What do you do for a living and how did this career first come about for you?
When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually just say that I’m a writer. But really, I do so much more than simply write up stories. I craft narratives that highlight the best in people, and I love finding stories of triumph and inspiration.
As a college student, I had never considered journalism as a career. It was actually my twin sister who convinced me to give it a shot. I was in my second year of college—with no declared major. My sister told me how she thought I was a great writer and then encouraged me to start taking journalism classes. From the first course, I absolutely loved it. And I realized my sis was right; I had a knack for writing and a love for storytelling.
Most recently I was senior editor for an industry publication and spent much of my time connecting with business leaders and identifying trends of the trade. Most of my career, however, has been in TV news as a writer or producer for several outlets, including NBC and CNN. I’ve also been a fashion editor for the whimsical, online lifestyle publication, Cotton Candy Magazine. With each position, I feel like I get more in tune with people’s desires, needs and stories, and I’m able to tell each story even better with every passing year.
What have you learned about yourself by following this particular career path? Anything surprising?
That’s an interesting question because I feel like I’m just starting to learn who I am as a journalist. When you’re young, at least in my experience, lots of people tend to tell you which direction you should take in a career. I think, over the years, I’ve learned to follow my heart and talents. It’s great to listen to others who care about you, but ultimately, you have to choose a career path that’s the best for you. I’m learning to listen to my heart and follow my gut instincts.
What aspect of your work is most meaningful to you and why? Has this changed over time?
Inspiring people with the stories of others is the most meaningful aspect of my work. I receive innumerable pitches for possible stories every day. But I usually cover the inspiring narratives that will encourage others and that simply translate into powerful stories. Of course, making a living is important, too. That’s just reality. So I think the best jobs are the ones that enable you to do what you love, and then get paid for it. When I first started as a journalist, I was more focused on establishing a successful career—which, back then, meant money and prestige to me. But over time, I learned to put people first, both in my personal and professional life. My work comes out more meaningful and impactful, and then, as a result, my career has grown.
What do you wish you knew about work when you were first beginning your career (or even when you were a young girl)?
I wish that I knew that there’s no such thing as a linear path, career or personal. Each career is made up of unique twists and turns. That’s what makes everyone’s story so interesting; no two stories are alike. I would tell my 10-year-old self that I don’t have to have everything figured out by 30, 40, 50, or even 60 years old. And I would say enjoy the journey.
Do you have any advice for young people thinking about work?
I would encourage anyone, young or old, to look at your talents to find a career. Be open to learning something new. Don’t expect a linear career path; the detours are half of the fun. Always look to grow. Be willing to accept unexpected change. And always, always look to give back.
Photos courtesy of Natasha Smith, who can be found on Twitter.
A version of this interview first appeared on the website HAPPY AND HEARTWORKING on October 31, 2014.