What To Do When You’re Stuck in the Middle

June 14, 2010 at 1:54 am Leave a comment

I received an email the other day from a journalist who says she’s feeling increasingly “stuck” in her career, and it’s especially frustrating her as this is just the time that she should be moving forward. She has been a working journalist for about a decade, has developed good experience working for several news organizations and thinks she has the potential to make a big step (perhaps into management) but the timing just doesn’t seem right. She says she feels like she has rivals on both sides — younger, cheaper, less-experienced workers who are willing to be more flexible and have “fresher” multimedia skills, and also more senior, experienced editors with impressive resumes and a raft of good references, who in some cases are taking jobs beneath their station after a layoff or buyout.

First, let me say that professionals in both of those groups — those just starting out and more senior workers — feel like they are getting more competition from the other sides as well. But my email correspondent raises an interesting issue: What do you do when you’re in the middle — with some (say 10 years or less) experience, good credentials, dedication and ambition, but feel like you are hitting a career wall in this hotly competitive environment?

Journalists are not the only ones facing this situation. As hiring has tightened up in a number of  fields recently and more senior professionals have been willing to take jobs just to have a job, that has left those “in the middle” with fewer options and especially fewer opportunities for promotion and advancement. The rules of the career game are changing for everyone, and for those in the middle here are some tips for trying to move forward in this uncertain environment:

*Be flexible and consider lateral moves. While it’s natural to expect to seamlessly move up the career ladder to positions of increasing responsibility and pay, right now that may not be possible. Instead, early and mid-career professionals should pay a great deal of attention to the kind of assignments they’re receiving and the breadth of experience they’re developing. You want to develop a resume with depth and breadth so that when a position you’re interested in finally opens, you’re clearly qualified to do it, and a variety of experience is what will get you there. So volunteer for assignments that may not necessarily result in promotions right away but will help you attain that killer resume. Look both inside your organization as well as to other companies, especially if you’re feeling stuck.

*Think about fellowships and other short-term assignments. If you’re worried that you’re not being rewarded with interesting enough positions where you are but you don’t necessarily want to leave, see if there are other ways to develop that experience. Sometimes week- or month-long fellowships (or longer ones if you feel like you can afford to do that, or if your company would support such an endeavor) can help you burnish your resume — and give you some new, invaluable contacts — in ways that you can’t through your current position alone. Or see if you can do a job “swap” with someone in another department or in another role within your same department. This is a relatively safe way to fill out your resume and you may impress higher-ups with your initiative and willingness to help out the company by temporarily filling a key role, especially if they have been having trouble filling it otherwise.

*Get serious about developing your network and contacts. Having respected allies who will go to bat for you as you seek more responsible positions can be as — or even more — important than gaining necessary experience. Keep in touch with former colleagues and classmates, and those you have met through professional organizations so far in your career. Ask a few to serve as mentors, and seek counsel from them on how to move forward at this juncture.

*Keep the door open. Sometimes you simply must be patient and take a “long view.” You may decide that to move forward in your career you’ll need to leave your current position and go elsewhere. But you never know when they may want you back — absence can make the corporate heart grow fonder, especially if you develop other skills that become quite useful to the organization. Leave well and stay in touch. The best way to move forward in a company can be to leave it for a while.

*The famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who was voted in 2009 as the greatest coach of all time by Sporting News, had some wise career-focused philosophies, most notably to keep things in perspective. To mark his death earlier this month, glassdoor.com has put together some of Wooden’s career lessons that could be useful today:

Wooden’s Career Lessons For Today’s Workforce: Focus on Building Character, Not Reputation

*Here’s a mix of job leads — in communications, journalism and public affairs — to start off this work week:

*The American Dental Association in D.C. is looking for a senior director of public and professional communications:

Sr Director, Public & Professional Communications
relations and issues management, media training, executive communications, speechwriting, and providing… corporate communications, marketing, communications…
From RetiredBrains

*LexisNexis has an opening in D.C. for a senior director of privacy and communications:

Sr Dir Privacy & Communication – LEX002UR – Full Time
LexisNexis – Washington, DC
Senior Director Privacy and Communications, has primary responsibility for communication internally and… Strong written and verbal communication, industry…
From Jobmagic

*The Primary Group in Alexandria is hiring for a director of marketing communications:
Director of Marketing Communications
The Primary Group – Alexandria, VA
a Director of Marketing Communications to develop marketing communications and strategic programs based on… management marketing communications in a retail…
From The Primary Group

*This could be an interesting opening for a transitioning journalist or public affairs professional –Fannie Mae in D.C. has an opening for a director of regulatory and legislative oversight for the Making Homes Affordable program:
Director, Making Homes Affordabale Regulatory and Legislative Oversight
Fannie Mae – Washington, DC
for professional or technical growth through assignment, mentoring, or training. Plan and manage the unit’s budget. Approve expenditures or budget transfers…
From Fannie Mae

*Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has an opening in D.C. for an entry-level researcher/reporter — this could be a good opportunity for someone starting out in journalism:

The Kiplinger Organization, one of America’s most respected business and personal-finance publishers, located just two blocks from the White House, is seeking bright, motivated, inquisitive individuals for an entry-level research reporter position on our Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine staff. Individuals will contribute content to the magazine and Kiplinger.com Web site, and provide research and reporting assistance to writers and fact-check articles.

