Always have a plan

This is me in front of my new workplace, the Wisconsin Trade Center in Middleton, which houses my new employer, Filbrandt and Company, among other businesses.

This is me in front of my new workplace, the Wisconsin Trade Center in Middleton, which houses my new employer, Filbrandt and Company, among other businesses.


There is an old saying that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I’m not sure that’s true 100 percent of the time, but in my case, it has proven to be a huge factor in what appears to be at least a successful first step in a career change at a later stage of life.

I was blessed to be raised in a family that owned a community newspaper business. I was also blessed to have some of the innate skills and talents that lent themselves to success in that business. Through my career in the newspaper business, my sister and I started a publication from scratch, I achieved the position of executive editor of a 13-publication chain, and later I was editor-in-chief of a 70,000-circulation publication that received 60 awards for journalism excellence in just a three-year period. I was really good at that profession.

But in 2006, the owner of that multi-award-winning publication that started from scratch about three years earlier decided that his financial losses were too much to endure, and he closed the business. That was the third time in five years I had been laid off from top positions in newspaper companies due to financial considerations, not my level of performance.

And it was at that point that it hit me like a ton of bricks: There was no way to stay in the print publication business in the newsroom and make it successfully to retirement. Sure, the economy was difficult, but there was an even bigger factor in play, and that was the cultural shift to consuming news via computer and on mobile devices rather than via paper.

The number of people of all ages who are reading newspapers daily has declined substantially in the new millennium. And the decline was in progress long before that. Those of you are age 30 or under, or around people of that age, ask yourself: When was the last time I picked up a newspaper or saw someone in that age range pick up a newspaper? The folks who ARE reading papers are aging, and as they pass on, there is no young audience to replace them.

After the third layoff in five years, I told Angela Klein — to whom I was not yet married, but we knew we would be at some point — that I would not be looking for work in the newspaper business. Instead, I would be looking in digital, which I had some experience in at my previous workplaces (I had built websites for two newspaper companies and for myself). But, I learned over the next few months that employers in the Cincinnati area who were trying to fill web-related positions were not looking for someone whose entire career had been spent in print newspapers.

During that job search period, I turned to what I knew to bridge the gap, and that was working as a freelance general assignment reporter at the Cincinnati/Kentucky Post, which was in the final stages of its own shut-down. I would go in to their large newsroom to talk to the managing editor about assignments, and it would be empty. They were down at that point to using freelancers who would not require benefits.

After six months on the full-time job search in the Cincinnati area with no success, I told Angela that we needed to take the job search national, meaning there was a chance we’d have to leave Cincinnati, Ohio and the Midwest. A headhunter linked us up with the fine people at the Tyler Morning Telegraph daily newspaper in Tyler, Texas, who were in the midst of a major expansion of their web properties and looking for a web editor. It was a chance to use my editorial skills almost exclusively on the web. Angela and I made a visit there, and accepted the position before we came back to Cincinnati.

As we moved to a digital news platform in a new state, I had a plan. While we were in Tyler, I would learn everything I could learn about how people conduct business digitally, leveraging my news management and editorial skills in the process. I had the extreme good fortune to work directly with Bret McCormick, who hired me and proved to be a visionary in terms of what people would respond to on digital.

I also created my own side business, Expert Online Business Solutions, to provide web services like website hosting, e-mail and marketing to private clients. I still have a couple of clients back in Whitehouse, Texas, including the Whitehouse Chamber of Commerce. I also learned some invaluable lessons about online marketing from my association with Team Tissa and its many members who I remain in contact with today primarily via Facebook. And, I learned how to become a book author published on Amazon and Kindle.

Probably the biggest change I made in my skill set while in Texas was learning digital video production skills, which I put to work for and later to help and build their video libraries numbering into the thousands of segments. (And here’s one of my personal favorites, done for an Internet marketing business op. — caution: some language may be offensive to some. 😉 )

So the plan was for my position in Tyler to be my bridge job out of the newspaper industry. When Angela got a wonderful opportunity here in Madison, Wisconsin, in August, it was time for me to jump off the bridge. The plan once we got here was to do whatever kind of work I needed to do until I found that full-time position, and for the past couple of months I have been working 20 hours per week as a social media evaluator for a company that contracts with the second-largest website in the world, which shall remain nameless here for the purposes of fulfilling my contractual agreement with them. The remaining hours were spent checking job listings, applying for communications related positions, and going on the occasional interview.

Finally, lo and behold, after a second interview with Filbrandt and Company of nearby Middleton, I received a job offer and will begin Monday. My position will be as a media specialist, focusing on primarily digital media including e-mail marketing, social media and video. When that offer came in November 24 at 6 p.m., it represented the successful end of a journey based on a plan that was conceived early in 2006.

The point of all of this is to share that there was a positive result to a plan that took nearly a decade to come to fruition. So my advice to everyone, no matter your age, is to know what you want your career to be, and to know how you need to get there. And don’t be impatient when it might take a little longer than you may have expected. 🙂

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