What My First Year At TFD Has Taught Me About Work & Life
Tomorrow marks one year since my first post as managing editor of TFD was published, and I almost can’t believe it. It’s not only the longest I’ve held any job since graduating college (not including the several years I’ve now held the title of “freelancer“), it’s still the ideal work situation I would dream up for myself, even if I wasn’t in it. And, when I got this role last year, I was coming off three months at the worst job experience of my life (if we can even call it that). I was lucky to find something else so quickly, and, of course, doubly lucky that it was with my already-favorite website.
I remember being painfully nervous my first day actually doing this on my own, after getting through all of my training with the former managing editor, Rebecca (who was ~extremely~ helpful). I was suddenly in a position with more independence than I’d ever had before, professionally speaking. I’d held editorial roles, but none with as much freedom as I’ve had here. I was — and still am — responsible for finding and curating most of the posts that would run each day. On the one hand, it was awesome that I’d already been such a fan of TFD — I had a pretty good understanding of the kind of content that would and wouldn’t fit. But that also meant I was more terrified of messing up than I would be working somewhere else. I loved it so much already, and the thought of failing it weighed on me a bit in the beginning. (And I’ll be honest — Chelsea and Lauren were extremely open, friendly, and easy to work with from the start, but I’d been admiring them from afar for so long that I couldn’t help but feel a *tiny* bit intimidated.)
And, of course, there have been growing pains, and experiencing my fair share of impostor syndrome now that I was in a job that was actually what I wanted to be doing. It’s easy to feel insecure if there’s a voice in the back of your head convincing you that your position doesn’t make sense — you’re under-qualified, undeserving, untalented. But I figured out that you just keep working, keep getting used to the job, and one day that voice simply isn’t there anymore, and your work starts getting even better.
I’m so proud of TFD. I feel so lucky to work for a site where I truly feel like what we’re doing is unique, one where I’d be reading all of the content regardless of whether I was working here. It would not be hard for me to make this whole post a mushy love letter to it, if I wanted to. But that would be a little more indulgent than this post should be, so instead, here are a few things this past year has taught me about work and life.
Work/life balance is a lot easier to achieve if I actually like my job.
This is a little hard for me to put into words, but I’ll try: I find that I am actually better at balancing my work and personal life while working for something I love. You know the feeling, when you’re in a job you hate, and completing even the most minute task seems daunting, because you spend so much of your time doing literally anything else (thank you, college-era StumbleUpon). I’ve found that, when I’ve held jobs like those — ones I dreaded, which, thankfully, haven’t taken up too much space in my professional life — hating my job becomes the most prominent part of my personality. It takes over my life in a way that doesn’t let me enjoy any other aspect of it.
At TFD, I enjoy what I do every day. I wake up (okay, some days later than others) and get right to work — not only because I know exactly what it is I have to do, but because I’m excited about getting this thing I’ve been working on out into the world. Some days, it takes longer than others to get content planned. But liking pretty much every aspect of my job — from writing to editing to communicating with contributors to sourcing photos with Lauren to tweaking headlines with Chelsea — makes it a lot easier to finish it all in a timely manner, and get to the other parts of my life that I love.
That’s not to say I don’t take a few Instagram breaks every day, or that I don’t take the time to plan out my grocery list until every single thing on my to-do list has been crossed off. Sometimes my inbox is fucking out of control, when I haven’t bothered to sort messages into their correct folders for a week. But getting to work and getting everything done that I need to doesn’t feel like a huge struggle, because I truly enjoy most of it. And I must say, that’s an extremely lucky place to find yourself in, work-wise.
Use the resources you’re given, even the non-obvious ones.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been in editorial roles before — but never with such a committed, active community as the one here at TFD. I really can’t express how valuable that is, and how lucky we are to have that kind of feedback on a daily basis.
When you work in media, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea that you “don’t read the comments,” that people are going to respond to what you put out in the world and say things that are needlessly mean and ridiculous. And that’s true! But we’re so lucky to receive incredibly thoughtful responses to our posts on a near-daily basis, and it would be insane for me to not pay attention to them. The comments section on TFD has become one of my few internet homes, even if I don’t always love what I find there.
Part of being an editor means some aspects of your work, if you do them well, are supposed to be invisible. No one is going to comment on the smooth transitions you added or the great way you re-formatted a post, because how would they know that was you? But mistakes, of course, are obvious, and get pointed out more. And I’ve made plenty of them, and I honestly feel like I learn a little bit more every day. That’s in no small part to the TFD community! My favorite comments are always something like “more of this on TFD please!” — it helps me understand what resonates the most with our readers, and what we should be doing more of. (And, if there is something you’ve been wanting to see more of, now is an excellent time to comment!)
I also can’t understate how freaking valuable good writers are for an editor. I’ve gotten to know so many of our contributors and other personal finance bloggers that I can depend on for truly high-quality pieces of writing, and they’ve all helped make me not just a better editor, but a better writer. Because we have so many amazing contributors, I’ve been able to write fewer of my own TFD pieces, but spend a lot more time on the ones I do write — and I’m prouder of them because of it.
Your favorite thing about a job might be something you’d never think about.
One thing I never thought about when I took on this role was how many new people I’d get to meet, over the internet and otherwise. I love being the contact point for our contributors, and that I’ve gotten to work with people from literally all over the globe because of it — people from Russia, Venezuela, Scotland, England, Singapore. I can’t wait to see what my next year brings, including the new voices we’ll get to work with and showcase.
And again, I’m so lucky. I’ve learned about what I’m good at (corresponding with writers! tweaking post angles! writing about my bullet journal!) and what I always need to work on (writing headlines! remembering that Lauren needs a quote for Instagram!). And that’s my other favorite part of this job: knowing I work somewhere safe for me to grow and try new things, and one that constantly pushes me to be better. It’s not a thing I actively think about as part of my job every day — it’s just an overall feeling that doing this work gives me.
Thank you so much for reading TFD, everyone. It’s not often you find work that you’re proud of that also gets such great feedback from a community. And we have so many places to go — I can’t wait to keep working at it!
Holly is the Managing Editor of The Financial Diet. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Image via Unsplash