“I just don’t know where to start.” That’s what my friends and coaching clients say when we talk about why they haven’t taken action to pivot to a new career. They usually have a good idea of what they want to pivot to (digital journalism and content marketing pop up a lot), but don’t know how to get there.
So I went to a few former editors who successful made their pivot and asked them each one question: What was your very first step?
“My first step from mags to storytelling for brands was getting laid off as editor-in-chief of Fit Pregnancy and Natural Health when Meredith bought both titles from American Media. It was a jolt—I loved my team and my role. But all escapes start with the click of a lock, as the line of that Matilda song goes, and getting laid off gave me both the time and the urgency to explore a new direction. I started listening to digital and marketing podcasts, like the one by Digiday, to understand the field’s language and landscape, so I was informed enough to ask smart questions during coffee chats with those working in the field. I hit up my inner circle to get gigs that gave me exposure to commercial content. I worked in The Knot’s content studio for a few weeks, writing and editing stories for a program for Macy’s, thanks to my friend who headed the team there. I wrote advertising copy for American Express, connecting with a college friend who runs content at a creative agency. These experiences gave me something positive and new to talk about, as well as the refreshing shift of returning to being a player and creator rather than a coach, which is a valuable muscle to keep toned at every stage of your career. Within three months, I’d landed a new role, launching and directing Hearst’s content studio. Four years later, I lead my own remote content studio, creating stories that spur marketers to reach their business goals. Be curious, learn from leaders in your new chosen field, and tap friends who can provide experience and exposure—it works!” — Laura Kalehoff, CEO, Kalehoff Creative
“I started using my desksides when I was the Lifestyle Director at Hearst as a way to ask questions about what the company’s business strategy was. I was asking beyond where it’s sold and what color it came in and more about how they connected with their customer, all these questions most magazine editors didn’t ask. They started as questions and then morphed into suggestions. A handful of desktops stand out where I found myself coming up with ideas for them! The companies were leaving with my ideas, whether they acted on them not. I felt like the high I was getting to truly brainstorm and come up with new solutions and ideas and connect the dots for them, that was super exciting. I did that a while and realized that I can do that.” — Taryn Mohrman, Editorial Director, buybuy BABY.
“My very first step was reading job descriptions. I was a senior web editor at Country Living when I read the job description for a Online Communications Manager for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I had written a few essays about mental illness and really wanted to write about it full time. At that point, it wouldn’t have been possible to be a beat reporter on that topic for anyone. I saw the job description and realized that even though it was for a nonprofit, the skills required weren’t much different. They were looking for someone who could write and handle social media, but instead of for a brand it was for a cause. I applied for the job and wrote a very passionate email to the Executive Director. They brought me for the interview which was very difficult because I really didn’t know much about how nonprofits run. Unlike magazines, it wasn’t all about my portfolio and edit test. I played up my media experience and passion for the cause, and got the job. Now I’m eight years into this new career.” — Ashley Womble, head of communications at Crisis Text Line
“My boss at Essence asked if I wanted to join the Essence.com digital team and I said yes. This was my first introduction in and then, a few years later, the entire editorial digital team got laid off. I went back to working on the magazine, but I took a “Writing for the Web” class to keep my digital skills sharp. I expanded my network to include digital editors and writers. You have to keep your eyes and ears open to what’s next and then make the decision if you want to ride that wave. When it came time for me to try branded content as a senior editor at Manifest, it was the same situation. The opportunity came to me and I was open to receiving it. I learned as much as I could about content marketing without losing my passion for storytelling and realized there is value in bringing that aspect to branded content. Sometimes it’s really just about taking the leap forward, but doing as much homework as you can to ensure you have some place to land when you get to the other side.” — Wendy L. Wilson, managing editor, theGrio.com
