Copy
When to Quit
In my first five years in New York, I had five different jobs in media. The media landscape is in constant—and sometimes nonsensical—flux, but I finally have a chance to breathe and reflect. Let me explain.

I moved to the city in 2012 for an internship at a Certain News Network. That summer, I made $8.50/hr working overnights and I couldn’t have been happier. My first breaking news experience was covering the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. I was just as horrified by the news itself as I was exhilarated by the frenzy of the newsroom, and I returned the following summer as a full-time permalancer.

But over time, rather than breaking the news, I found myself compiling lists of victims of mass shootings and police brutality. I watched Baltimore burn on the dozens of screens in our control room, following the death of Freddie Gray. My diet was limited to day-old coffees and vending machine candy. I had trouble getting out of bed before noon.

On June 18, 2015, the day after nine people were murdered in a church in Charleston, I walked out of the office with no destination in mind. I crawled into a teensy playground tunnel in a little Midtown park and called my mom. Through the onslaught of tears, I told her that I couldn’t handle it anymore. She told me that it was time to leave. And so I left, but I left with an extensive knowledge of Adobe Premiere.

I took my years of quick-turning SOTs and VOs to a freelance role at my next company. There, I learned After Effects. I had the time and resources to explore my craft and experiment.

I was surrounded by so many talented journalists who clearly believed in the publication and its voice. We covered the primaries in 2015, snacking on pizza and sipping Brooklyn Lagers until the early hours of the morning. But in my position as a freelancer, I didn’t see a growth trajectory.

After six months, I approached my manager about turning my role into a full-time position. She told me that she would like to, but couldn’t hire me because of the budget. I was grateful for her honesty and began applying.

I was hired to work on Snapchat Discover for media company number three. I spent my days furiously shooting, editing, and animating in order to meet our daily quotas. We reached hundreds of thousands of tweens daily with our content and were hellbent on growth.

Four months into this job, half of my editorial video team was laid off without warning. This despite the alleged pivot to video. Remember the pivot to video? Since 2015, Facebook had been touting their video analytics as a way for publishers to turn views into ad dollars. Video, particularly video on Facebook, was meant to be the savior of digital media publications in need of new sources of revenue. But for the fate of our team, that wasn’t enough.

I took on more responsibility with no salary increase, despite my requests to adjust the role accordingly. That summer, I chipped my front tooth from stress grinding day and night. My mentor there told me it was time to leave. I left with a mountain of shooting experience and a working reel.

Media company four: This was the dream job. The product was impressive and the brand was widely recognized as one of the most forward-thinking in the industry. I was able to travel to field-produce pieces that inspired me and I got to try my hand at editorial illustration. But something didn't feel quite right.

A dread crept in that I could not shake. Each time I entered a room with my manager, my face flushed red and my hand shook involuntarily. This was new. There was a chemistry between me and my boss and it wasn’t the good kind.

After a few months, I asked my teammates to grab drinks after work. They told me that I wasn't alone and that we were all simmering in the same toxic work environment. They said that it was probably time to go and I agreed. This time, I knew how to use Illustrator.

I’ve held a couple of different roles at Dow Jones—media company number five—and in both, I’m happy to report, I’ve been treated with respect and kindness. That being said, there will come a time when I will move on. It may be for any number of reasons. I may get a new boss or decide that I want to become an ice sculptor. 

I’ve always tried to do what’s best for my career and my mental health, and do so while amassing new skills and collaborators. And when I explain my background in this way, I’ve found that hiring managers don’t fault me for it. There are so many reasons to leave a job, but I think that prioritizing yourself is a pretty darn good one.

Sam Reichman is the Senior Video Editor for WSJ Custom Content. She grew up in Baltimore and lives in Brooklyn, and dreams of the day when a hyperloop will exist between the two. When she's not at work, she can be found taking evening classes at SVA, volunteering for Creative Mornings, or practicing the drums. She can be found online @reichman_sam and on her website.

Art used in this issue: “Composition (Lonely Figure)” by Tarsila Do Amaral
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