Many journalists are constantly thinking about where their next move will take them.
Perhaps it’s a small market local reporter who wants a taste of the anchor desk.
Or a mid-market anchor who wants to hop to a top 20 market.
Or even a large market reporter who wants to hear Lester Holt say his or her name on the network.
We’re constantly thinking about “what’s next”. What’s the right strategy to move up and along in your career?
It depends on what you want. And how you want it.
Early in my career, I was convinced living and working in New York City was not my calling. While in college, I spent a summer here interning for NBA Entertainment and was convinced the city’s pace (smell) and career opportunities were not for me. I knew I wanted a career as a producer that ultimately led to a leadership role. Location was not the driver and I was open to living in any market that accomplished that goal. I didn’t need a national sports team or a sophisticated transportation system to feel like I “made it”. I was career-minded, not location-minded, and I let that drive my decision-making.
That philosophy led me to incredible leadership roles-in Atlanta, where I was Director of Live Programming for The Weather Channel (yes, they have a national sports team AND public transportation, but it’s not why I went there!). It also brought me to Columbia, SC, where I had the dream job of being a News Director at WIS-TV, the #1 station in the state. I had never been to South Carolina, except for a quick stop at South of the Border and had no connections prior to moving there. It wasn’t the city that pulled me in, it was the insanely fulfilling job and I enjoyed every moment until I walked out the door. Ultimately, I was chasing career experiences—not money or not cities and it served me well.
After a few years in Columbia, New York City came calling-literally. The day that (212) area code popped up on my (404) phone in the (803) changed the course of my career. (Side note: a great friend and mentor in Columbia, SC told me in our first conversation I needed to change my cell phone to a local number or no one in the area would take me seriously. I should have listened, but I didn’t. They took me seriously anyway, but now it’s something I suggest to new reporters).
I wasn’t chasing New York, I was chasing my career. I was chasing the big picture. I was chasing the possibilities. And it served me well. My path led me to MSNBC where I ultimately led dayside programming for 4 years. And to a broader role as SVP of Specials for NBC News and MSNBC.
This path worked for me. I think the key was operating with a “no limits” strategy. I cast a wide net for the types of roles I wanted and let my career goals drive my decision-making. But ultimately you have to decide what drives you. It may be market size. The role. Ownership group. Growth potential. Staff size. Market standing. Whatever it is, be thoughtful about WHAT is driving your decision making. Look at your career as a journey, rather than a destination. Are you going to regret later the things that are driving you now? Are you thinking with your CAREER in mind, rather than your next job? Ask yourself: if you write your story today, are you proud of the moves you made? Does your career make sense holistically? And what is your end goal?
Before my career even started, I was hell-bent on NOT targeting New York City. I didn’t think it was the be all, end all of journalism. There are great stories to tell across the country—in fact across the world. Ultimately it wasn’t New York that scared me—I was afraid of putting too fine a point on my destination. It made the window for failure much larger if I didn’t get to that one place. It wasn’t New York that scared me—it was my fear of limits. Now that I work in New York City, I have a much better idea of how limitless the world and this field can be. And I’ve even gotten used to the smell.