Job Hop How-To: My Move from Print Journalist to Digital Editor

By Erin Erickson
ASBPE Chicago Board Member

Photo: Erin EricksonI recently left a print-centric job at a large B2B publisher.

I was good at my job but it was mostly print; I didn’t want to become a journalism dinosaur so I started to find as many digital opportunities as I could. The ASBPE blogs were one outlet; digital freelance projects were another.

When I started walking into editorial meetings I wouldn’t just think about the head and deck, I would also imagine the online possibilities.

My boss could see I was really eager to do more in the digital forum but unfortunately my workload and my job responsibilities couldn’t sustain that of a digital managing editor.

So I shopped my resume around to different publishers. I wasn’t blatant about it and often would send my resume to see if I might be wait-listed for any future digital positions.

And then one of the companies I sent my resume to called me back. After what felt like a dozen interviews later, I bid adieu to my print job and started fresh as a digital editor for a smaller B2B publisher.

My first couple of weeks felt like a hazing ritual deemed appropriate for print-to-digital editors — Please post this with proper coding and image sourcing, please update the front page of the website, please add this multimedia presentation, etc. I knew how to do it but I was a little rusty with my HTML.

Once I started coming into meetings with online ideas that my bosses and bosses’ bosses liked, I felt like I’d made a good decision to move to digital. I even remembered how to code and finally started to feel like I was on top of things again. This transition — from a print role to a digital role — has prompted me to think of what skills I’ve found most beneficial. I’m sharing them with anyone who’s considering making a similar move:

  • Be passionate about digital media. Anyone can critique a website; it’s how you consider the possibilities for changing it that will help you past muster in the interview chair.
  • Learn enough HTML to be a little dangerous. I’m not talking programming an entire site yourself, but at least know what an “a href=” tag means and what you can do with it.
  • Be a part of at least one social networking site. I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of Facebook and LinkedIn. I’ve caught up with old friends on both and have helped some folks get interviews just by clicking “accept” to an invitation. The fact of the matter is if you can’t see the relevance in online social networking, then you’re not likely to do well in the digital foray.
  • Load up on your digital projects. If you’re trying to turn a print job into a digital one but are not sure where to get digital experience, start small on on free projects. Offer to be the blog keeper or webmaster for your hobbyist group’s blog or for your local ASBPE chapter.
  • Get an RSS feed for as many web-improvement sites and blogs as you can stand. For me, I subscribe to The Blog Herald, Copyblogger, ProBlogger, just to name a few. While the content is repetitve at times, you’ll get a gem of a post on SEO or analytics that will change the way you look at incoming web traffic.

These are just a few of the things I did but many who have walked the road ahead of me can probably offer even better ideas. Please post your suggestions in the comments below.

(This article was previously published on the ASBPE Chicago blog)

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