Resources to transition your skill set from journalist to more marketable skill sets

I know it feels horrible. But trust me former journalists, your lives will go on, and in most situations, your careers will be just as fulfilling as the positions you had in newsrooms across the country, minus the constant drumbeat of layoffs and unrealistic deadlines.

That’s certainly been the case for myself and others I know who have left by choice or been forced out of the industry. Journalism is an extremely stressful job compared with many out there. You’d be amazed how relaxed other types of writing positions can be. I was laid off in 2009 from the Duluth News Tribune, after working for 10 years as a journalist in Iowa and Illinois, with the final two in Minnesota.

Sure, the first few months and years were tough, but now I get to produce great content — in my case writing and/or editing all the content on NebraskaMed.com — which suits me far better than the daily deadlines did.

The good news is, you have an edge in the content creation job market, if you’ve worked as a reporter, designer or manager/editor, photographer, copy-editor or something similar. And content creation couldn’t be a hotter field right now.

There are a lot of jobs out there that all feed off those skill sets, so be encouraged. You’d be amazed how often a business just wants someone who comes across as a smart self-starter who can communicate things clearly to others. You’re not launching from zero. You’re taking your skills and pivoting in a new direction.

Reporting is a skill rare among many freelance writers

I’ve also noticed very few people in the business world know how to pull information and content out of people — what comes as second nature to reporters — so that’s an asset every journalist has that you ought to accentuate. For example I’m currently hiring freelancers to help me update content on NebraskaMed.com. But so often the freelancers I speak with can’t or won’t actually interview anyone. They want to get raw notes which they can mold into conversations. Rare ar the content marketers who can pick up the phone and interview (in my case doctors and nurses) and turn those interviews into finished copy. Whether you realize it or not, you’re very unique if you can do that.


I’ve been through a lot of twists and turns and dead ends to get me where I am today.

So I decided to pull together some resources and a little perspective that proved pivotal to helping me get to the next steps of my career. Some are inspirational. Some are cheap ways to help you pivot to a new career. Some are simply lessons about life that I wish I had learned before my layoff.

P.S. if you’re more interest in just reading how to find a full-time gig in content marketing, visit this post.

My hope is that some of what I write will help you in your journey.

I’m writing this primarily for people who love to write and would like to carry on writing, but don’t see any clear path to doing that outside of working for a traditional PR agency, which is how I felt.

Try and remain upbeat:

1. Do not dwell too much on the past. Instead, listen to uplifting resources, whatever those are for you. I took a lot of solace out of a book called48 Days To The Work You Love really helped me both keep in upbeat attitude as well as helped me see there was more to life than just looking in the classifieds for a job at a PR agency, which deep down I didn’t like anyhow. The book also describes a process for getting interviews and building relationships in a systematic way at places you want to work but may not be advertising right now. For that reason alone, I think the book is worth reading.

That book led me to join the free online community by the same name where people from all backgrounds gather to talk about transitions and next steps.

It’s geared more for the person who to some degree wants to become an independent contractor, or start his or her own business. I also recommend the podcast by the same name on iTunes.

Other uplifting resources include everything and anything from Michael Hyatt.

Ageism

I was in my mid-thirties (I’m now 39) when I was laid off. So obviously age was not the sort of issue in my mind that it could have been if I were 55, but I’d encourage you not to dwell on that issue. While I won’t pretend ageism isn’t an issue, there are lots of good businesses out there ready to hire and contract with people of all ages. Most of the people I work with today I never even see face to face, as they work remotely a state or two away from me. So even if I wanted to, I couldn’t judge them based on age. All I’m saying is if you want to succeed, don’t dwell on things you can’t control like age, and just trust that in most cases not getting a job or a project has to do with some other issue you have zero control over.

Ongoing learning

The bad news is that you may have to learn some new tools or programs in order to be a bit more attractive to today’s employers. The good news is thanks to sites like Lynda.com, if you want to enhance your skills, instead of automatically thinking you have to spend years in school for yet another degree (often not the case), you can instead spend $50 a month boosting your resume. There are hundreds of videos that teach you the sorts of skills that are in demand. If you are for example a newspaper designer, for a few months of training — at about $40 a month — you can learn the Adobe Dreamweaver, HTML and CSS3, and become a website frontend designer. It would also serve to give you a better understanding of what coding is like, to gauge if that’s something you might want to get into. The point is not to become an expert. The point is to feel comfortable with various programs and basic web coding.

The courses are often only a few hours each online, and are broken into tiny segments typically two minutes to 20 minutes long, designed for professionals trying to pick up new skills fast. It’s realistic that in six to 12 months, you can make the switch and begin doing freelance work or even get a new job as a website designer/front end developer. Instead of signing up per class, you sign up a month or a year at a time, so you can just get a taste for what’s out there, without paying a bunch of fees.


Copyblogger.com: If you’d love to continue writing for a living, you need to visit this website. Just what you get for free will help train you in the world of online marketing. This is the best site for people who want to write for a living for companies (what is traditionally called copywriting or now content marketing). They teach you things like how to position yourself as a freelance writer who makes $50-$150 an hour, vs. the kind that is battling with freelancers from India for $8-an-hour jobs on E-Lance or O-Desk. They also offer a course on becoming certified content marketers which I haven’t taken, but might be a fit for some people who would appreciate having that credential. To see how high-earning and performing writers in this niche position themselves, here are some of their graduates.

Moz.com If you want to learn about online web marketing (this is more for the person who wants to learn the more technical end of online marketing but covers a lot of the same ground as Copyblogger.com) this is the site to go to. The free subscription is all you need. Here’s a great link to get started on for those wanting to learn all about content marketing, and here’s a link for those who want to learn all about search engine optimization in 2016.

An acquaintance of mine put together a course called the No Regrets Career Academy. I have not taken the course, but it looks excellent, and I know from knowing her, that she does excellent work. So that’s worth checking out. She offers a short mini-course absolutely free, to see if it’s something that is of value to you.


When I was working at Barnes and Noble (my interim job between journalism and working for an agency) I hired a life coach for about $2,000 shortly after getting laid off. I wouldn’t have done it had I not felt so desperate, but it pushed me in the direction I eventually followed. And I think that’s the key here. I’d encourage you to keep pushing ahead, trying some of what’s above. While the path looks different for all of us, if you continue to press ahead and expose yourself to new ideas and people, some door somewhere is going to open up for you. So my best advice is to follow your gut (and pray a lot) and don’t lose hope.

We’re all in this together,

Patrick Garmoe

pg@patrickgarmoe.com

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