream-life-come-true”. Such a blessing you are to our family!
    Love Janet

  3. I love your response to the EIC’s question about why you’d want to be a journalist in a “dying” industry. I totally agree with your answer and see why you were hired 😉 SO EXCITING! Congrats, again!

  4. Sheila Kozmin

    Hi Rebecca: Congrats on your exciting new job. I am green with envy! Oh, to be 22 again…
    Sheila

  5. Umm… this post is amazing and also no, you don’t wish there were still that many horses. One word: manure.

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