They say one decision can change your life. Sure, it’s a cliché, a sentiment that’s probably overused.
For me, though, it’s true.
I went to Ohio State. I came to Columbus with the idea of majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. Maybe I’d be a sports reporter for a newspaper. Maybe I’d go to law school and be a lawyer. I wasn’t really sure.
There’s this statistic often shared on college campuses: 50 to 70 percent of students will change their major at least once. Hearing this often during my freshman year, I assumed I’d probably change my mind about journalism. Maybe I’d switch to something in business, or engineering, or anything else.
I graduated from Ohio State May 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in public affairs journalism and a minor in political science.
I never really wavered from my decision to major in journalism, but often during my college career, I doubted if it was something I wanted to have a career in. Law school was always in the back of my mind. It was—and, kind of, remains—a safety net for me.
The statistics about journalism careers are pretty frightening. The job security is bad. The median salaries are worse (average salary of 37K). CNBC.com ranked two journalism jobs – broadcaster and newspaper reporter – as two of the top 10 worst jobs in the world in 2014.
I loved my journalism classes and the idea of being a sports writer, but was it something I could do professionally?
I still have doubts about all of that. I’m making good money now, but will I evolve enough to the point where I can live comfortably? Will the website I currently work for continue to grow, or will it fold like newspapers, possibly causing myself to get laid off?
Those ideas remain in the back of my mind, but one decision the spring of my junior year set me on a path that I remain on to this day.
If you want to get a job in journalism after you graduate, you better have a lot of experience. Three years into my Ohio State life, I had some. I covered the men’s hockey team for the student newspaper, The Lantern, and been the beat reporter for Columbus’ triple-A baseball team, the Clippers, for Indians Prospect Insider.
I needed more, though, so I decided to apply to be an editor at The Lantern for my senior year. I had my sights set on the assistant sports editor position. I figured the job would look great on my resume as I applied for entry-level sports positions the following summer.
That hurt me. If I wasn’t good enough to become the assistant sports editor at a student newspaper, how could I have a successful career? How could I get a good job after graduation?
Maybe I’m not good enough to be doing this, I thought.
They offered me something else, though: Photo editor.
I was a terrible photographer. I was an even worse user of Photoshop.
“No thanks,” I told The Lantern’s advisor. “I’m not really into photography.”
“Come see me in my office today and let’s talk,” he replied.
Somehow, the advisor, Dan, was able to get me to say “yes” to the job.
“You’ll take photos at all the football games, write articles about the games afterwards, the editor thing just gets you in the door,” he said. “You’ll improve as a photographer, too, and the multimedia experience will be great.”
The idea of being responsible for all the photos in a daily paper sounded incredibly intimidating to me. The Lantern is a daily newspaper read by thousands of people. If the photos in the paper looked bad, the whole Ohio State campus would see them, and it’d mostly be my fault, as the photo editor.
I’m still not exactly sure why I said yes. Maybe my advisor was just that convincing. Maybe it was just a gut feeling. More so, though, I think I just knew I wanted to try to make something of myself in journalism, and by being an editor of the student newspaper – even in an editorial role I wasn’t comfortable with – I was setting myself on the right path.
I ended up becoming a very solid photographer and photo editor through my experience. Being at the football and basketball games allowed me to write hundreds of articles. I went to every single Ohio State football game in 2012. I went to Los Angeles to cover the NCAA Tournament that spring.
The experience I had being a photo editor for The Lantern solidified my thoughts of being a journalist. The feeling of seeing my name on a story or photo, and knowing that thousands of people would be reading or looking at it, was an incredible one. I realized then that this was a feeling I wanted to try to experience for the rest of my life.
Two years later, I’m a full-time staff writer for CollegeSpun.com. The website’s doing great. We’re setting up an office outside New York City and I’ll be moving to the area in a couple of months.
I’m in the position I am today because I said yes to something I was hesitant about.
Being the photo editor of The Lantern allowed me to land a job as a freelancer for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer after I graduated, which put me in the position to get a part-time job with Rivals.com a couple months later, which led me to the full-time gig with College Spun less than a year after I received my diploma from Ohio State.
It’s all because I said yes to my advisor that spring day of my junior year.
When it doubt about an opportunity, just say yes, like I did to Bryan when he asked me to write this. Who knows what this could lead to?