Why I was scared to take the plunge and why I’m glad I did

Whew. I’ve been in my new position for about a month and am happy to share that it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. I reread my post I wrote in early January (you can read it here) about the career change and it’s almost comical to me how nervous I was.

To recap, I left my position as a newspaper reporter – something I’ve been for the past three years – to accept a position in communications for a non-profit organization.

I won’t sugar coat it – I was scared. But I was scared for the wrong reasons. I was scared I would be unhappy; I was scared I would not be good at the new job and I was scared I would regret my decision.

After I thought about it, that scared feeling or uncertainty was for all the wrong reasons. I realized that I was scared I would be unhappy because I was comfortable in my job and familiar with what I was doing. I was scared I wouldn’t be good at the new job because I was good at my job as a reporter. I was scared I would regret the decision because staying in a situation is easier than making a change.

The reasons weren’t enough to stay and I am so glad that I took a chance on a new career. My new experience has been overwhelmingly positive and I thought I would share – in the event someone else is going through a similar situation – what can happen when you do take the plunge.

  1. You are treated as an equal
    I was never treated like a new employee. Yes, I had training, but my colleagues immediately treated me like an equal. They never once treated me like the new person who doesn’t know anything.
  2. Your ideas are valued
    On my second day, there was a large editing project. I expected to go into the conference room and see the process and then go back to my office to finish some training. They asked me to stay and help edit the proofs and give my feedback about what could be done to make it better. I gave some ideas and didn’t know if anything would come from it. They ended up making every change I suggested.
  3. You can have work-life balance
    This is something that I haven’t had for the past three years. Once I accepted the new job I realized that I was working each night until 7 or 8 p.m. and each Saturday until noon. I get to leave my job at the end of the day and actually leave work at work. I do not work or check emails on the weekend. This is new to me and I see now just how drastically important it is to have this balance.
  4. You will be challenged to be better
    In my position, I am very much part of a team. We constantly bounce ideas of each other and ask for opinions to make each project that we do that much more successful. The projects that I’ve done so far have been successful because of the help of the team. They have challenged me to do my best and be creative.

As you can see, it has been a positive experience for me so far. I am sure that there will be challenging days, but I already know after a month that I made the right decision. What about you? Have you made a similar decision or are you thinking about doing so? What was your experience?

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What happens when you quit a job you like

I haven’t written about this yet because I wanted to give myself time to feel feelings and get some perspective on the topic, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this is going to be as good as it gets for the time being when it comes to perspective.

I recently accepted a job in another industry. I won’t go in to too much detail about the decision to leave my job, but what I will say is that the new position offers a little more opportunity for professional growth.

What made the decision even harder is that I really do like my job. I get to interview people and write articles for publication every day. In fact, it’s all I have known for the past four years. Since graduation, I have written for three different newspapers in two different states.

On Monday, I will start my job as a communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization. I will still get to write and interview people, but it will definitely be a new pace.

Although I am excited for the new opportunity, I definitely will miss being a reporter. I thought I would share some of the things that can happen when you give two weeks notice.

1) You will feel guilty

I understand that each situation is different and some people will not experience this, but in my case, I definitely experienced this one. Actual thoughts I had before quitting included: “this is awful,” “I could vomit,” “what if they hate me,” and “I’m going to let everyone down.”

I had to have a little pep talk with myself and remind myself that, it’s not personal. If you work hard, give proper notice, let them know you appreciate everything, then there is no reason to feel guilty.

2) It will be awkward

Everyone talks about giving two weeks notice and beginning the new opportunity. No one seems to talk about the two weeks you’re left working a job that you are about to leave. You have to be around co-workers who know you’re leaving and even if they are nice and encouraging, it can be an awkward situation.

I was talking with a friend and she reminded me that I was probably acting awkward myself, which was only feeding an already awkward situation. The next day I came in with a new attitude and it was way less awkward.

3) It’s normal to question yourself

Quitting a job, especially one you like, for a new opportunity can be intimidating. It comes down to a comfort thing. A job you know and like is comfortable and it can be hard to leave that.

I questioned whether I was making the right decision at least 12 times, but when I looked a the big picture and what I thought would be best for my career, I knew I was making the right decision.

4) Remember,  mother knows best

When you are feeling unsure about the subject, ask for advice. I did just that. My mother gave me some great advice when she reminded me that I’m not married to my job. Changing careers is normal and I won’t be the last to leave the company. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, but it is a natural part of business.

I have one more week of work before I start the new job. I am sure I will continue to add to this list and write more about the new job in the future.

What about you? Have you experienced something similar or did you have a different experience?

Work-life balance and learning to adult

Sometimes work consumes my life. I wake up at 6:30 a.m., travel for work, interview sources and take photographs and then travel home to write for a few hours. I repeat this throughout the week and sometimes even continue this Saturday morning to meet a deadline.

