Steve has been freelancing and working a part-time job to pay the bills, while trying to get into journalism. The good news: he got a job offer from an alternative newspaper that gets him into journalism full time. The bad news: the money is not great and the publication has gotten some bad reviews on Glassdoor.com.
So Steve is torn. He doesn’t have any prospects on the horizon — except for the pending job offer — and is desperate to get back into journalism full time, so he asked me for advice.
I advised him to take the job. Not everyone is going to get that first (or second, third or even fourth) job at a top media outlet (or even second- or third-tier ones). You have to start somewhere, and there are great opportunities to be had at alternative newspapers.
Many of them operate on shoestring budgets, so it allows you the chance to learn more skills. Alternative newspapers tend to be well known in their communities, and it’s not unheard of for them to be poached by mainstream publications. Journalists who got their start or a career boost at alternative newspapers include: the late David Carr of the New York Times; Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic; Erik Wemple of the Washington Post; and Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo.
I told Steve that if he worked hard, compiled a good portfolio of clips and stayed for a year, he would be able to leverage that into his next job. Sometimes you have to take jobs that aren’t perfect to get you where you want to go.
Early in my career I took a job — with a pay cut — that was a disaster for reasons I’ll discuss in a future post. I took it because they offered to help pay for my grad school classes, and I felt it was a good trade. It also set me up for the next job, which made up for all the pain.
Do you have career questions? Need job advice? Email me at auntbenet AT gmail DOT com. You could show up in a future column!
Benét J. Wilson is the founder and owner of Aviation Queen LLC, a freelance writing, multimedia and consulting firm. She is an aviation/travel freelance journalist and blogger who has written for publications and blogs including AirwaysNews.com, CrankyFlier.com, ACI-NA Centerlines magazine, Aviation International News, Airport World, the Airline Passenger Experience magazine, and the Runway Girl Network. She currently serves on the board of the Online News Association and is Vice Chair of Education for the National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Journalism Task Force. She also the editor-in-chief of AllDigitocracy.org.