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Audiologist for a day

ear
(Ok, failed attempt on posting twice in one day. But I was so close…)

Yesterday, while blogging to you about what job articles you should check out, I was hanging in Montclair State University‘s Audiology Department with my ear-loving pal, Raia. She needed some extra observation hours, I’ve got some free time and before you know it, people were prodding my little ears with foreign tools (the good news is I actually woke up on time, so there was no need for Raia to throw pennies at my window).

According to trusty source Wikipedia, an audiologist is “a healthcare professional specializing in identifying, diagnosing, treating and monitoring disorders of the auditory and vestibular system portions of the ear.” That means (most simply speaking) that they deal with inner ear balances issues (think vertigo), deafness, hearing loss, aids and implants.

A second year audiology student was playing with my ears and testing my hearing for about 40 minutes while Raia observed the whole shebang. Since I’m as curious as a cat (a fine characteristic of a good journalist if I do say so myself), I asked a whole bunch of questions from “What is this in my ears? It really itches” to “Explain why you used this specific pattern of words for me to repeat—what do these particular sounds indicate?” My intense curiosity prompted the actual audiologist in the room to suggest to Raia that I apply to the program.

Although this was quite a nice compliment and I love the cochlea as much as the next guy, I can’t help but think such a drastic career change six short months after graduating college is not a good idea. Sure, I went to college thinking I was going to be an M.D., studied pre-med (and cried myself to sleep three weeks into Bio 101) and have dealt with medicine and science in my real life, my whole life (I have a parent with a chronic disease), but does that mean I’m to abandon my editorial dreams and give it all up for the ear? Yes, it would fulfill my desire to help others but what about media?

I shrugged off the audiologist’s and Raia’s compliments on my research abilities and intelligence. Then earlier tonight I was doing my nightly tweets, when I stumbled upon U.S. News & World Report’s Best Careers 2009. There it was—audiology—in slightly large, bold print. Was this a sign?

It’s scary to see the media world morphing and collapsing faster than any of us can comprehend, but as silly as it may sound to others, I know I’m not going anywhere. I’m riding this crazy storm out. People still need the news. People still want information. As long as there is that need, the media will stick around in some form or another, and I truly believe that.

No matter where you are in your career, have you been thinking/fantasizing about doing something else in this economy? How are you handling it?

Till tomorrow,
C

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What to read 12/9/08

The possibility exists that I could post twice today. I am very excited about this prospect.

Instead of waiting until later to post, I decided it would be better for you if I posted the articles I found useful today pre-dinner time. (Perhaps this will become a new Galley feature?!)

Till Later??,
C

lightbulbWhat I think separates this blog from others about jobs and freelancing is that I am learning with you. I can’t claim to be an expert, but I can talk about my experience and what works for me (oh what wonderful things the web is doing to journalism?).

As you know, I’m taking an online freelance writing class through Ed2010.com. During tonight’s lecture, several students asked the instructor where to look for ideas, and he anecdotally answered with tales of walking into places and having story ideas almost hit him on the head. While that’s great for him, I understood where these students were coming from.  Though I’ve come into a setting and seen story after story walk by, when I sit down and say “OK, I’m going to develop some freelance pitches now,” I clam up and my mind goes blank.

Although the simple answer to “Where do you get story ideas from?” is everywhere, what works for me is focusing on when the ideas come.

5 Tips for Finding Stories

1- Write ideas down when they come to you.
I don’t know if you carry a notebook, put everything in your Blackberry or keep an insane system of organized post-its—but whatever you do, document your ideas when you get them. A twenty minute subway ride and two smelly passengers later, and that idea is long gone.
2- Document the ones that don’t make sense. When an idea hits you, its not always in its finished form. As a matter of fact, it hardly ever is (for me at least). You won’t see the whole picture right away, so jot down these ideas and come back to them later to flesh them out during a brainstorm session. These are valuable and can often lead to my best ideas—don’t toss them in your brain trash!
3- Please read the news. I can’t tell you how many students in my college media classes wouldn’t be remotely knowledgeable on major news stories. What’s in the news is what people want to know about! Now Ex-NY Giant Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg. The more interesting angle? The possibility he was carrying a gun because these diesel football players are scared they could get robbed in the bars and streets of New York City. Everyone wanted to know about Burress, so the story was covered from all angles. From reading the news you won’t just learn the trends of what is being covered, but you’ll see what isn’t. You’ll learn to distinguish what is actually lacking coverage and what people just don’t give a damn about—all vital information when you are trying to come up with ideas to pitch to an editor.
4- Open your eyes and ears. Make sure you aren’t just going about your day without noticing everything that goes on around you. If you overhear people ordering at Applebees and discussing how the calories listed on the menu deter them from ordering salads, that’s a story not to be ignored. Jot it down and flesh it out later.
5- Learn from ALL your experiences. Things happen to you all the time that are potential story ideas. A few months ago, I was going to my best friend’s sister’s wedding. I wasn’t in the bridal party, didn’t want to wear a little black dress and was so confused as to what to wear as a result. During last week’s freelancing class, a student pitched a story on what to wear to a friend’s wedding if you’re not part of the bridal party— everything from clothes to shoes to hair and jewelry, and to all different types of weddings (beach, church, etc). That’s a killer idea and it was right in front of me just a few months ago.

Till tomorrow,
C

Ode to New York

With my friend Alana at the Statue of Liberty

With my friend Alana at the Statue of Liberty

I was watching the Hulk tonight with my family, and instead of just enjoying the sound of the green man himself running through my living room (thanks to our crazy subwoofer), I was thinking about New York City. How many films have been made about New York, or take place in New York or completely destruct and demolish the twice-named town?