It really hit me that this was becoming a routine when I caught up with a friend over coffee. We each talked about what was new and as I was talking I realized everything I had to report was about work.

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I don’t usually realize that this is happening until I go to write the title and date on an article and it’s almost a new month. Time is flying by and it’s because I am letting my life revolve so heavily around work.

I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to have more of a work-life balance and because I’m sure I’m not alone in this, I thought I would write about it here.

Extra hours don’t always mean better work

Trust me I understand working at home after work. I do it more often than I should, but I’ve found that my work isn’t necessarily any better. In fact, I usually have to edit it or add something else the next morning. I took an honest look at the work I was doing and once I realized the extra hours weren’t really doing me any favors, I decided to put more effort in getting things done during the day.

Break the iPhone habit

Are you constantly checking your phone for calls or emails from work? I know I sometimes am. I hate the feeling when I am checking my work email for the 10th time and don’t even mean to be. If you can, pick a time in the evening where you won’t check on work. I personally try to avoid looking at my email after 6 p.m.

Make your schedule work for you

I find that I am more productive in the morning. I can’t back this up with stats or scientific facts, but I can tell you I feel more focused in the morning. I try to do everything I can in that time period and leave some smaller assignments for the afternoon. By doing this, I feel more productive and find myself procrastinating less by looking at a cat video or a clip from last nights Dancing With the Stars episode.

Find out what you can do to leave work at work

Do yoga. Hang out with friends. Play with your pet. Do something that you like. I was seriously concerned when all I had to talk about was work. I took a look at my past month and realized I hadn’t been hiking or to yoga class, which are two things that I enjoy that help me clear my mind.

Organize. Organize. Organize. 

I spent an hour the other day organizing my desk and my work bag. Again, I don’t have scientific facts to back this up, but it made my work week better. By taking some extra time to organize instead of throwing it all in a pile on top of my desk, I was able to focus my time on what needed to be done, not searching for that one paper that should be in that one folder.

While I’m all for women kicking ass in the work world, I know that I personally don’t want my career to be all that defines me. When people ask me what I’ve been up to, I would like to have something more interesting to say than “oh, I’ve been working a lot.” And while these might not apply to everyone in their careers, I hope that it helps.

Now when people ask me what I’ve been up to, I can tell them about some of the other things I’ve been doing besides work.

What about you? Do these apply to you? Do you have anything to add? Teach me your ways.

Take A Chance Tuesday

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When I was considering accepting my current position as field editor of an agricultural newspaper, I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do. I’m from a rural area in northern Indiana and am familiar with agriculture, but I have never been a farm kid.

Although corn and beans fields surrounded the house I grew up in, my family didn’t farm. I even considered joining 4-H when I was in school but when it came down to only having the time to do athletics or 4-H, I chose athletics. I also considered joining FFA but at the time the organization mostly consisted of farm kids and I didn’t feel like I would fit in.

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I wondered if I would be able to keep up writing about something that I wasn’t overly familiar with. I thought there is no way I’m going to be able to talk with farmers, political leaders as well as business professionals and educators who live and breathe agriculture.

After a few days trying to decide what to do, I decided I would take a leap of faith and accept the position. I realized that, yes, I was scared about asking a stupid question about the industry or writing in a way that showed I was learning, but more than that, I was scared of moving for a job and finding out I didn’t like it. And I didn’t want that to stop me.

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Fast forward five months and I can tell you everything has worked out. I am incredibly happy in my position and have been pleasantly surprised at how kind everyone in the industry is. I can ask questions and those farmers and political leaders I was nervous to talk to and they will not only answer them but they’ll go above and beyond to give me the background of the subject.

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Along with, the overwhelming kindness I have received from coworkers, interviewees and everyone in between, I am happy that I took a chance.

By taking the position I have been given opportunities that I never would have had if I said no. I’ve been able to travel around the state and meet different kinds of people including a Colts football player, a Nascar driver and a Nascar team owner. I’ve experienced a historic barn tour as well as a boat tour of the Ohio River. I’ve also attended a wine festival and a restaurant opening where I got to sample different food dishes and then write about them. These are just a few of the experiences I never would have had without taking this opportunity.

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I never would have been paid to do these things without saying yes to the position and I am beyond thankful I did. I hope that others considering taking a chance on something will do so!

Have you had a similar situation? If so, tell me about it!

Conversations with farmers

*editor’s note: Today’s “conversation” is a little different than usual. It has been something on my mind lately especially with all the recent talk about the need to feed 9 billion people by 2050 and the concern of where that food will come from. It is less of a conversation in the sense of a one-on-one with someone, but more like a snippet of several conversations.

They work long, hard hours. They take care of animals and the land. They spend days and nights tending to natural resources. They grow food. They feed the planet.

