Switching Careers: leaving journalism for greener pastures
Welcome news for Russell Scott Smith, who was on the hunt for a stable profession after the volatility of journalism. He and Nathan Cooper, a magazine editor turned Foreign Service Officer, share their stories about changing career paths.
Russell Smith: following family tradition
Russell Scott Smith was living the New York dream. He was writing for prestigious publications like New York magazine and Salon after leaving the New York Post in 2006. Flash forward two years: he entered the University of Bridgeport's Internship Program to become a high school teacher.
What happened? Smith and his wife were expecting a son and when he decided to reenter the job market in 2008, the Great Recession hit and decimated journalism.
"I was applying to marketing and journalism jobs right to the moment I went to Bridgeport," he said in a telephone interview with WalletPop. "It was a grudging thing. I had been a journalist for a long time and thought I would do it forever. But it was time for some stability. Now, I am really happy about this. It feels like my calling."
For all of last year, Smith, who came from a family of educators, was a substitute teacher at Norwalk High School in Connecticut during the day and took classes at night to become a certified teacher. While he didn't earn a salary during the year, his tuition to the University of Bridgeport was paid for by the Norwalk school district.
The gamble of living off his savings and getting financial help from his family paid off. He was just hired by the high school to teach English to sophomores and seniors even as school districts around the country are warning of layoffs.
"Think long-term," advised Smith, now 41. "At the moment, it's tight but I read some stories that in four to five years, there will be a lot of openings because baby boomers will be retiring. But you should only do it because you like it. You are dealing with children and you have to like children."
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in German in 1995, Nathan Cooper thought he had found his calling as a writer and editor. Then the recession came and the magazine publishing world was changed forever.
Prodded that fall of 2008 by the economic tumult, Cooper, editor of C, a design and lifestyle magazine about California, took stock of his long-term plans and decided on a path that will take him far from the Golden State.
"I was active in the Obama campaign's volunteer base and found myself lingering on his calls for all Americans to find ways to contribute to society in meaningful ways," he explained in an e-mail to WalletPop. "As I assessed my work and life goals, particularly looking for a pursuit with a strong element of service, I realized that many of the skills I had acquired in publishing were relevant to the work of a Foreign Service Officer, specifically one working in the realm of public diplomacy."
Cooper, now 36, heads to Washington, D.C. in July for training and an assignment after a grueling 18-month process, which included passing the Foreign Service Exam, a thorough security clearance investigation and an all-day, in-person oral assessment.
"Stock up on patience," advised Cooper. "The road to the Foreign Service is long and can have a few curves, but just focus on enjoying the process."