Back in the days of sandlot baseball before parents lived vicariously through their children, we played ball every day with no adult supervision, and never an umpire. In all the years I spent on a baseball diamond, neither of my parents ever saw me play. We simply didn't want adults around, and took care of things ourselves. On many occasions there was a dispute as to whether a ball was fair or foul, whether a runner was safe or out. When nothing could be resolved, kids used the wisdom of Solomon and called for a "do-over."
In other words, the ball that may or may not have hit the foul line never happened. We'd go back in time, so to speak, and do the whole thing again.
Ah, if only we had a do-over on some of our career decisions. If only we had a time machine that allowed us to go back to that fork in the road that sent us down the wrong path.
So today I'm going to ask you to look back at your career, not forward. Even if you're looking for your first job and haven't set foot in a real newsroom.
You're going to reverse-engineer your career.
Companies do it all the time. A great invention comes out, a company assigns a bunch of geeks to take it apart and figure out how it works, then put it back together using their own components. Hence the "knock-offs" that permeate our society. Those great inventions multiply like rabbits once the reverse-engineer process is done.
How can you do this with a career that's just beginning? Well, in this case, you have to use the time machine in your mind to go forward, not back.
Start at the end, at where you'd like to end up. It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or someone with experience, just imagine where you'd like to end up. In this case, let's say it's the network.
Now, how do you get there?
Let's say you're in your first job and and two offers have just come up. The first offers a lot more money but the situation isn't very good. The News Director is a screamer and the product doesn't look all that great.
The second offer is with a station that offers a little more money, but the ND is a great guy and the station is committed to quality, with world class photogs.
Step back and reverse engineer your resume. Which of these jobs will help you get where you want to go?
A lot more money may be more appealing, but the second offer would improve the quality of your work. Which job will lead to a better third job? Which will help you end up at the network?
Look forward in time again. A network executive is looking at your tape. Does he care how much money is in your paycheck while he watches the first package, or is he only concerned with the quality of your work?
Looking back in time from the future (I know, it sounds like a wild sci-fi movie) is a way to reverse-engineer your career. When making decisions, try to think long-term. Which jobs will get you where you want to go, and which moves are made out of desperation to change your situation?
Trust me, I wish I had a do-over on some of my career decisions. Too many times my "get me the hell out of here" attitude only landed me in another circle of hell.
Look forward, then look back.