You can “fall up” if you lose your job.
The ups and downs of journalism can benefit even laid-off journalists, four experts say. All have landed on their feet, and discussed their checkered job history with about 30 people at the Chicago Headline Club’s Career Survival 101 on Oct. 11.
Rob Elder and Mike Schmiedeler both learned to be managers. Displaced journalists are “forced to learn a new set of skills,” Elder said. Losing a job “forced me into change,” Schmiedeler said. “I’m bad at it [change], but have four kids to feed.”
Elder, a Chicago Headline Club board member, lost his job at the Chicago Tribune in 2009. He went on to found his own production company, wrote books, was a Patch.com manager, and now is the new managing editor of DNAinfo Chicago.
Schmiedeler’s job doing religious documentaries tanked with 9/11. He didn’t give up. He is now vice president of development/executive producer for Towers Productions.
Amy Guth went from book maven to social media maven at the Chicago Tribune Media Group. She said she did “a lot of winging it.” She acknowledged, “I like change.” And she advised, “Listen to your gut.”
Scott Smith is a new social media hire at Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising, marketing and public relations agency. He previously bounced around: Chicago magazine, Time Out Chicago, Chicagoist and Playboy. Keep in mind “we are all storytellers” when you market yourself, he said.
See a need and insert yourself into that role, Smith told job-seekers. He emphasized the need for “evangelizing” for yourself. The others agreed that journalists tend to hunker down and do their work, without spreading word about its importance.
• Linked-In is more powerful than ever, Elder said.
• Twitter is a big cocktail party to meet strangers, Guth said.
• Work on a small step toward improving your skills, Smith said.
• Learn one new thing each month, Elder said.
Susan S. Stevens
Chicago Headline Club secretary
Society of Professional Journalists regional director