I once read that highly successful people not only make mistakes, but they welcome them. Successful people don’t fear mistakes, or try to circumvent them, or endeavour to hide them when they inevitably happen.
I think this idea extends beyond just the successful. Ask anyone what instances or experiences have spurred the biggest growth in their life – be it professional or personal – and I bet you most of the stories they will tell you will fall under the umbrella of “mistakes.”
So far in my life, my biggest “mistake” was a job I held for just three months. I took on a role in social media content creation. It was a job that I hated from day one. I went home in tears each day. It was a job that caused me so much anxiety that I would have panic attacks on Sunday afternoons and on the way to work. A job that was so far from what I wanted to ‘do.’ A job that didn’t align with who I wanted to ‘be.’ Each and every day I would ask myself – how did I end up here? How did I end up in such a toxic environment?
As a journalism intern I visited a lot of workplaces, but I had never come across a place as toxic as this. A place where colleagues treated each other as competitors. A place where to put someone down earned you brownie points. Not to mention the whole pointlessness of the work I was doing. ‘Influencer strategy,’ click bait, Instagram followers, as a journo it all meant nothing to me.
I guess that’s the magic of working in construction- you get to make a mark on the landscape of the world. It wasn’t until I started this mistake of a job that I realised I wanted to do the same, in my own way. Why did it take me so long to realise it?
My story isn’t that unique. I grew up quite comfortably. I have parents who support me, no matter how ridiculously unrealistic my goals and dreams may be. I did well at school, and achieved a great ATAR. And like many other high school graduates, I chose to pursue tertiary education in a field that interested me. I wasn’t concerned with the jobs market, or salary or what I wanted to ‘do’ for the rest of my life, I just knew I wanted to write.
Unlike my hazardous attempts at sewing, science and basically ANY ball sport, writing always came effortlessly to me. At high school, I enjoyed analysing the literary greats – classical writers like Homer and Herodotus, romantic poets like Blake and Keats, early feminist writers like Dickinson and Plath. I never expected to become a writer of classic-section caliber – nor do I now – but I knew I wanted to tell stories. So journalism it was.
I trod through my three-year degree. Note my use of the word ‘trod’ here, because it was a real, laborious, effort. Whether I was stepping in front of the camera, reading news bulletins on live radio or interning with real, legit news organisations, I felt like an imposter. I was, and I still am, small, squeaky and young looking. I had no idea who the UN Secretary-General was, or the name of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, or how to pronounce Myanmar, or to put on a ‘journalist’ voice (you know, that big, bombastic, baritone voice that is truly impossible for a young woman to recreate without sounding like a dickhead). I wouldn’t have been able to tell you then, but I was absolutely lost. I started my course naively thinking there was going to be a place for me in print journalism, when there was hardly even a place for veteran journalists.
Long before I started my degree, traditional print journalism had been fighting a global ‘crisis’ that threatened its survival. Newspapers had been hit by the perfect storm of threats surrounding its business model, including the decline in circulation and advertising revenue, the rise of online news outlets and the fundamental shifts in user behaviour.
Somewhat ironically, just now as I am writing this, I have learnt that Fairfax plans to reduce their editorial budget by another $30m, mainly by slashing more jobs (this follows the loss of 100 journalism jobs at the same company last year). What does all this mean for a small, squeaky journalism graduate? Less entry-level roles? Fewer opportunities to squeeze your foot through the door? Insane competitiveness between graduates? Panic.
Feeling defeated, ironically before I had even started my career, I took that role in social media creation. I told myself it was a logical step forward in the digital age of news distribution and production. So, temporarily, I was shelving my journalistic values of truth and accuracy to go work in a sales-driven environment. I was playing the role of a marketer: writing to sell instead of writing to inform. All for the sake of steady employment and a paragraph on my CV. How was it so easy for me to give up on my dream – before I had even started?
Perhaps I could blame societal expectations. I can’t tell you how many times during my job hunt I was told just get a job – any job – especially in this current climate. Don’t look greedy, or ungrateful. Don’t be one of those millennials that expects the world without working for it.
I could even blame the education system. A system, which reduces students to mere numbers on a factory line: primary school, secondary school, tertiary education, and employment. There was no time for failure, no time for self-discovery. Just get a high score and pass through to the next phase.
I could blame my university. According to the latest research, current graduates are facing the worst job prospects in a quarter of a century. Why didn’t my university provide graduates with support? Why wasn’t I prepared for the tough job market?
Or maybe, there’s no one but myself to blame? Before taking on this job, I allowed myself to be consumed by fear of failure. I feared not getting a job within a year of graduating. I feared what people thought if I held onto my ‘dream’ for too long. I feared that I was still an imposter. It was easier to give up than to start.
I think that as a society, when we think of success, we naturally zero the desired outcome. We tend to gloss over what it takes to get there. We forget about the tears, the pain, the rejection, the mistakes, the crappy awful jobs and the huge massive fuck-ups. I have to remember that each and every mistake or misstep works to redirect me toward more constructive pathways.
So, to my employer of a mere three months, thank you. Without you, I wouldn’t be stumbling down my own pathway to print journalism. Albeit, the path of journalism may not be steady, well inclined and smooth (or as Instagrammable), but by accepting this, and being open to the mistakes I am set to make, I know I will find my way.
Illustrations by Chelcie Schirrman
We both read one of Benita’s first blog posts when she started her own blogging journey, and we knew we had to ask her to write a guest piece for us. For such a fresh, young thing, her mind is full of wise words and witticisms. She has that lovely power to translate observations with the flick of a keyboard. A skill that comes with the territory.
We’ve all questioned our dreams at times. Questioned our ability and motivation to set out on a path, which may be doomed to fail. What’s important to remember is that it’s not always the goal that is the most important, but the journey along the way (cliched, we know!) We wish Benita all the best for the path that lies ahead. Pop across to her blog site! She is one to follow.