Applicants must have a B.A. in Journalism or related field. Excellent fact-checking, research, reporting and writing skills. Strong analytical, quantitative and communication skills.  Must be able to work well as part of a team under the pressure of deadlines. Good computer skills, including knowledge of Microsoft Excel, are essential. Familiarity with database applications is a plus.

The Kiplinger Organization, an Equal Opportunity Employer, offers excellent benefits, including 401(k) with employer contribution, health and dental coverage, along with terrific growth opportunities.

Qualified applicants should e-mail or fax cover letter, résumé and writing sample to:

Human Resources Department

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine

1729 H Street, NW

Washington, DC 20006


FAX:  202-496-1817

*The Washington Post, and washpost.com, has an opening in D.C. for an assistant editor of search and traffic:

Assistant Editor, Search and Traffic, Washington Post, Washington, DC:

The Washington Post is looking for an Assistant Editor, Search and Traffic, to help increase the reach of our content on the web. The job is an ideal position for an energetic person who understands search engines, how to analyze traffic and how to improve audience numbers and engagement. Candidates should have experience with writing and editing for the digital news cycle. The assistant editor will be tasked with broadening our web audience through search engine friendly story construction and content presentation. Specific responsibilities will include story tagging, generating relevant keywords, headline writing and updating developing stories. The job also involves cultivating and maintaining topics pages and working with reporters, editors, and producers throughout the newsroom to hone a set of best traffic garnering practices.

Solid news judgment, headline writing skills and the ability to comfortably work across a large newsroom with all sections and beats are important. Understanding story development, especially what people will be searching for next, is key. The editor will report to Search & Traffic Editor Justin Bank. The position’s hours are flexible but will primarily involve evening shifts, from about 2-10 pm, as well as some weekend duties. If you’re interested or know anyone who would be a good candidate, please contact Justin Bank, Justin.Bank@washingtonpost.com or 202-334-9569, Katharine Zaleski, zaleskik@wpost.com or Peter Perl, perlp@washpost.com by Monday, June 21, 2010.

*The Washington Post has another opening in D.C. — for an editor of On Faith:

On Faith Editor, Washington Post, Washington, DC:

The Washington Post’s On Faith has become a leading site for discussions of faith and religion, and we are looking for a seasoned journalist who has a broad and deep interest in religion to push this effort even further. We want On Faith to be the place people visit regularly, ideally every day, to learn about and discuss news related to faith and the role religion plays in Washington and beyond. And we have fairly clear and ambitious targets for 2010 including partnerships as well as looking into mobile and other opportunities. All this requires an editor who can create a compelling new edition of On Faith each day by jumping on news quickly to connect the dots, but also someone who, as part of the universal News Desk, plays an integral role in how the Post covers and displays religion/faith issues across platforms. Specifically, this editor is responsible for developing weekly panel questions and assigning, editing and illustrating dozens of original pieces of content weekly from panelists, columnists, bloggers and guest contributors. A large part of this role involves working closely with Sally Quinn, the creative force behind On Faith, Victoria Benning, who is in charge of the Saturday religion page, and Liz Tenety, who produces Divine Impulses video interviews. The On Faith editor also recruits new columnists and bloggers and corresponds regularly with dozens of other contributors.

The On Faith editor’s role also comes with responsibilities that include tweeting (at least 2-3 times a day) and updating the On Faith Facebook page. It involves using Photoshop and producing all images for the site; sending blurbs and links to home page editors as part of a consistent promotional strategy; troubleshooting technical problems; monitoring comments; working on new blog opportunities and managing traffic goals for On Faith. At a time when religion and faith, both their presence and absence, are playing an ever greater role in politics and policy, this is a critical job at the Post and a wonderful opportunity for someone who is creative, organized and entrepreneurial, and loves religion/faith as a subject area. If you are interested, please contact Sandy Sugawara, sugawaras@washpost.com, 202-334-4588, R.B. Brenner, brennerrb@washpost.com, 202-334-7461, Victoria Benning, benningv@washpost.com, 202-334-6555 or Peter Perl, perlp@washpost.com, 202-334-6188 by Monday, June 21, 2010.

*And last but not least, the following is a freelance writing opportunity with AOL’s WalletPop.com:

AOL’s personal finance site, WalletPop.com, needs an American Freelance Writer based in Europe or other time zone that would allow for easy early-morning posting in the US (5/6 am Eastern) to do news briefs and cover breaking news. Must have business news writing experience and copy editing experience, plus be able to handle some simple photo editing tasks and web publishing tasks. Please contact Beth Gladstone (beth.gladstone@corp.aol.com) with resume and links to clips. Application deadline is June 18.

Happy hunting!



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