Since I’ve started this new job I have been able to talk with countless farmers about their jobs, operations and families. I have visited dairy farms, Christmas tree farms, grain operations and many, many more.

No matter the differences between the operations, each farmer I’ve spoken with has agreed on one thing: “We need to do a better job of telling our story.”

I have heard this sentence over and over. In the past farmers have been known to be hard working, but private people. Today more and more farmers seem to know they need to get the word out about what they are doing.

With so many opinions about industrial farms vs. organic farms and the treatment of animals and concerns of conservation, farmers know they need to do a better job of telling their stories.

Farmers have the stories to tell and they want to tell it. They are modest people who work hard and don’t expect a lot in return.

If you talk to a farmer today, you’ll likely hear about how their parents did it and their grandparents did it and their great-grandparents did it. Most farmers live on or near the same property that has been in the family for generations. They raise their families teaching them the same thing their parents taught them. They hope that their kids will see the value in the work and continue on the legacy.

Sometimes today the younger generations in farm families come to a cross roads of coming back to the farm, where they might not make as much, or go to a different job. Although it’s different for everyone, most will tell you it’s in their blood regardless of what they choose.

Upon talking with a young, twenty-something farmer about what it was like to work so hard and not always see the reward. He simply said it was worth it.

“Once you grow up doing something, you can’t imagine doing anything else…it gets in your blood.”

Another farmer spoke of the importance of telling his story, which was for education purposes. He wants people to know where their food comes from.

“I really want to hook agri and culture back together,” he said. “Beef doesn’t come from a plastic tray at Kroger, it comes from cattle. This is part of telling our story.”

I know this is just a small snippet of a much, much longer conversation. and I’m sure there will be many more conversations like it in the future with my job. Just some food (pun intended) for thought on this beautiful, beautiful Thursday.

xoxo

To travel, or not to travel, that is NOT the question

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Our twenties are full of questions, challenges and tough decisions to be made. The entire decade is full of never-ending transitions that have no road map.

One thing that should never be on the list of questions, challenges or tough decisions is whether or not to travel, which does have a road map. If given the option to travel, the answer should always be yes.

Take vacations

I know vacation time at work can be sacred. Use the vacation time. You earned time off and deserve to spend it doing something you enjoy.

Travel to as many places as you can

Whether it’s a two-hour road-trip, a weekend trip in a big city, a beach vacation, a mountain getaway or a 15-hour flight to a different country, it is worth it.

Don’t let money stop you 

It’s okay to say yes. I know all about tight budgets. I know that it’s hard to spend money you worked hard for. I also know there are realistic travel options for twenty-somethings on a budget and then there are unrealistic travel options. Sure you may want to travel to New Zealand, but the several thousand dollar flight is going to potentially stop you from doing that. I get that. But, you CAN afford to take some kind of trip. There are plenty of affordable options to help make it happen.

Never stop wondering

Learn from other people when you travel. Learn from different cultures. Learn from different food. Learn everything you can about everything.

Never stop wandering

Visit family, travel with friends or take a solo vacation. Dream. Explore. Go somewhere new. Try something new.

Say yes to traveling

I double dog dare you.

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His last harvest

Sometimes living in a small town is difficult. I went from a bustling college area with 40,000 people my age to a gorgeous mountain-side in Pennsylvania back to my home town to work for the local newspaper. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder why.

One of the reasons was shown to me this week. Gerald Sullivan, a local farmer, died in an accident in September before he was able to harvest his last crop. Sullivan often called this year his last crop because he was about to go in to retirement. He and his family didn’t realize it actually would be his last crop.

His son, Dean Sullivan, talked of his father and how he had decided he wanted his harvest before retirement to be corn. He wanted to shell it, he wanted to plant it and he wanted to be in the combine. Dean took a breath before continuing and telling a funny story about his father.

The day Gerald passed away, farmers began to plan what they could do for his wife, children and family. They decided they would harvest all 600 acres of Gerald’s crop.

On Wednesday of this week, I was told the farmers were meeting as a tribute before going in to the fields. I woke up and got to the barn before they started talking around 8:30 a.m. I was prepared for tears of family members as they thanked local farmers. I wasn’t prepared for 75 people to be standing in the barn, ready to take action. Nearly 100 people showed up that morning to help out. They laughed, they cried and they remembered.

Because of the rainy morning farmers didn’t know if they were going to be able to go out in the field. They were. Around 10:30 the men, women split up between 300 acres in two different counties with 14 combines and multiple grain carts and semis. Anyone driving by the fields wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but the farmers were doing everything they could to help.

They brought in the last of the 600 acres before 8 p.m. The family was touched. One of Gerald’s daughters spoke to the crowd before they completed the work and said, “I live in Indianapolis and you don’t see this,” she said.

