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Monday, January 21, 2013

My First Real Job ("I Cried in Front of My Boss")

Yes, that's right. I am no longer among the huddled masses of unemployed college graduates. My last post lamented over my job search, but about a month and a half after that was posted voila: a job appeared! A real, live journalism job with an office and coworkers and a water cooler. In case you were wondering how I was blessed with such a stroke of luck, I will share my secret.

Flickr's NS Newsflash
Avid job seekers in the journalism or writing field probably already know about this, but if you don't, here it is: It was my lover, my beacon of hope and opportunity, and now I am sharing it with all of you. You can search for jobs in or relating to the journalism field by category or state/country or view all listings. There are freelance jobs, reporter jobs, editing jobs, copy editing jobs--like the one I got. So before I write a love poem about JournalismJobs ("Ode to the Best Journalism Job Search Site on Earth"), let me share a little bit about my first real job.

For the past three months I have lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana (flat, oh my Lord, how flat) and worked at The American Press, a daily newspaper serving six parishes (they call them parishes here, not counties). My title is "copy editor," which can be a little misleading since many of us associate copy editing with proofreading, assuring the writing is competent, and maintaining Associated Press or the publication's personal style. (For example, did you know that in AP style MLK Day is written out without a comma before "Jr."? The things you learn.) But what I really do is pagination, which means I help put together the layout of the following day's publication by pulling articles and photos onto the page, making sure everything is feng shui and mistake-free. Sounds easy, and sometimes it is, but you really have to dig paying attention to detail in order to enjoy it when things stop cooperating. Like when you need the article you're working with to be just a couple of picas longer to fill up the space. (A pica is .1667 of an inch--can you handle all the knowledge I'm dropping?)

So far the job has been great. I'm learning a lot about InDesign, recent AP style changes, how to tone photos, and I get along with my coworkers. Huge relief, right? Everything has been working out--almost everything.

Of course, this being my first real job, I am going to make mistakes, sometimes really stupid mistakes. Sometimes I'll ask for help on something and realize as soon as someone helps me that the problem was very easy to fix and had I resisted panic to spend more time figuring it out, I wouldn't have had to ask for help. Yeah, you shouldn't do that. I would recommend that you exhaust all your own knowledge on something at work before asking for help. Because when you do ask for help you can avoid saying "Oh. I'm an idiot...Thanks."

You know what else you shouldn't do at your first real job? Cry in front of your boss. I had made a huge mistake on a page that was my responsibility due to a miscommunication, and evidently the guilt and shame got the better of me when I turned myself in. In my defense, we had been having trouble with this page, the obituaries page, for a few weeks, but it didn't help that I cry at the drop of a hat. So there I was, trying to explain what happened, when the sobs came bursting out. I could feel myself fighting the "ugly cry face" and kept choking/whimpering out phrases like "just ignore this" and "I'm not even that upset" to my boss. Once I got it together, my concerned boss kept asking me for the rest of the day if I was all right ("Swell, boss, I'm just going to lie in a pit of embarrassment over here if you need me.")

Everything ended up being okay, but that was definitely the lowest plateau of my first real far, anyway.

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