While cleaning out my Google Drive this past month, I stumbled on the oldest document in there — my going-away column from the Morris Daily Herald, dated April 2010.
Things were a bit frustrating back then for a kid with big aspirations and the desperate need to move out of his parent’s house.
This column has been two years in the making. Over that time, I’ve had plenty of great topic ideas. After all, driving 68 miles a day (350 miles a week, 1360 miles a month) gives you a lot of time to think.
Strangely, I now find myself speechless and unsure where to start. The beginning, I suppose, would be best.
Although, there is a second side to this story. I’ll have to save that one for another day.
At some point during the spring semester of my junior year of college, I realized there wasn’t much money to be made in journalism. At that point, it was too late to turn back — my degree was nearly complete. Perhaps if I found the right internship, maybe I could move into public relations.
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one to think that. Right now public relations specialists outnumber journalists 4-to-1. That number should make you cringe.
A year later I found myself in a tough spot. Having no internship on my resume, I went into the College of Communications career fair praying for a miracle. There was only one newspaper looking to fill a position. I was the last person to approach their booth that day.
This particular newspaper was looking for a full-time photographer. To my benefit, there was only one photographer graduating from the University of Illinois that year: Me.
Three weeks later, the Morris Daily Herald extended me a job offer and I was counting my lucky stars.
Of course, the MDH was still a “small daily” and couldn’t count on their recent college grad to stay too long. I told them at least two years — maybe even three. Those two years passed and, sure enough, it was evident that I could only grow so much here.
My first round of job applications garnered some early success. The first interview I entered actually resulted in a job offer. “My streak continues!” I remember thinking to myself — I had never been turned down for a job in my life at this point.
But the salary offer was too low and I kept looking. The Rockford, IL, paper was interested in me, but I wasn’t interested in Rockford. Two staffing agencies had me come in for Web positions. One was at a life insurance agency — not exactly my forte — while the other was for a graphics design company near the O’hare airport. In retrospect, I would have liked to look into that a little more.
Unfortunately, this was right around the same time the country realized we were in a recession.
Months went by without positions that fit my interests.
My new career choice — web design — was being described as a “sexy profession.” I first interpreted that to mean when I said “I’m a web designer” at a bar, that I’d be going home with a phone number. Now I realize it meant that nerds (like me) all drooled over the idea of coding a web site — flooding the applicant pool.
I had one great interview at the University of Chicago — only to be turned down because “your career aspirations don’t seem to line up with what we can offer you.” That was a rough pill to swallow.
Another interview was at one of the top companies for recent graduates to work at in Chicago. They helped high school athletes and college recruiters find each other. I made it into the second round, yet it seemed one of their vice-presidents didn’t know exactly what he was hiring me for. I felt as if I was an experiment.
It was now two years into my job search. I had probably send out over 200 job applications.
Ready to concede defeat, I started focusing on side projects and looked for apartments in Morris.
That was when the Northwest Herald called.
A position had opened up. They wanted me.
This, the largest paper in our company, would be a terrific step. I’d keep my benefits. I’d work with people I know. I’d be able to make a difference.
It took a lot of restraint not to run around the building after I received my offer.
Perseverance and patience — that’s what this run has taught me. Although I can’t compare my search to those who are currently out of a job. There are plenty of people in this area who have to weigh tough choices every day.
To the college grads out there, who have nowhere to go, stay strong. You’ll find something, although it may not have been what you were looking for.
As for me, on April 16 I will say goodbye to the Morris Daily Herald and Grundy County. Mark your calendars, because I’m going out with a bang.
Adam Nekola will be the staff photographer at the Morris Daily Herald for another 15 days.
Looking back at this column, I’m so thankful I have this to recall the tough job market and the work I put in to become marketable.
My luck turned around since those two years. From the Northwest Herald, I send one job application to the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., and created a small bidding war between them and the Sun Times News Group.
After Pew, FiscalNote actually created a position for me, acknowledging that someone with my background would be a great asset.
Little did ’06 Adam know, but his career would turn out just fine.