She lives in a city and doesn’t see people help each other – at least not to this extent. I talked to a few other people who described the agriculture community as a close-knit community of people who would do anything for others. Another said this type of community feel is unique to the agriculture community.

Others said they were stunned and proud at the group for getting the work done. Another man said he was happy to know that if something ever happened to any of the other people there, they could expect people to come together and take care of things.

Why do I live here? The people take care of each other. Why do I work here? I get to cover stories like this and talk to people who would go to extreme measures to take care of their fellow man.

Gerald’s grandson, joked around and said that on the day of the harvest, he couldn’t believe Gerald hadn’t turned on the sun for them. Well, the sun came out later and I know, without a doubt, Gerald was blown away by what he saw. What he saw was his family being wrapped in love and 50 people bringing in his last crop.

As I was leaving the house that day, Gerald’s son, Dean told me his dad loved four things: the lord, family, farming and people.  All of Gerald’s favorite things came together this week, and I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the house.

Here is a link to my story: http://bit.ly/1ifVbZB

There’s something about a thank you

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We have all been told before we shouldn’t do something for acknowledgement or reward. I believe that is true – we shouldn’t do something for the sole purpose of getting something in return. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t absolutely wonderful, when you do receive a thank you.

Without realizing what I was doing, I started a “nice notes” folder in my email. The folder includes thank you emails I have received. (Of course the thank you emails are listed under some random, unrelated folder name.

As a journalist. if you get something incorrect like *cringe* misspelling something, you will receive a call. If you word something in a way someone doesn’t approve, you get a call. If someone sent you something and it hasn’t appeared in the newspaper in what they deem a timely fashion, you get a call. It makes me wonder if they realize we aren’t evil gremlins who have the sole purpose of ruining their life, printing malicious lies and doing other evil gremlin things.

However, that being said, every time I receive a thank you email, phone call or card, I can’t help but feel validated. It reminds me there is a reason I ended up in journalism and no, it’s not the pay. I get to talk to people daily and figure out what makes them tick. Of course there will be mistakes. Whenever I’m having a bad day at work where I’ve received seven calls about how the media sucks and I suck, I turn to those emails and a yoga class and know that for every negative remark I receive, there is a silver lining in there somewhere – I actually enjoy what I do and sometimes, just sometimes it is appreciated.

So now it’s my turn to thank all the people who took the time to thank me. At the risk of sounding like a needy twenty something who is unsure of her ways – it made a difference.

Thanks for the life advice, Ashton

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I will admit I watched the last 45 minutes of the Teen Choice Awards tonight. I turned it on just in time to hear Ashton Kutcher give some advice when he accepted the ultimate choice award.

Kutcher, 35, joked that he had received the “old guy award,” but the crowd didn’t stop cheering as he said this.

He spoke longer than anyone else accepting awards and took the opportunity to give some advice to viewers.

He left those watching with three pieces of advice:

1.) Opportunity looks a lot like work

Kutcher stated that: “I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. Every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job before I had my next job.”

2.) Be sexy (read: Be smart. Be thoughtful and be generous.)

“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful and being generous. Everything else is crap. I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it. Be smart. Be thoughtful and be generous.”

3.)  Build your own life

He also mentioned Steve Jobs. Kutcher portrays the Apple co-founder in the upcoming film, “Jobs.”

“Steve Jobs said when you grow up you tend to get told that world is the way that it is.”

Kutcher then said: “Everything around us that we call life was made up of people who are no smarter than you. You can build your own life that other people can live in. Build your life, don’t live it, find your opportunities and always be sexy.”

I don’t care if you’re an Ashton Kutcher fan or not, that was some pretty great advice.

Forgetting how to write

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For the past several months I’ve been juggling an editing position with a reporting position. Each had their perks, but trying to do both was stressful. I felt like the wheels of a spinning bike at the gym when the tension is too loose; out of control and going 90+ mph. 

When my editor asked me if I’d like to go back to writing full-time, I had to think about it. I was getting experience in the editing department but, at the same time, my BA is in journalism with a minor writing. While editing I had trouble finding the words I needed to write stories. Fast forward three weeks and I don’t know why I even paused. 

I’m back to writing full-time and loving every minute of it. While I was doing both jobs, I temporarily forgot to write. I was trying to complete too many things. I would sometimes wake up in a cold sweat thinking about a nearly impossible deadline the next afternoon. I’m happy to say that has changed since resuming writing. 

Yes, some days can be longer than others. Yes, sources can be hard to reach. Yes, it involves multi-tasking and yes it can be stressful. But none of that matters because I love it.  

Even more than that, I love talking to people and getting to know their stories; asking questions I don’t know the answer to and then writing about it. 

Here’s  to getting my [writing] groove back. 

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