All the Feels on Making a Career Change

I’m holding the first edition of the newspaper I did on my own, with my first byline stories (and true to form, I messed up my own title) from Jan. 26, 2017. This was a lovely gift from my friend, and sports editor.

If you ignore the blue collar jobs I did to pay my bills during high school and college — I was a busyboy at the Original Pancake House; I worked as a vending attendant, delivery driver, and warehouse associate at a vending machine company; and I had various other jobs in between that didn’t last long, like working at Home Depot, Kroger’s manufacturing company, and a donut shop — I am making a career change for the first time in more than a decade. And I guess, the first time ever, come to think of it.

I’m moving from the world of journalism to the world of nonprofit work; specifically, I’m going to become a communications associate for a nonprofit that advocates for, and educates the public on, organ, eye, and tissue donation.

Since about 2009-2010, when I started at Miami University Ohio, I’ve been in the journalism business, first as a student-journalist at Miami’s regional campus in the city of Hamilton. I wrote for The Hamilton Harrier. Now, at that time, it was more like a “student club,” so it wasn’t as if I was being paid to do that, so, not a job yet, and therefore, I wasn’t technically in the business yet. But it was a foot in the door. By 2012, I moved up to the main campus in Oxford, where I was the Online Editor and reporter, for the student-run newspaper, The Miami Student. I was getting paid for that. I did the job until I graduated in May 2016. After graduating, I did a paid internship with The Cincinnati Enquirer, which originally was meant to be the inaugural intern pipeline between Miami and the newspaper on a 10-week basis. The internship, fortunately, lasted seven or so months.

Starting in January 2017, I became the editor of The Clermont Sun in Clermont County, Ohio, a county just east of Cincinnati.

I’ve held that position until today. Today marks my last official day. The universe and I apparently have a May-is-the-month-for-goodbyes relationship.

My going-away column I published on the website and in print is available here, so I won’t rehash a lot of what I said there. Suffice it to say, I’m a mixed bag of feelings.

There is the sadness. I’m sad I’m leaving my “baby,” as I call the newspaper in my column. I’m sad I’m leaving my good friends, who are my colleagues, that I’ve made along the way. I’m sad I’m leaving the community I’ve come to love reporting on. And I’m sad I’m leaving journalism itself, something I’ve always believed in with all of those lofty ideas of its importance.

There is the excitement. With the caveat that I am not an island, and did not become the man I am today on an island, this new job was the first job I’ve ever gotten without any direct help from my parents, my professor, or a previous colleague. Yes, my imposter syndrome is screaming in the corner, “They’re fools, damned fools!” But to know I was able to go out and get a job on my own was pretty gratifying. I’m also excited because, as I mentioned in the column, I told myself that if I ever left journalism, it would have to be something that spoke to me more than journalism, most likely nonprofit work. That was the higher calling, if you will. As a living kidney donor, I now get to be an advocate for organ, eye, and tissue donation. I can’t think of a better fit.

There is the contentment. As much as the sadness is present in my mixed bag of feelings, there is also a certain level of contentment. I put in five years, which was a fair amount for a small community newspaper with a lot of turnover, and for a millennial, where our generation is known for making a lot of career changes, or at least, lateral moves. At a certain point in my brain, throughout my life, there comes an inflection time where I see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. That the time has come to make a change. I’m scared as hell of change (more on that in a moment), but eventually, I make the change. On top of that, this new job just feels right. I’m doing it for the right reasons, in the right way, and again, at what feels like at the right time.

There is the fear spurred on by my inner screaming imposter. Of course I’m terrified! I’m making a huge career change, and tomorrow morning, I will wake up doing something completely new, in a new environment, with new people. What I’ve become accustomed to doing is over. What is new is on the horizon. I’m scared, just as I was when I started every prior job, that true to imposter syndrome form, they are going to realize they hired a buffoon. That they should have gotten someone far more capable. This feeling, in the mixed bag of feelings, sometimes looms large, and sometimes is fleeting, but regardless, it is there.

There is the uncertainty. One of the things I’ve come to cherish, and why it was hard to leave the newspaper among all the other reasons, is that I was quite fortunate in the flexibility and “small power” I had at the newspaper for more than five years. I came and went as I wanted. I clocked in and out when I wanted. I had complete control over what I did every day, barring obvious paper deadlines to meet. I could write whatever I wanted to, and write for however long I wanted to. I could completely nerd out on a subject, if I so desired. With this new job, for the first time since The Enquirer, I will have set regimented hours, and at least three of the days will be at an actual office. That’s going to be different! That’s the uncertainty. But the other side of it is, I think I’m ready for that?! I think it will do my brain good to be a bit more regimented again. To be on a more predictable schedule. To not have to be doing things at 8 p.m. during a weekday, or covering an event on a Saturday.

There is the relief. If I’m being totally honest, and allowing you a look into my brain, I’m also relieved. I have no doubt that I’m going to feel pressure, as everyone does, to perform well at this new job, but I’m also feeling a healthy measure of relief at leaving behind my role as editor of a local community newspaper. Even though it was a small paper, I still felt a lot of pressure on a weekly basis to deliver the news to readers and subscribers. It was a five-year-plus pressure cooker. I never minded the criticism; my skin has thickened considerably over the last decade. I’m talking more just literally delivering original stories of interest on a weekly basis, and designing the newspaper on Tuesdays. Now, I am untethered from it the cooker.

Author Raymond Chandler said, “To say goodbye is to die a little,” and I think there is something beautiful (without hopefully being too overwrought!) in thinking that a part of me died this week in between the folds of a paper I loved a great deal, and the connections it manifest. And in that death, something new and rewarding is going to be birthed.

So, cheers to anyone who is gracious enough to have read to this point on that lofty undertaking, and making scary, but exciting, career changes.

Have you ever made a career change, and how did it go?

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