Michaels: Prioritizing your career even before graduation

Sylent Lee Michales stands with John Quiñones (in the center) and Gianna Malgieri (to the right). - Copy Editor / Sylent Lee Michaels

I spent my weekend in Washington D.C. at Media Fest 22, a journalism convention, and I want to share my experience. But I do not want to sit here and talk about all the fun I had over this weekend. I rather share the importance of taking a risk for something you are passionate about. 

With Halloween being my favorite holiday and the conference taking place during “HalloWeekend,” I was conflicted about giving up my favorite weekend of the year. I asked myself, “Do I cancel all of my HalloWeekend plans and take a risk for my career or do I stay home, in Glassboro, and celebrate my favorite holiday?” 

Making the decision to cancel all of my HalloWeekend plans was not easy, but I decided to take a leap for something I was passionate about — and scared of. 

To go anywhere new is an exciting experience and holds lessons in many different ways, and a love for travel is certainly a beneficial trait to have as a journalist. But to visit the capital of the United States is a captivating experience. The architecture is magnificent and the restaurants and parks are a whole other experience on their own. Even if you aren’t taking a chance on your career or passions, take a trip. And especially, try and make it a point to visit Washington D.C. It is worth the experience

Now, let’s dive into why taking that risk for what you are passionate for or what your career will be, is so incredibly important – and worth it. 

What if you had the chance to meet people who made remarkable changes within the world of your passion, whether it be your favorite artist, director, spokesperson, comedian or writer? What if you had the chance to hear your heroes or idols speak to you, roughly 50 to 100 feet from you? And what if you could have the chance to meet one of those people you admire?

Taking this opportunity to go to this event in Washington gave me this chance. I was able to meet and take pictures with well-known, established journalists who have worked so hard to not only be where they are but to change the world of journalism. 

In journalism classes, you learn about a little event known as the Watergate scandal in which two young journalists sought long and hard to get information on members of President Nixon’s campaign who had taken part in a unique robbery. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward tackled this case with pure dedication and lots of long, late nights. They inspired many journalists to work hard to get what they needed for their stories. Even if you are not a journalist, there are takeaways for all through these men’s work — and that is to work hard and never give up on what it is you’re working towards. 

And I got to meet Carl Bernstein, shake his hand and get his signature. Along with this, I had the joy of learning about John Quiñones’ tough upbringing and perseverance in his career — and then got to meet him and take a photo with him! In these moments, I felt pure joy for the passion I feel in my career journey. 

You never know what meeting someone you look up to can do for you or how it will make you feel. Take those risks and go out of your comfort zone, you never know who you may meet and where it will take you. 

I met a woman who was offering Tarot readings, but the beauty of our interaction wasn’t in the cards but in the thoughts we shared. A freelance journalist named Sergy Odiduro, sat with me and gave me life advice. Never did I think I’d be sharing my life story with a random woman in a place where I was meant to meet and learn about fellow journalists. It was refreshing, and everyone can use a life talk here and there. 

Additionally, you never know what you may learn. Anywhere in life, there are opportunities to learn something fascinating, and as the saying goes, “you learn something new every day.” Jumping at a leap of faith to go out of your way to do more for what you love can teach you so much. 

I even found a new journalist to admire and idolize. Ernie Pyle, who lived from 1900 to 1945 captured war in such a way that no other has. With detail and passion, he described the men at war and the conditions they experienced. Pyle was killed during the war while reporting on these men and it touched my heart. It made me want to share his story, memorialize his accomplishments and learn to write in his style to keep what he did alive. Learning about Ernie Pyle changed my views as a journalist and gave me a new challenge to tackle in my work. 

My hope here is that sharing my experiences with other journalists can inspire people to take charge in their life and take risks outside of the normal comfort of their day to learn something new and meet new people. Take that leap of faith.

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