Welcome to the Planet: A Tale of Career Acceptance

At the end of 2013’s Man of Steel, Clark Kent arrives at Metropolis’ paper, The Daily Planet, as its new reporter. As my friend Rae Lijewski posted on Facebook, “The most unrealistic part of Man of Steel was Clark Kent just walking into a major newsroom and immediately getting a job. IT’S NOT THAT EASY, OKAY!” The comment garnered 29 likes, mostly from recent J-school grads frustrated that, in accordance to popular belief, a job in media wasn’t handed to them along with their diploma. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of them.

And then, exactly a month ago, I got a job at The Daily Planet.

OK, so I’m not technically working for Kent’s paper, but I am working in the same building. No, really. See this picture I got from I09 of Man of Steel‘s set?

Thanks, Io9!
Thanks, Io9!

That’s the lobby of my building. It’s where I had lunch with Katie Artemas, my darling freshman-year roommate and bound-to-be-lifelong friend who works just a few blocks west on Wacker Drive at StarCom Media. Here’s more photographic proof:

Katie, like usual, had to take a picture of "lunch in corporate America." Little did she know it would become my profile picture for EVERYTHING.
Katie, like usual, had to take a picture of “lunch in corporate America.” Little did she know it would become my profile picture for EVERYTHING.

Note the windows behind the Planet’s globe and behind me. Yup. Same windows. And if you watch the last scene from the movie, you’ll catch glimpses of Wacker Drive, the plaza in front of my building and the elevator I take every day to get to my office on the twelfth floor. That is, if you can take your eyes of Henry Cavill. Swoon.

Oh, and 111 E. Wacker Drive also happens to be on top of the Millennium train station, which you might recognize from the indoor shortcut Batman takes while chasing the Joker in The Dark Knight. I’m just living the super-nerd dream, my friends.

But enough about the locale — here’s more about how I became the Clark Kent of business reporting.*

*Note that I choose to be Kent over Lois Lane. Despite her Pulitzer, Lois somehow wasn’t sharp enough to realize Kent was just Superman wearing glasses. I like to think better of my ability to see past a nice pair of Warby Parkers. I also like to think I can fly and deflect bullets, which will probably bite me in the butt one day.

On February 21 I started as an associate editor at MediaTec Publishing, which produces four business magazines directed at senior level human resource professionals: Chief Learning OfficerTalent ManagementDiversity Executive and Workforce (newly acquired from Crain Communications).

My job is a mix of writing and editing. I produce features, profiles and department stories for each magazine’s monthly print issues (bimonthly for Diversity Executive), and I maintain Chief Learning Officer‘s website and compile its newsletter every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The topics range from new development programs being used by some of the world’s top companies to life stories and missions of some of the biggest movers-and-shakers in corporate America. My first major story will be a profile on Gwen Houston, general manager, global diversity and inclusion at Microsoft, Corp. It was definitely a Superman-style launch up from covering sewer testing in Columbia, Mo.

But here’s a word to the J-School students still tracking down those public issue stories, attending never-ending school board meetings and profiling the small store owners of mid-Missouri: don’t discount it.

Is it any wonder we looked like this on Tuesday night? Drawing by Andrea Braxton, 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.
One day, the permanent eye twitch and Starbucks addiction will all be worth it. (Drawing courtesy of Andrea Braxton, circa Vox production night 2012.)

Shortly after getting my job at MediaTec, I was notified by a Fortune 50 company I had been interviewing with since January that I was one of two finalists for a position in their corporate communications department. After undergoing a writing test and final interview with their vice president of communications, I received a call that they had chosen the other candidate. The employee communications director said that the decision was the toughest he had ever made in his tenure, and it had all come down to the other applicant’s experience in a corporate setting.

That said, I had impressed him and everyone else I had met with my experience writing for the Columbia Missourian, interning for The Chicago Reporter, working PR for the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series and pouring heart and soul into Vox Magazine. All the work I put into extracting as much as I could from my education and experiences at Mizzou had made me not only a viable candidate but an attractive, hard-to-beat competitor for a top-notch position in one of the world’s most influential companies. Without the work I had done in college, I wouldn’t have gotten the laughs I inspired when talking about how my “never say no to a story” motto at the Missourian led to my first published article being about sewer testing. I wouldn’t have seen the impressed looks on my interviewers’ faces when I ended my recount of writing about child homicide with the fact our magazine had won a Peter Lisagor award from the Chicago Headline Club for the article and inspired the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times to do their own investigation. I wouldn’t have had the great (and grueling) Vox gun feature to refer to when asked to describe my project management skills, or the Vox-pocalypse issue when asked about my creativity.

Knowing that I had caught the attention of the company with what I had produced in four short years made the stressful exhilaration of J-School life worth the nights I didn’t leave the magazine office until the streetlights had shut down and the mornings I crawled back into class at 8 a.m. because I wanted to graduate summa cum laude, dammit. It also took some of the sting out of the rejection.

It healed me better than Bruce Wayne's self-made stitches.
If I were Bruce Wayne and rejection was a couple of flesh-hungry dogs, all of that was the string I used to stitch myself up for the next round of vigilanteism — I mean, journalism.

Something else that helped was that after I got off the phone with the company’s director, I was able to return to my cubicle — which happens to be across the aisle from one of the three other MU alumni at my office — and continue working on my large docket of projects. That was a tough day to get through, but slowly the pain of rejection succumbed to the joy of not only finding a job but getting a position doing exactly what I was trained to do: write and edit magazines. It was another case of “Kate make the best out of what she gets, which is usually pretty great to begin with anyway.”

I’ve only been with MediaTec a month, but I’m already savvy on web posting, somewhat tuned into what’s important to the industry and fully committed to the work that’s at hand. On the side I can still write for Lydia Magazine, where I not only have a semi-monthly column called “The Lydia Lexicon” that covers feminist news issues but also will start working on a piece for its very first print edition, due out this summer. My freelance piece for Bitch Magazine’s website will be finished by the end of the month and includes interviews with the director of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, one of the first female comic book artists, the writer behind indie comic Imagine Agents and Dr. Andrea Letamendi (psychologist, Batman fan and who I want to be in my next life). And, because I never renege on my New Year resolutions, at least when it comes to film, 2014: A Film Odyssey will keep steady with a movie review each day. Today’s is on 2011’s forgotten black comedy Bernie.

(E Beatrice, la mia amica di penna, prometto che scriverò presto!)

But from now on, I’ll primarily serve an established readership of human resource executives who (hopefully) want to inspire as much change in their workplaces as I want to inspire through my writing. The nice thing is that the latter leads to the former. That’s the beautiful thing about journalism — your work has the power to change the way people think. So, as Kent says to Lane when she welcomes him to “the Planet:”

I’m glad to be here.

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3 Comments

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  1. So proud of you and so happy you have landed on ‘Our Planet”

  2. Great post, Kate!! Looking forward to many more adventures and love the Clark Kent tie-in, happy the photo helped support it :)

  3. Great job! Great tale to tell for years to come.

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