When I moved to Traverse City in 1970, I had a master’s degree and years of experience but I couldn’t find a job. Desperate to pay the rent, I followed up on a “Gal Friday” position at the local newspaper.
Nobody would use that term today, but back then it described a kind of all-purpose assistant on the bottom rung of the organization. “Reading proofs, delivering proofs,” the advertising director told me. “You know you’re overqualified.” I knew but I needed the work.
Turns out, I also loved the work, the newspaper business—making friends with the typesetters and the merchants. Soon, I was hassling the publisher to let me write book reviews. “Okay, write a couple and I’ll have a look,” he said. A few months later, he invited me to write a personal column.
“Sure,” I said and started writing a weekly essay about my life. Three years later, I left the newspaper to have a baby but I kept writing my column—for 30 years. When my daughter was in school, I decided to re-enter the workforce and I started at the bottom again, filling in for somebody at the college who was on maternity leave. By the time she came back, I had earned my own job.
So, my career advice is to start at the bottom. If you’re good, you’ll move up fast—and you’ll know everything.