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Maybe I’m too nice. What would you do?

I read this post in the LiveJournal journalists & newsroom communities this morning. I thought about replying, but decided against it for want of time.

Maybe I should reply, because my response would differ from every person there. And to be honest, I’m surprised by that. I think it’s my naiveté showing. Or maybe I’m just too nice. I’m wondering what you all think?

Basically, the person accepted and has started one job but says it was an anything is better than nothing, first offer on the table kind of thing. It’s not at all what he/she wants to be doing. The issue? She started a week ago, and then she got an interview offer from her “dream job.” She set up an interview and wants to know how to quit her current job and how to explain (assuming she would get the dream job).

The range of responses seem to all point to one thing: slash and burn, have no remorse, they expect it, it happens.

Sure it happens. I guess that’s why you have a 90-day probation, right? They can drop you and you can drop them. No harm, no foul. No hard feelings. Riiiiigggghhht.

But man, I couldn’t start a job and quit after a week. First of all, your first week on any job isn’t going to be anything like the hundreds of others to follow. Second of all, a week? A week?! This isn’t McDonalds. This is your career. And better or worse, you will likely run into some of these people down the road. And even if you don’t, Karma sucks.

I guess I’m too nice. When I accepted my job, the next day I got a call with my DREAM internship and possibility of a job at the end. The thing I was most thankful for was I didn’t have both offers on the table at once or I couldn’t have made the right one — the sure thing, the job. I also couldn’t, even one day after giving my verbal OK, call the editors back and say, hey I changed my mind. I certainly couldn’t do it after actually starting.

Like I said, I’m too nice.

I know this is a competitive industry. I know I should look out for my own. I know that the company would drop me in a heartbeat and feel no remorse. I know. I know. I know. But my mother raised me better than that.

A few weeks back, I actually got a call for another job. It was thee job I wanted so badly at graduation. It was the one I cried over not getting, even as I had another offer on the table. It was what I wanted more than anything seven months ago. And the editor was true to her word, at first opening, she wanted to offer it to me. It would have doubled my circulation. It would have meant a bigger town, closer to home. It would have had more online/multimedia every day. It would have been everything I will be looking for in my next job. Hell, I would do that as my next job. But when the call came, I had to say the same thing I’ve said to the other editors who’ve called or e-mailed since I started here, “I’m flattered. But I’m not ready to move yet.”

As soon as I hung up the phone I thought, “What the hell did I just do? Am I crazy?!” But the thing is, it only took me two seconds to know in my heart I couldn’t leave yet. Not that I couldn’t do the job. I’d LOVE to do the job. What I couldn’t do is leave my editors and sources at the drop of a hat. I couldn’t leave the paper and my co-workers to pick up the pieces like that. I know this is an every-man-for-himself industry, but I don’t know who can fault me for thinking like a team player?

Again, here I go with the nice person spiel. Nice or stupid. Probably both.

I have made no pretensions of intending to stay here for the long haul. Let’s be honest, who does at their first job? And I don’t know how I will tell when the time is right. But I do know that after seven months, I’ve just finally gotten to know my beat and this city. I’ve finally got my contact information on the speed dial of the principals. I can find all my schools (the 30+ in this county at least) without the aid of MapQuest. I can attend a school board meeting and actually understand what they’re talking about, and when they drop names, I know whom they’re talking about.

Like I told the editor who called me a few weeks back, I’ve finally gotten settled in here. There’s still so much I can and need to learn from this job before I move on to a new challenge. It’s not just the whole, “you have to stay for at least a year” thing. Truth is, if I hated my job or didn’t dig this city so much, I would have given more than a moment’s pause.

Will I leave the J&C? Yes. When? I don’t know. My intent from day one has been to at least see this school year out. Who knows if I’ll be here for just that time or if five years from now I’ll still call Lafayette home. I’m fortunate to have landed somewhere where I’m not just biding my time until something better comes along, like the LJ poster intended to. At the year and a half point, I’ll evaluate where I stand in terms of enjoyment, fulfillment, challenge and the real buzz-kill, options. After I hung up with the editor, though extremely flattered, I was immediately worried: What if I wait another decade for that chance to come back? What did I just do?

On the bright side, I did suggest the editor look at another peer still on the job prowl. To be honest, he’s more talented than me, has better clips and way more experience. She called him the next day, brought him out the next week, and in a few short weeks he’ll be starting my dream job. And though I could be upset that I wanted that job so badly and didn’t get it seven months ago. Truth be told? I’m just happy it was him if it couldn’t be me.

