July 27, 2021

Three months before Cox Media Group sold The Palm Beach Post to GateHouse Media, I knew I wanted a new challenge, aka a new job. (I’d been at the same paper for almost four years.) And two years after that sale, I was ready to start looking. For me, though, looking and applying were two very different things (more on that in two weeks).

Three months after I started looking, I had my first formal interview, which was barely six months after the GateHouse/Gannett merger. Now here I am, almost a year and a half into my newsroom-adjacent role at The Poynter Institute.

I know that’s quite the timeline to a new job (a whole 7-plus years had passed), but it should be. And for a keep-things-movin’ extrovert like me, it’s a little slow. But again, it should be.

The job process can be stressful. As Mandy Hofmockel, writer and expert curator of Journalism Jobs and a Photo of My Dog will tell you — more like implore you — “Be patient with yourself and take care of yourself. I want to normalize that it can take time.”

If you’ve been thinking about getting a new job, and especially if that thought frightens you because you’ve been in the same company for years, please, keep reading.

FREE TRAINING: How to job hunt during (and after) a pandemic

Or take a beat for a quick Twitter search for “personal news.” This should inspire even the most reluctant of journalist job-hunters. Folks are landing jobs, y’all, and not just any job but the job they dreamed of. Meta Viers, 2019 alum of Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media, is just one example. She searched for the keywords “kids and video” to eventually find and land her current role at PBSKids that blends her worlds of mommy and journalist into one.

My goal is to both encourage and empower you to make your next move your most needed one. But when it comes to our careers, I’m of the camp that no job change should be made with our hearts alone. We need to be smarter, more strategic. We also need to be patient.

“If you’ve been in a job for several years, you’re a different person now than you were when you started,” says Sushil Cheema, executive coach and 2019 Cohort alum.

Often, we start the job process from a reactive mindset. Something happened and we react by wanting a new job. We reach a breaking point in our current situation, but then we stall out because we don’t know where to start — the resume, the online portfolio, LinkedIn — and because we don’t know what the goal is. Or at least, we don’t know much more beyond “the new job” part of the goal, says professional resume writer Ashley Cash.

“The mistake most people make as they prepare to search or pivot to something new is that they start with the tactical. The resume, the LinkedIn.” But what’s the target? Where is this resume even going? she finds herself asking her clients.

“The people who have a handle on their target will be more successful with the tactical things,” says Cash, a corporate hiring manager turned career coach.

Both Cheema and Cash, as well as other women I’ve spoken with, agree: The first place to start is with your “what.” What is your goal? What do you need? What do you want?

Notice, I left out any “nice to have” language. That’s because, as Cash explains, another way we can get stuck in the process is with the “what can I have versus what do I want/need” question.

MORE FROM POYNTER: Some Personal News, a series of profiles about journalism job changes

By pivoting your focus to the things you actually want and need, Cash says, you can keep self-doubt at bay, and from there, you can give yourself permission to be you and do you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all for another strategy to keep my pesky inner critic in check — especially when we’re putting ourselves back on the job market.


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Cheema, who’s working toward certification with the International Coaching Federation, suggests a couple of ways to get to the bottom of your wants and needs so you can further fine-tune your goals. Crafting a mission statement is one of these, which reminded me of this great exercise by ONA’s Jen Mizgata on crafting the perfect professional bio. It’s an exercise I did with her during a pop-up women’s leadership training in January 2020 in Miami.

Cheema’s other suggestion was to do a daily post-mortem. As journalists, we’re familiar with the idea when it comes to coverage, but have you ever considered doing a professional post-mortem? Yeah, me neither.

“We’re constantly thinking about the next thing,” Cheema says, “instead of sitting with the current thing,” which can give us context and perspective. Before we update our resume, we need to understand why we keep thinking about getting a new gig in the first place.

“Give it a few months,” she says. “Ask yourself what went well, what was a challenge, what could have gone better. Then, find the trends. What are you seeing? Keep a daily log. This isn’t just a gratitude journal. It’s more than that. This is about life and work and the world in between.”

READ MORE: Consider a pandemic post-mortem in My Sweet Dumb Brain

A daily post-mort can help you collect the receipts you need to identify the trends that are impacting your work life both positively and negatively. The last thing you want is to jump from one situation into another without realizing you’re trading bad for worse.

Tasha Stewart, 2016 Cohort alum, echoed this.

After six years and two roles at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, she made the post-pandemic career move to 900AM WURD in May. One thing she mentioned was tracking her thoughts in a Google Sheet, including summary answers to such questions such as, “Why do I want to leave my current job?”

Stewart was inspired by 2017 Cohort alum Millie Tran’s “What am I going to do with my life?” viral presentation.

“I wanted to organize my thoughts with different headers: things I like about my current job, things I don’t like, what characteristics does my dream job have, what jobs do I absolutely not want, etc. Having it down in advance took some of the pressure off when I started having conversations and interviews,” she says.

This is something I loved coaching my former reporters on. I would ask them to write down what it would take for them to leave for another job: What is it you want? What do you need? What’s the dream? If you can write this down before you actually need it, you’ll find you can make a new job decision more practically and less emotionally than you would without it.

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OK, so now you know the first thing. Name your what. Identify your target. Write down your goal. So what’s the next thing?

Next edition, we explore how to create assets around your target by “crawling” your resume, banishing the notion of a “forever job” and using your village.

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