Ask the Coach

Just another Freedom Forum Diversity Institute weblog

Stagnant and Conflicted


Dear Coach,

I am a photojournalist at a small paper in the Northeast and have been on the job for six months. For a while, I could feel and see my work improving weekly, if not daily. But lately, I’ve felt stagnant, as if nothing I do pushes the limits. A recent rash of layoffs has left everyone with more daily stories to cover and virtually no time to work on enterprise. I always get a usable shot for the paper, but rarely do I have a day where I look at my published work and think, “This is one for the portfolio.” Do you have any advice for how to push through such periods? Is it too soon to start trying to get another job? I’m a little conflicted. – Needs a Boost

Dear Boost,

Unfortunately, your situation is classic. So many people wonder How can I improve if there isn’t any time to improve? In my view, the best way out is to identify a few stories you want to work on. They can be anything, from the anatomy of a heart transplant to harvesting blueberries to a Wiccan celebration in the woods. Just make sure that whatever you choose is something you love. Then, do the story, but on your own time: weekends, nights, down time. Do the shots for your portfolio. Create the excellence you want to see. If the stories are relevant to the paper’s mission, then maybe you can pitch them as galleries. (You don’t need to tell people you’ve been working on them on your own. That’s your business.) Even if the paper doesn’t run them, or you choose not to pitch them, you will have them in your portfolio.

It is never too early to start keeping your eyes out for places you might want to work. I’d be careful, though, of bolting for the sake of bolting. That would leave you in a similar situation in a new place, and get you a line on your resume that said you had stayed in a job for only six months. That’s something you want to avoid because it might come back to haunt you when you’re applying for your “real” job. So be judicious in the looking.

Most important, don’t let your circumstances get you so down that you grow discouraged. That will affect your attitude and your work. Find your own time to be excellent. You have nothing to lose but sleep.

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