Advice for Journalism Students

Career Crisis 101: Don’t Panic!

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I just got off of a Skype chat with a journalism class at the University of Oregon, the students of whom graduate in just a month. With the real world looming on the horizon, the panic of “what am I going to do with my life?” was palpable, even across the airwaves—and I can totally relate.

The truth is I still experience that feeling regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but I’ve also been doing it for more than a decade and often wonder if someday I’m going to wake up and think: “Writing is my jam, but I am tired of dealing with all the BS that goes along with journalism. What’s next for me?”
Career Advice for Journalists

In 2015, I feel like this is a completely normal and valid train of thought. After all, the lethal combination of globalization and the Internet have created this notion that we can do anything, be anyone, go anywhere, see everything. It’s a good thing, but it can also be detrimental to focus at times. For me, the problem is often wanting to do it all—and all at once, too. Just ask SVV; he regularly has to sit me down and tell me that I simply can’t. (But like the age-old saying goes, “you have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyoncé” … so I’m going to continue to try.)

Even trickier than figuring out what you want to do with your life is navigating a career in travel in a day and age when media jobs are continuing to dwindle. The bad news is that traditional travel writing is on the decline (sorry, budding travel writers), but the good news is that there are still so many other careers you can pursue that involve traveling.

Career Advice for Journalism Students

To name a few:

Copywriting. I have to say that I’ve found far more success (at least financially and volume-wise) writing copy for tourism boards and their visitors’ guides than I have for magazines in recent years. There’s simply more work to be had (and it pays better to boot). Advertorials fall under this same category. In the past, I’ve been able to utilize my extensive knowledge about destinations like Tennessee and California to pen state-funded destination guides for in-flight magazines. It’s fun, it’s lucrative, and I’m putting my expertise to good use.

Education. If the goal ultimately is to live abroad and have the ability to travel, teaching can be an excellent career path. Teaching abroad often doesn’t require any specific college degree, as long as you have the proper certifications, like TEFL, in place.

Seasonal work. Are you good with a camera? Do you enjoy diving? Were you always a shredder on the slopes? Plenty of travel bloggers I know, like my girl Alex, engage in seasonal work—whether at a dive outfitter, ski resort or other realm of hospitality—and work really hard for a few months while stockpiling travel funds, then have an equal amount of time off to wander the world.

Content creation. It’s not glossies but it’s writing—and writing on my own terms at that. I’ve absolutely loved getting to be a part of partner campaigns for Travel Mindset, as well as curate all the food and homes coverage out of Nashville for YP on my own terms.

Working for an airline. I have a number of online friends who have gone the flight attendant route and have loved every second of it. While personally, I could never handle the constant change in sleep patterns, that line of work does offer a bit of flexibility to an extent—in that you often work three days on, two off—and obviously the chance to see the world. (Just don’t apply to work for Delta and we can stay friends, mmmkay?)

Sales. For those whose aim to work in travel no matter what it takes, why not be the one selling it? This can be in the form of working as a travel agent—or “adviser” as they’re typically called—or doing ad sales for an agency that handles a number of travel accounts. In many cases, you’ll get to travel—and often—to the destinations you represent or are selling.

Working at a digital agency. Digital jobs at workplaces like Zehnder Communications allow you to delve into a destination, really get to know it and curate all the written material about the place. Case in point: My friend who is employed by Zehnder gets to simultaneously work on the South Walton and Fireball whiskey accounts (and she travels to 30A at least quarterly). Beaches and booze—where do I sign up?!

Health and wellness. I follow so many Instagrammers like Healthy Hoffy and Yoga Girl who have carved niches for themselves internationally as trainers and teachers in the fitness world. If that’s your skill set, I say go for it. Similarly, medical professionals can often find pretty sweet gigs as a traveling nurse. Too bad I can’t stomach the mere mention of blood….

