Truth be told, I cried — after I hung up the phone. The Los Angeles Times editor fired me for a botched reporting job as his UCLA “stringer” in 1988. After four years of intensive training to break into journalism, was I hopeless?
Thank God for people who encouraged me (in the church).
A funny thing happened a few months later. The UCLA stringership* at the New York Times opened up, and my friend recommended me. I landed the spot and did a bang-up job. I got bylines and learned a ton from some really talented people. Because of my work, the New York Times scooped the Los Angeles Times in its own backyard a number of times**.
Of the two, the New York Times stringership was more prestigious. Of the two, it was a better learning experience. Of the two, it was a better resume booster.
If I hadn’t gotten fired, I wouldn’t have even been considered for the spot (because of conflict of interest). So the horrible experience turned out to be a great thing!
What you do at a failure is critical:
- Get support from friends who love you
- Learn to not make the same mistakes
- Trust in God, not in your own wherewithal
- Keep good friends; they are a network of opportunities in the future
- Believe in yourself because not many in this world will believe in you
* a “stringer” is an onsite person, not a regular reporter or an intern, who produces occasional articles or does local interviewing to be incorporated in a bigger piece. The New York Times had a journalism student at each major university across the nation. They paid a small stipend, and the student got great experience.
** “scoop” in journalism you beat your competition, getting a news story out first.