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Last week I jetted to New Orleans for a journalism conference and then zoomed to Chicago for a blogger’s conference. After seeing these two groups back-to-back, I had a huge “A-Ha!” moment. I figured out why one group is beating the pants off the other.
You see, there’s incredible pessimism in journalism circles: everyone’s crying about the lack of jobs. And there’s enormous optimism in the blogger community: everyone’s celebrating the zillion ways to launch a career writing online.
But why? Why this difference in worldview, given that journalists are the BEST candidates for becoming paid writers (they’re professionally trained, for Pete’s sake!)
It’s overly simplistic — and wrong — to write off journalists as cynics or technophobes. There has to be a deeper explanation, and this week I think I found it.
Journalists see the world through the eyes of an employee. Bloggers see the world through the eyes of an entrepreneur.
I know, I’m generalizing. But in this next story I think you’ll see why.
The Employee Mindset
On my first day at the journalism conference in New Orleans, a man in his mid-50’s approached me. Our conversation went like this:
Me: What do you do?
Him: I’m a journalism professor, so I’m lucky — I have a job for life. But none of my students can find jobs. They’re bright, hardworking kids, but they’re stuck delivering pizzas.
Me: Oh. That’s a shame.
Him: It’s a real shame. The internet took away all the jobs. No one subscribes to the paper anymore.
Him: If Craigslist hadn’t destroyed all our classified ad revenue, it’d be a different story today.
Me: Hmmm. Different, yes.
Him: So what do you do?
Me: I’m self-employed. I’m a freelancer.
Him: Oh, I’m sorry. What do you want to do?
Me: Um, excuse me?
Him: Another shame. Talented professionals being forced to freelance because there are no jobs.
Okay, let’s pause for a second to read between the lines. Can you spot his worldview in his words? This man is terrified. He wants someone else to hand him a job — the more stable, the better. If no one can provide a steady job, he feels hopeless. He doesn’t know what else to do.
There’s nothing wrong with having a job. The problem is conceptualizing yourself as “stuck delivering pizzas” when no one else creates a job for you.
Having an “employee mindset” is different than being an employee. Loads of employees have entrepreneurial mentalities — and that’s precisely what makes them such great workers. They understand their bosses’ perspective.
They’re also happier at work. Their job satisfaction comes from their confidence that if they got laid off tomorrow, they could fend for themselves.
But this guy isn’t confident. He’s insecure — that’s why he wants job security so badly. He doesn’t believe in himself. He wants other people — smarter, richer, and probably better-looking people — to create a job and bestow it upon him.
You disempower yourself when you believe that someone else must create your job. This man’s words are a window into his demoralized worldview:
- “The internet took away all the jobs.”
- “being forced to (Do XYZ — deliver pizzas, freelance) because there are no jobs.”
- “I’m lucky — I have a job for life.”
The internet took away all the jobs? Are you freakin’ serious? That shows a serious lack of imagination. If you love your job, that’s fantastic. But please, please, don’t ever sell yourself short by doubting your power to create your own job.
So when the man lamented that no one is hiring, here’s What I Should Have Said:
“I’m not forced to freelance because I can’t find work. I choose to freelance because that’s where the hottest opportunities are. I’m actually the rare journalist who wasn’t laid off — I voluntarily quit my newspaper job. I quit 8 months after I got a promotion and a $10,000 raise. Oh, and I loved my job. Loved my colleagues in the newsroom. Loved my boss. Quit anyway. Now I make more money AND have more free time than I did before.”
Of course, here’s What I Actually Said: Hmmm. (Smile. Nod.)
The Entrepreneur Mindset
The bloggers I met in Chicago highlighted the entrepreneurial mentality. They showed imagination. Not a single person there would ever utter the words “The internet took away all the jobs” or “I’m forced to deliver pizzas.”
Of course, a lot of bloggers have full-time day jobs. That’s not the point. The point is that they embody a grab-the-reins worldview. They’re not motivated by fear; they’re motivated by opportunity.
I delivered a one-hour speech at the New Orleans journalism conference about how to manage money without a steady paycheck. At the end of my talk, I parted with these words of encouragement:
“Ignore the pessimists who say journalism is dead. It’s never been more alive.
Journalists are storytellers. Throughout history, people who have wanted to tell stories only had one option: work for someone else. He gets the profit; you get a paycheck.
Now, for the first time in history — thanks to the internet — we can take the reins. We’re not forced to climb the corporate ladder. We can build rungs underneath. We create a website and use it to fast-track our careers into book deals and speaking engagements. Or we can be like Rafat Ali, a journalist who launched the news website PaidContent in 2002 and sold it 6 years later for $30 million. He loves his work, so he continues to work there as an editor.
This is the first time in history that we have freedom and control. This is the first time in history we have the potential for a big payout. This is the BEST time in history to become a storyteller.”
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