I’ve been at my job for six months, and as tends to happen, it feels like I’ve either been here all my life, or just a short time.
First and foremost, it’s really challenged me in new areas – particularly my soft skills – and encouraged me to consider what I want out of work.
I’ve also had a jolt of hope that maybe having kids isn’t going to be as bad as I fear. At my first job there were hardly any women, and none with kids – only the men had families. (After I left there was a spate of pregnancies – as far as I know at least one of the women went part time; I’m not sure about the others. News is a tough biz when it comes to work-life balance.) In my second job there were lots of women but they were mainly childless or with older, more self-sufficient kids. My new workplace is overwhelmingly female and mostly young. Initially I assumed most were childless but over the months I’ve come to realise a lot have babies/toddlers and are still really put together and awesome at work.
On top of that, I’ve really had to get used to a different industry and different ways of working.
I’m used to jobs that are largely self-contained, where communication with other people is fairly straightforward and transactional. Now I find myself working on more collaborative projects and interacting with people in ongoing liaisons.
Even in a flat organisation, projects can get complicated when there’s lots of players. Collaboration gets more difficult with every extra stakeholder.I have never spent so much time re-reading emails trying to decipher them and tease out meaning. (I don’t count the countless inane PR pitches I used to get in a former life – that’s a different ball game!)
I think I’ve become a better communicator since working here, and become really aware of any times when I’m not being as empathetic as I’d like to be. I firmly believe that the best way forward is understanding where everybody is coming from, but even I find myself forgetting that principle in the quest to get things done.
I’ve also come to see what a tough job it must be to run internal comms – keeping everyone in the loop and engaged within a company. This was the one aspect of PR that most interested me at uni, and should I ever move into PR that’s probably the way I’d go.
Working with people in overseas offices has its challenges. Time zones, for one. Language barriers, for another. Cultural differences. For once, those communication theory classes I sat through at uni have come in handy. (We also had a handy workshop on cross-cultural communication recently that was nothing short of fascinating.)
It’s also made me realise how valuable face-to-face contact is. In so many cases, it’s just so much easier to have people in the same room. Email, phone, VoIP or video conferencing just isn’t the same. I’ve gotten a lot better at talking slowly, that is for sure. Even collaborating with people at our agency, who are less than a 10-minute walk away … sometimes it saves so much back forth when everyone sits down in a room together to hash things out. I’m all for remote working, but it’s certainly more suited to some types of work than others.
One thing I noticed when I came in for my initial interviews was that the super open plan layout had people even closer together than in any of my previous open plan offices – but that people were constantly breaking out and going off to tables and corners for chats and meetings. Having spaces to better facilitate these kinds of collaborations and watercooler chat is so important.
I’m been used to having the same basic framework for my work days. It’s true that no two days are the same in news, but you generally know what you’ll be doing from day to day, even if the content is different. You’ve got a newsletter/broadcast deadline to work to, or you’ve simply got to keep a rolling homepage fresh over a shift.
In many ways my work is now more reactive. I often don’t know what the day might hold. And rather than essentially wiping the slate clean at the end of every day (except for when I was working on bigger feature stories), there’s no hitting the reset button now. Ongoing projects stretch out over weeks or months, with multiple timelines in play. I’m not a naturally organised person, but I’ve had to get a lot better at it.
Yeah: moving from teaching to journalism was enlightening. Unless you enjoy abuse, journalism is much more satisfying on an “immediate” basis: you can hold something in your hand and say “I made that.” With teaching, it can be years before you get any positive feedback.
Then moving back from journalism to teaching so I could earn a living wage was similarly an experience. Fortunately, when I started at the university I was given an entrepreneurial project — founding and directing a writing program and a campus literary journal. Otherwise I’d have lost my mind, with four bloated sections a semester for pay that, while better than I earned as a writer, was well below what one needed to live on comfortably.
The structure of the two jobs, obviously, is vastly different. So is the culture. Most journalists enjoy their jobs and they’re not out to get each other in some small-minded way. Most academics? Well…
Time really matters especially when working with people on the other side of the world. Being up late at night is one that I do in order for me to catch up with them. Despite that, I still find it very challenging because of cross cultural communication.