This is a Young Professional Advice from Friends post written by Jeff Vrabel at jeffvrabel.com. YPAF is a collection of voices from different ages, places and industries to share advice on starting off and being twenty.
Awful nice of Katie to ask me for a guest post on this blog, despite the obvious discrepancy that this a blog about young professionals and I’m a quote-fingers humor and features writer who hasn’t qualified as young in a good, good long while. (My son’s answer when asked how many gray hairs I have: “Thousands,” he replied thoughtfully. “Possibly more.”)
Moreover, most my twenties were spent in a field that doesn’t really exist anymore: what history textbooks will one day refer to as “newspapers.” Fresh out of school and toting both a journalism and English degree, because I decided at a very early age that I never wanted to make any money at anything ever, I fell into a series of copy editing and page-design jobs at fine papers for people I liked very much. It was fun, because newspaper tended (and still tend) to draw a particular brand of sarcastic, slightly off-kilter personality type that I like very much. They just don’t draw, how do you say, advertisers anymore, and that’s why I spent my twenties doing something that, it became clear in my early thirties, I needed to bail out of with extreme haste.
The good news, though, is that working in newspapers afforded a chance for a marginally talented skinny idiot a chance to do all sorts of different things, and if I had any advice for someone in their twenties, other than to change your name on Facebook to something else, right now, something weird and impenetrable and Norweigan probably, it’d be to do that. Try stuff. Throw yourself into different fields. Sample and practice. This may be sheer survivalism, as even back in the early 2000s when the foundations or newspapers and print journalism began to crack and shatter, but I always felt more comfortable knowing that if it came to it, I could edit, write, design, whatever. I tried to establish what I guess indigestible conferences and over-wordy LinkedIn profiles would call a “diverse skill set”; I looked at it more like being able to say I could do some other stuff if they eliminated my job.
The bonus was that those extra things were fun: I found myself reviewing concerts, interviewing musicians, lucking into trips and shows and screenings and free stuff. And over time, I’ve tried to turn what used to be my side job — writing, the thing I did on the side at the papers — into something closer to my full-time work. So I guess, if time and schedule and finances allow, use that time to audition all sorts of jobs and skills until you find the one that you know you should be doing every day. And change your name on Facebook.
Jeff Vrabel is a writer, editor, Springsteen obsessive, very slow runner and graying dad whose writing has appeared in Men’s Health, Billboard, Paste, Brucespringsteen.net, Rolling Stone, the Chicago Sun-Times, Nickelodeon’s NickMom.com and several angry Neil Diamond message boards, because wow can those people not take a joke. A former Hoosier and Chicagoan, he now lives on Hilton Head with his wife and two sons; the older just stole bacon off your plate and the younger has been personally approved by Bruce Springsteen (long story). Find him at the cleverly named jeffvrabel.com or http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.