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Home > Publications > Quill > Balancing early career decisions and personal life no easy task


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Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Balancing early career decisions and personal life no easy task

Commentary by Jason Bugg

Young journalists looking to develop their careers often move far from family and friends for experience in a bigger market or on a different beat.

I’ve moved twice in the past two years.

In March 2005, I started as online editor at the Pocono Record in Stroudsburg, Pa. I had been living in Pittsburgh, where I earned my master’s and freelanced for a daily. My family and friends in suburban Philadelphia were delighted that I returned to the area. I was, too.

A year and a half later, a phone call from an editor at the Erie Times-News sparked a series of events that lead to a 350-mile move back to the other side of the state.

The Times-News was redesigning its Web site (GoErie.com.) I had worked on the redesign of the Pocono Record’s Web site (PoconoRecord.com), and the Times-News’ editors liked what they saw. I decided to make a trip to northwestern Pennsylvania to learn more about the opportunity.

The night before I made the long drive to Erie, I sat and talked with my girlfriend until 2 a.m. about what this would mean for us. I didn’t want our relationship to end, and she didn’t either.

We agreed it would be a challenge to keep our relationship on track, but it was worth trying. The Times-News is a bigger paper with more resources, and the position is a better opportunity with advancement potential.

From a career perspective, it was an easy decision, but personally, it was one of the tougher decisions I’ve made. Relocating six hours from someone you care about a great deal is scary, and the future can be uncertain.

While the past three months haven’t been easy, I’m happy to say that we’re still together and are talking confidently about what’s next.

Adapting to a new city and newsroom while coping with seeing Sara less often has taught me a few valuable lessons:

Be flexible

Volunteer to work a different shift or put in some overtime. If you do, then your supervisor may be more open to flexible scheduling options or last-minute time-off requests.

Be realistic

As much as I would like to visit Sara every weekend, it’s simply not feasible. It’s about a six-hour drive when the weather is good, and there are no direct flights.

Set a goal for how often you’ll visit one another. Most importantly, make it one that you can reach. For us, it’s every other weekend.

Be patient

Relationships take time to develop, especially long-distance ones. Avoid making rash decisions or moves to the next level. Take it slow and consider your significant other’s career development.

Be considerate

I learned the hard way that talking about serious issues on the phone is not a great idea.

When possible, save the tough conversations for when you’re together.

Find a friend

The reporter I sit next to was in a long-distance relationship for a couple of years. Last year, he got married, and his wife is expecting. You’re probably not the only one in your newsroom struggling with these issues. Ask around.

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