Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What I learned in 1993

I graduated from Michigan State with a journalism degree in 1993. I wanted to write about entertainment – film in particular. I worked at the largest college newspaper in the US at that time and we won the Pacemaker award when I was there, which is kind of the equivalent of a Pulitzer for college papers. And I was (and still am) a good writer. And when I graduated, I made $5/hour in reporter positions for the next three years. It sucked.

Here is where my troubles with the Boomer mindset started. Many Boomer editors (all that I came in contact with) said you had to have “hard news” experience (i.e. covering murders, court cases, etc) in order to get a job as an entertainment journalist. I do not have the stomach for that kind of work. I was a good entertainment journalist. But this did not matter. I needed hard news experience. I still think this is ridiculous, because entertainment reporting and murder coverage are two different animals.

I still would apply for newspaper entertainment writing jobs. I even got an interview at the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for an entertainment writing job. They had me critique their entertainment section as part of the interview. They used all my ideas and then hired a Boomer with “hard news” experience.

In 1993, the web was not what it is today. And I could not afford a computer on $5/hour. If it were 2008, I would have just started blogging. But there were no blogs then.

So the first thing I learned in 1993 was that a set of rules were in place. If they didn’t make sense – oh well. And you couldn’t get the cool job unless you suffered first – talent was not really all that important.

The second thing I learned in 1993 was that working in an office was a lot like going to high school. And this startled me. I had just come out of four years at a really cool Big 10 school where “you could be you” and people were very accepting. The work world was very “political” (which in high school we called being in a “clique”), you were treated like a child (big brother was constantly looking over your shoulder), and you were judged on behavior-related issues rather than outcomes (at work that meant time at the desk, in high school that meant sitting quietly while your teacher pontificated).

Even though I did not know I was a member of Generation X at the time, this is where the framework for my stealth behavior at work started. This is where I started to learn how to take a beating and how I could quietly get what I wanted. But it was only the start. It took me years before I was actually able to be a successful stealth operator.

My regular readers do not have to worry that I will be writing blog entries about my career for each year since 1993. My plan is to pick a few significant years – and 1993 was one of them.


Unknown said...

Ah, 1993.

I was 18, a freshman in college, and cynical. I had never heard of Starbucks. I believed in Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Those. Were. The. Days.

Anonymous said...

You're story sounds all too common to me. In 1993, after having graduated with honors from the Honors Program at Eastern Michigan University, I was working in a B. Dalton's bookstore in the mall. Which was cool since I was headed to grad school in the fall. But it was a job I couldn't seem to get until I had a bachelors degree. And while my manager was cool, some of the district managers that worked out of the store where I was employed really jerked me around when I transferred stores so that I could have a job while getting my MFA. It was classic Boomer manipulation. Luckily, after one year I got a assistantship and told em to bite me.