“I covered products at my first magazine jobs at Parenting and Good Housekeeping. I ended up at a magazine that wasn’t a good fit for me…I’d tried to switch into health and fitness but didn’t have the editorial background. So I quit. Three days after my last day at that magazine, I earned a personal training certification. I got a part-time gig as a trainer at Equinox, while taking any writing assignment that came my way. Soon I was writing more fitness content than I was training clients, and mainly for websites, rather than print (because of course). I got hired by one site as a staff writer, reviewing fitness products. With all that background — the magazine editorial experience plus the hundreds of web bylines — I got hired at a different product review website as a deputy editor covering lifestyle (including health, fitness, and beauty). Arguably, I may have ended up here on a more direct path, but taking that detour was the best decision I’ve ever made.” — Amy Roberts, managing editor, lifestyle and emerging categories, at Reviewed.com
“I got fired, and after I just said yes to anything. It led me to a meeting with the first person I ghost wrote a book for. I never turned down a call for anything after that, even if it’s something I’m “eh” about. Like this boy band book I just did. I said yes to a call about it, and [turned out] it was the most fun project I ever did!” Dibs Baer, author
“I started posting about my career on social media. I was posting links to my clips and everything from celeb interviews to essays to recaps of reality shows as well as pics of my pop culture adventures. Someone I knew from YEARS ago – and was friends with on Facebook – kept up with what I’d done over the years from what I posted. She had recently started her own production company, knew I had a ton of pop culture experience (and a love for anything that bravo airs) and voila – I’m suddenly writing for tv doing “pop up” video style episodes of shows like real housewives, southern charm, etc.! “– Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal, Storyteller-in-Chief at thenotsoitgirl.com
“When I reached the conclusion that I didn’t want to try to re-enter publishing in a full-time in-office role, I invested in a career coach at a friend’s urging. I’m SO glad I did! I was slow on the draw with signing the contract and forking over the money—I definitely wondered if there was anything I’d learn from a coach that I couldn’t figure out or absorb or whatever if I diligently logged ‘enough’ hours on Glassdoor, The Ladders, The Muse, Indeed, CareerBuilder etc and talked a ton with my industry friends. Except that I found the sites overwhelming and ended weekdays feeling like I’d been job searching literally all day with nothing whatsoever to show for it and no idea who I wanted to be next. The coach encouraged me to flip my thought process: instead of spending all my time seeing what jobs were posted online and scrambling to try to get one of them, I should first think hard about what I wanted my new professional life to look like and feel like. It was only AFTER making that key determination that I could intentionally and effectively search. I would say that if you’re feeling super overwhelmed by it all, working with someone who will cheer you on but also hold you really accountable week to week and push you to push past your insecurities could help. Something to consider!” — Jonna Gallo Weppler, content strategist /consultant
“After loving and losing four magazine jobs due to them closing, I wanted to have something entirely on my own terms. I started a blog to fill a need I found in my own life (toddler specific recipes and advice) and while I had no idea what I was doing, I did it anyway. During my last staff job, which I knew wouldn’t last forever, I decided it was time to either close my blog or take it seriously—I chose the latter and had it redesigned, and then spent months learning SEO, improved my photography and video skills, and figured out who my readers are and what they want (most of the time). I still freelance and hope to always have some assignments going on, but I find it so rewarding to be directly helping and communicating with families everyday—and earning enough to support my own family. While it’s often daunting to figure out what I need to do when a technical issue comes up and continually feeling like there’s a giant list of things to learn and do, I really love the challenge of it all!” — Amy Palanjian, blogger, YummyToddlerFood.com
Chandra Turner is the founder and CEO of Ed2010. She offers personalized career coaching for media professionals at all stages of their career. This year she launched Talent Fairy to help brands recruit and develop high-quality creative talent.
Are you stuck in a job rut? Trying to transition careers? I’ve been there and can help you pivot to something you love. I offer group coaching sessions and 1:1 services in resume writing, cover letter and edit test help, personal branding, and most importantly: helping you figure out what to do next. Learn more about me and my services here. Let’s get started together. Cheers, Chandra