Working for a travel company. It sounds obvious, right? And yet, so many people completely neglect to look into this route. My friend Vy has the awesome job of being PR manager for Contiki, a super fun and reputable tour company. Even if public relations doesn’t sound like your cup of tea—dealing with whiny journalists like myself all day long? no thanks—there are plenty of other opportunities to be had, from writing newsletters to working in SEO. If I were still in San Francisco, I’d do whatever I could to get a job at the Airbnb headquarters or maybe even apply to work at Viator. Want to move to Austin? How about HomeAway/VRBO? Expand your job search mentality is what I’m saying, kids.

  • May 12, 2015

    Always writing what I need to hear! I’m entering that icky transitional phase, too, and desperately trying to figure out life after living abroad! Great suggestions, as always.

    • May 20, 2015

      Excited to see where you end up next! =)

  • May 13, 2015

    And don’t forget about volunteering! I wouldn’t have ended up a journalist at two Olympics if I hadn’t gotten a start volunteering abroad. Sure it doesn’t make money to start, but I viewed the $$ I put in as investing in myself and my career.

    • May 20, 2015

      Yes, absolutely. Volunteering, Peace Corps, NGOs, all those kinds of things are great career paths, too.

  • May 13, 2015

    Best article in this post its very helpful for me thanks to share this post.

  • May 14, 2015

    Oooh, I love all these alternative careers! I do also think it’s good to remember that you don’t have to have anything figured out upon graduation. A job that pays the bills is perfectly acceptable while you figure out what the hell it is you actually want to do (bonus points if you get a job in the industry that does interest you). I have to say, though, that I am a leeeeettle jealous of all my improv friends who are 18, 20, 22 years old. So much youth! So ahead of me!

    • June 24, 2015

      Girrrrrrl, I still don’t feel like I have it figured out. AT ALL.

  • May 16, 2015
    Katie Hamlin

    Thanks again for speaking with us Kristin! Your advice about alternative career options eased our senior year stress.

    -Katie (student from Feature Writing II)

    • May 20, 2015

      I hope you guys all have a great last month of college! You’re at the most exciting stage in your life. I’m a bit jealous =)

  • May 18, 2015

    Thanks again for Skyping with us! It was great to hear from an inside perspective on the Journalism field. Keep on traveling!

    – Ashley (student from Feature Writing II)

    • May 20, 2015

      Best of luck, Ashley! You’ll do great, I know it =)

  • May 18, 2015

    I get exactly what you mean! The great thing about the writing field, though, is that there is a plethora of mini fields within it and there are always options to explore if you get bored of one or another. Like you sad, though, these panics tend to come and go in short phases. Great post!

    • May 20, 2015

      Thank you! Totally agree: There’s SO much you can do with writing beyond magazines.

  • May 22, 2015

    Fantastic points Kristin & I totally agree. If you really want it, you’ll make it happen. Apart from my mum already being a globetrotter in her own right, I started my travel adventures as a summer camp person at univerisity before becoming a Project Manager in Eastern Europe. I was supposed to be out there for 6 weeks and ended up taking over, and spending 2 years. It was the best 2 year investment ever!

    • May 30, 2015

      I was a summer camp director, too! On a ranch in Arizona. Birds of a feather =)

  • May 26, 2015

    I just graduated from college with a degree of medical science and now I wanna leave it all to travel the world. Life can be so spontaneous! Btw, I love your blog!! 🙂

    • May 30, 2015

      Thank you, Gail! You could totally do something travel-related with a medical science degree! It doesn’t always have to be one or the other. I’m sure there are plenty of ways you can fuse your passions =)

    • June 9, 2015

      I did the same thing! Got my degree in International Relations and travel is the only thing on my mind! hehe I feel like it happens to the best of us. Sometimes the best education is the world 🙂 xx

  • June 9, 2015

    It’s so true that there are so many avenues to live and work abroad. Working in PR for Contiki travels would be AWESOME. I would just go on all their trips haha. The world really is changing and I love that it’s becoming more global. Also, we’re very fortunate that we can go teach English in most places of the world.

    Thanks for the post! xx

  • November 9, 2015

    I just saw this! Thanks for the shout out! Yes, it’s a dream job for sure 😉

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