My question to all the experienced journalists, professors and editors out there reading this, what would you have done? (In my situation and in the LJ posters?) Not that it would (or could) change the outcome for me — for one thing I think my propensity toward niceness could only have ended how it did — I’m just curious if I really did blow a great opportunity for no good reason. Or if the LJ replies are merely one jaded segment of the journalism population and decency and loyalty still count for something.

4 Responses to “Maybe I’m too nice. What would you do?”

  1. Mindy McAdams Says:

    I have to say, I love your blog, Meranda. You have great heart, and your honesty is astounding.

    What you’re doing by staying at the J&C will certainly make you a stronger journalist. On the other hand, this would have been a great move, it seems: “It would have doubled my circulation. It would have meant a bigger town, closer to home. It would have had more online/multimedia every day. It would have been everything I will be looking for in my next job.”

    In your case, I’d look at it this way: Either choice is a different path. You don’t know — and I don’t know — which one would be better in the long run. But the thing about making a choice is, after it’s made, the other choices cease to exist. They are in an alternative reality, not the one you live in.

    I was offered a spot in the Peace Corps 20 years ago, but I had just gotten a job at a publishing company in New York. I stayed in New York. I have never regretted my decision, but it’s always weird to think how everything in my life would have been different if I had taken the other path and gone to live in Costa Rica for two years.

    It’s not something you regret, but it’s something you have to live with — comfortably.

    As for LJ — it’s too bad s/he accepted a job s/he didn’t want. But it happens. And the advisers are right — the employer will not show you any consideration or loyalty in most cases, so if a dream job falls into your lap, you need not lose any sleep over the decision to move on.

    On the other hand, I’m not too jazzed about LJ’s tone. Something about it, beginning to end, just sounds like “ME! ME! ME!” I don’t think I’d enjoy working with LJ. So maybe that means LJ will not be offered the dream job in the end. Or maybe the offer will come, but the other place won’t actually be losing much when LJ leaves.

  2. Meranda Says:

    Mindy — You know, it would have been a great move. And that’s why I think I may be crazy (and I think the other editor thought the same!) for not jumping at it. But I think and hope you’re right that sticking this out will make me stronger.

    As for regret? I obviously don’t regret my choice or this would have been a much more whiny entry. It has happened already. It was flattering if nothing else. I will only be bitter if I dwell on it on days where I feel like I hate my job, and reminding myself “I could have jumped ship” won’t make sources get back to me or a story write itself. Lamenting it won’t get me anywhere. (Plus, I already wasted tears on that and moved on a good long time ago.)

    The thing that really made it a no-brainer for me, though, was that I actually like my job today as much as I foresaw myself liking the other job back in December when I interviewed. There are other aspects about my job today that I really enjoy and know wouldn’t have been a part of the other job had I taken it. I’ve also been afforded some awesome opportunities here that I probably wouldn’t get elsewhere. I guess I took the easy way out, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t?

  3. Howard Owens Says:

    Life is full of choices, and you’ll always wonder, what would have happened if I had taken that job …

    When I was a young reporter, two weeks into my first daily job, an editor I really wanted to work for at a paper I really respected (and was known as launching ground to bigger and better things), called me and said he had an immediate opening he needed to fill quickly.

    I declined the interview. I explained that I had promised when I took my job I would stay for at least a year. I thought he would respect my honoring my word.

    I never got another chance at a job with him.

    And the job I stayed at was almost a career ender.

    On the other hand, if I had taken that other job, my career path would have been very different. I wouldn’t have married the woman I married. I may never have even met her. Life would have been very, very different.

    The big question: Are you happy and learning where you are now? If you are, then you made a fine decision.

    But, in the future, you really should make job choices based on your career goals and growth. Loyalty is good, but it’s not everything.

  4. Dana Says:

    Well considering within nine months of graduating you have been offered both a job you like a lot and your dream job, I wouldn’t be too worried about lack of opportuities in the future. You might not get another offer from that particular company, but dreams change and so do dream jobs.
    Can’t say I’d have your same fortitude. I stayed at my first job for two years–it wasn’t even CLOSE to being my dream job. If I had been offered another gig I would have jumped ship right away.
    However, I didn’t get that magical phone call. And after two years in a less-than-stellar job, I was qualified for jobs I never thought possibe. When I realized I’d learned all I could and started to get burnt out, I felt comfortable actively moving on.
    So yeah–I say you’re making a good choice. I’m just glad I didn’t have to make it.