A Farewell to the Business Journal

Jeremy Elwood, SBJ Web EditorNote: This originally ran in SBJ’s June 21 issue.

Five and a half years don’t seem long in the grand scheme of things.

We’ve only changed presidents once, only changed governors once, and the Cardinals only won the World Series once. (Sorry to my editor, Eric Olson, the diehard Cubs fan – I couldn’t resist.)

And in five and a half years, I’ve never changed employers. Until now.

June 29 is my last day with the Springfield Business Journal. I begin a job as a writer and editor with the national office of accounting firm BKD LLP the following day.

It seems like just yesterday when I started at SBJ as a fresh-faced, very green reporter straight out of college, not counting three months of temporary employment.

SBJ offered me what I wanted: a full-time, 8-to-5 job with benefits and a solid future. No personal parking space, but still.

I think I’ve learned a lot in my time here, and here are three tips I’ll pass on.

Lesson 1. I don’t know much.

I hope my future employer isn’t reading this.

When I started, I had no experience writing about business. None. I couldn’t tell bank stock from chicken stock or legal briefs from legal boxers. Sometimes I still can’t – but hopefully I’ve learned in five years how to ask the right people the right questions.

We hear time and again about how the best executives are those who have learned how to surround themselves with the best people. They know what they know, and they hire people to fill the gaps in their knowledge.

It works for more than just executives. Never be afraid to admit you don’t know the answer. When I admit it, the worst that can happen is someone calls me stupid. And I already knew that – otherwise, I wouldn’t be asking.

Lesson 2. The more things change, the more they … change.

I originally was hired as a reporter. That’s not my title anymore.

In fact, the job that I have now didn’t exist when I started here in October 2004. SBJ had a Web site then – in the same way that the New Jersey Nets are a basketball team. It certainly didn’t take a full-time job to manage it.

Now, look at sbj.net. Not only is SBJ Web editor a full-time job, it almost can be overwhelming at times.

There’s the Web site, of course, including adding the stories from the weekly paper, photos, event information, the Life section and myriad other items. The Daily Update and our other e-mail products offer their own tasks. Then there are the social media aspects of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

It’s all a labor of love, to be sure, but labor nonetheless.

Now, things are changing for me again. Who knows what I will be doing professionally five years from now, and who knows what the Web editor job will entail then? News probably will be sent instantly to everyone via the microchips we’ve all had implanted, and we’ll see all the pages and photos right in front of our eyes without the need for paper or printing.

Well, probably not.

Lesson 3. Be thankful.

You meet a lot of people in five years, and all the people I’ve met are responsible for the tremendous growth I’ve made, both personally and professionally.

One of those people is a colleague, SBJ Features Editor Maria Hoover, who had the foresight to, on my very first day on the job – the Monday of a 96-page paper – welcome me to the company by saying, “Hi. Here’s your desk. Write this.”

Dependability in the face of the unknown is an important trait, even when you look like a deer caught in the headlights of a minivan.

Talking to important people in the community and beyond on a daily basis gave me the confidence to believe in myself every day, even when I’d get the rare call from someone who didn’t agree with the way I’d written a story and even though I’m sure it was right.

In the end, I’m leaving SBJ with a few bruises, a lot of lessons learned and a lot more friends than I had when I started. That’s all you can ask from your first job.

That, and a personal parking space. But you can’t win them all.

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