How do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Somehow, I haven’t outgrown that question. At 20-years-old, my best girlfriends and I still ask each other nonchalantly…

DSC_0132What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m starting to be more okay with the fact that I don’t know. I’m not really sure what I want to be. It’s scary. But it’s scarier to imagine locking myself into to a career of TV broadcasting or daily crime reporting without allowing myself to learn, imagine, and apply outside of those boundaries.

In the immediate now, I’m finding it easier to think about how I want to be when I grow up. What qualities do I want to possess? What skills do I want to market? These questions leave my career options wide open, while still narrowing my focus for today.

Here are five skills/qualities/mindsets I’d like to master before I “grow up”:

  1. WordPress. Need I say more? I spend 20 hours a week updating and modifying a WordPress site for my job and I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of everything this medium has to offer. I’m continually surprised by the ways WordPress can be manipulated to fit almost any communication endeavor and the ridiculous amount of variety that can entail. While continuing to plug away at my part-time job, I have a feeling that I’ll learn the DSC_0110most by knackering down one weekend with a cup of tea and a pair of wool socks to completely extreme blog make-over my own site.
  2. Tone. Some writers could strip the headline off of their piece and the world (my world) would still know exactly who was writing. These are my favorite writers, the voices I find most intriguing. While I’ll admit that I’ve sort of constructed my own tone through my other blogging adventures (Can’t Carry On and TPIE), I’m still not sure I’ve found my voice.  Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t. But by the time I graduate, I want to feel confident in my writing tone because I think it’s the first step in building confidence in readers. I wish there was a course for tone-building–other than at the gym–but I think this is an aspiration that will just come with more writing, writing, writing.
  3. Approachability. I didn’t know that was a word until right now, but I want it. I would consider myself approachable, but do I communicate that as openly as I could be? It might sound cliché, but I want people to want to tell me their stories. I want people to not only feel comfortable sharing, but to feel invited and encouraged in it. I know some sources will challenge this notion, and I will have an extremely difficult time extending the welcome to others, but I think that being approachable will manifest the most genuine, rich, and true human experience. Again, this is a skill that I see developing more with every interview and every story, but also something I think will have to consciously change in my style.
  4. Thick skin. This may not traditionally translate as a skill, but as I dive deeper into the study of journalism, the more I realize how subjective it actually is. Every editor in the world is different. One editor may love my piece and another editor may hate it. Especially in the world of columns/features (which is more me forte), style is half the battle. I want to build a conscience that doesn’t shame itself when a piece is slammed on the basis of stylistic opinion. That isn’t to say I cannot absorb suggestions to become a well-rounded writer, but I  cannot allow one editor or one TA opinion to define my success as a journalist. If there were a button for this brain switch, I would push it today and start growing extra skin now. Until then, I will remain open to suggestion and (try to) take criticism with a grain of salt.
  5. Ethics. In case you haven’t noticed, my skill list has become DSC_0121increasingly more abstract. Ethics is not only perhaps my most abstract goal, but also one that I hold to the highest esteem. As my interest in the field of humanitarian journalism grows, my attention to ethics correlates positively. I cannot say I have or ever will master ethical responsibility in its entirety, but I believe there is a certain amount of respect in the trying. In addition to soaking up ethical concerns during my three years in the UW-Madison SJMC, I think there is a certain amount personal empathy and humanity required to tackle the question of ethics. If nothing else, may it be on the forefront of my mind.

DSC_0130Now, the trick is remembering this spiel and this angle next time I’m chatting with those girlfriends of mine!

– md

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