All told, I spent a little more than eight months at Digital First Media’s Thunderdome. It was unequivocally the best out-of-college decision I could’ve made because it landed me in New York City, introduced me to the future of digital content strategy and allowed me to cover whatever I wanted, including the Super Bowl.
I look back on it as the most generous, exciting graduate school I could’ve chosen, and because I got paid, it was also the cheapest.
Earlier this month, I agreed in principle to a one-year contract position with ESPN’s digital media associates program. As a DMA, I’ll rotate between the company’s juggernaut departments to learn and lend a hand. I’ll clock in every day on the sprawling Bristol campus, working my ass off while the weather cools, freezes, thaws and warms again, until the thermometer’s back to flirting with triple digits like it is today. And I’m so lucky.
This spring, I gave a pair of lectures to college students on how they could best equip themselves for the industry they felt was their calling. I worked hard on those lectures, and feeling secure with the full-time job I didn’t know was about to evaporate, I felt like I knew what I was talking about.
It’s clearer to me now that few people really know what they’re talking about in this industry. And I don’t just mean in terms of revenue-stream generation or content management systems. My three months between jobs showed me how terrified most hiring managers are to commit to anything, least of all a 23-year-old.
The journalism world I saw as I went to interview after interview — always remembering to straighten my tie and smile before recapping my experience running liveblogs or curating content — is a quivering, second-guessing mass of good intentions, fearful of change and even more afraid to stay the same.
Are you listening, students?
During my job hunt, I turned down two deeply flawed offers from industry steamrollers I would’ve murdered to work for a year before. I also had another far more glittery position pulled off the table at the 11th hour because of budgetary and bureaucratic reasons I still don’t really understand.
And that’s why I’m lucky. ESPN is why I got into this business, and I’m lucky to start working there on Monday. I’m fulfilling a dream I once scribbled on a piece of paper in 9th grade, then hid in my bookcase because I was embarrassed by its ambition. I’m literally living my dream.
Calm waters are better appreciated after surviving the storm.