The Hulk was no exception (though there was destruction in Brazil and Virgina as well). As good green guy Edward Norton fought the evil green guy—the one that looked like the Hulk swallowed a stegosaurus and some fish skeletons—on the streets of Harlem, I thought about a New York that wasn’t featured in the movies. With all the problems of the “global economic meltdown” and job losses affecting this city, will we still be the star of flicks and the “capital of the world” (as one nice Italian street merchant once told me while painting my face for Carnivale, in Venice)? Would he still think that 50 years from now?

If you work in NYC or anywhere for that matter, you may find yourself trying to find work just for health benefits, living in fear of the pink slip, job searching after being laid off or contemplating a buyout offer. Though I usually concentrate on life after lay off (hmm I should copyright that phrase), some of you have written to me asking about buyout offers. If you are looking for some sound advice, check out Jenny Cromie’s (the voice behind The Golden Pencil) article on Evaluating a Buyout Offer, which appeared on Mediabistro.com this week. She talks to others about what they have done, tells you the 13 questions to ask yourself if you are considering a buyout offer and gives clear and detailed wisdom on how to handle making the decision.

Till tomorrow,
C

Under the weather

sickI know this is a cop out post, but I’m sick and looking at this screen is not making it better :(. I can tell you though, that if you have freelance work to do and you are sick, it is not fun. I have to play catch-up all day tomorrow to make up for the rest today.

What do you do to stay on top of your work when you are feeling under the weather? I obviously need to be schooled in this topic.

As to not have this post completely useless, I read two articles in the WSJ this morning that not only reiterated how many people are walking unemployment stats like myself, but really made me think about how many people are being affected and are suffering.
1- The Human Toll of the Credit Crunch
2- Job Losses Worst Since ’74

In addition to my vow to post once a day, I vow to be a useful source to this community. Stay awhile, take your coat off and take a look around the site. Many, many more helpful posts to come.

Till tomorrow,
C

scheduleIt’s hard to force yourself to get up at 8 a.m. when there is “no reason to.” You might be swamped with work, but you’re tired from writing till 3 a.m. last night (while watching George Lopez—this is my late night guilty pleasure). Should you move from your warm cocoon and start your day, or snooze till 10 a.m. and end up working until 3 again?

Some experts suggest working when you are at your best. For some that is the morning, for others that is the wee hours of the morning. Because I only worked for a few months, I think my body easily slipped back into college mode: Get up late, stay up late. And I do thrive at night. I bang out some kick-ass ideas and writing while laughing along to G-Lo (my nickname for the George Lopez show) at 1 a.m. But I’m beginning to doubt if this is a good way to keep working.

Tomorrow starts my foray into the real world of hours (again). Unlike in college, I can’t craft my schedule to rise at 10, start work at 11 and end the evening at 2 a.m. (with a cup of a cold tea and notebooks all over the floor for me to trip over in the morning). Though I find myself most inspired at night, I’m going to try this experiment and see if I can train my body to function more along the lines of the rest of the world. If you are having similar scheduling problems, see if this works for you, too:

I am going to wake up at 9 on the dot (no snoozing!!), start work by 10 and be in bed by 12, everyday for a week. I’ll report to you and see how this works out. If you try out my little experiment, let us know if it works for you. How do you keep to a schedule, or do you just go with the clock of your own body?

Till tomorrow,
C

broken pencilWake up. Attack inbox, email contacts, make breakfast to WCBS 880. Read paper. Research, follow yesterday’s job leads. Check for and apply to newly listed positions. Go to gym, eat lunch while reading book on blogging. Head to library, steal their electricity, use free wi-fi for hours while doing freelance work, tons of writing, reading and more applying. Boy, can this job search routine get old real fast.

Getting out of a job search rut is like trying to find a cure for writer’s block—difficult, time consuming and frustrating. So to shake up my routine and get my creative juices flowing, I like to do some good ol’ writing exercises.

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, try these two creative workouts today:

1- The Visual Workout

A- Go through that pile of magazines you haven’t gotten to because you’ve been so busy doing freelance work and job searching.
B- Find an image/ad/picture that is really appealing to you.
C- Examine it and think about why it strikes you for one minute.
D- Write about it for at least 10 minutes. Write about all the details, the lighting, the design; give a story line to the people in it (if there are any) and make sure you get through the standard who, what, when where, why, how routine.
The Payoff: You got to go through your magazines and take a needed (but still useful) break. And if you can write about an image you had no prior knowledge of for at least ten minutes, your brain is ready and willing to take on other new subject matter (like crafting an eye-catching email subject line).

2-The Mind-Bender
A- Grab a pen and paper, we are going old school for this one.
B- Write a mini memoir—your life, in six words. It can be a sentence or just six individual words.
C- Do not jot down all the words that come to mind and just pick six.
D- Really take your time with this exercise. Make some tea, get inside your head and take a look around. What’s there?
The Payoff: You just traveled a mini journey of self-discovery. Maybe you learned a little something about yourself along the way. Analyze your sentence or words. Do any of them have to do with your career? (It’s absolutely fine if they don’t.) Because you were only able to use six words, your mind should really be amped up now and ready to tackle the rest of your day. This one is also great because life is always changing, therefore you can always revisit this exercise. Plus, it’s interesting to keep these around and take a look at them now and again and see what has changed in your life.

Till tomorrow,
C