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Back to the Future Means Back at Work

Yes, I’ve zipped up my Marty McFly and set the flux capacitor to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity needed to propel my personal DeLorean time machine of a career back to the future.

In 1985, actor Michael J. Fox introduced us to Mcfly in the first film in the “Back to the Future” trilogy in which he was transported back in time with the help of some nifty science fiction in the form of a converted DeLorean. It was around this same time that I landed my first job as a reporter at a tiny newspaper in the Midwest.

In college, I had studied to become a photographer, but my advisers always told me to “learn how to write,” and that – along with learning how to type – was probably the greatest career advice I’ve ever been given. Through the many years of graduate school and working for newspapers and websites across the country, I’ve been tabbed as a writer who could shoot and a shooter who could write. I never thought it was a problem being able to do both, but there were always those who wanted to pigeonhole me into one discipline or another.

In the early years, I kept a camera bag tucked under my desk as much out of necessity as it was out of a desire to take pictures. Being a small-town newspaper, it was generally all hands on deck when it came to taking pictures, and my job as a one-person sports department meant there were countless games and practices to cover.

While many of my peers at larger papers were quick to point out that I couldn’t possibly do both and give either the justice they deserved, I always thought that one discipline fed off the other. Taking the pictures to accompany my stories allowed me more time in the field, which gave me the luxury of spending more time with the subjects I was writing about.

Sure, there were times when I had to rest my cameras so that I could focus on my writing. And there were plenty of times that I’d see pictures unfold in front of me while I was busy scribbling notes for a story. But more often than not, if I needed a break from writing I could always go out and work on photos and my sources as a writer led me to many great photo situations.

I made a habit of keeping a legal pad on my desk where I’d jot down story ideas for times when the local teams weren’t playing. Over time I found things like a miniature golf course in someone’s front lawn and a national horseshoe champ who had his own pitch right outside his house. Great stories. Great pictures.

But that was a time when as you rose through the ranks you had to pick one or the other. For a time, I chose writing but photography eventually called me back and I then spent years in photography management herding shooters to assignments and organizing coverage of big events from bowl games to presidential visits.

In the back of my mind there was always a disconnect I sensed between the writing and photography sides of the business. Photographers were given a brief synopsis of a story and asked to make great pictures only to come back having spent time with the subject and as often as not, the story would be dramatically different than what had been described in the photo request.

So about a year ago I took a job as a communicator for a school and the traditional job description was for a writer – but knowing your way around a camera would be a plus. Over the past year, the photography side has called me back. And added to my box of tools has been the ability to do short video clips for social media.

To date, I’ve written stories chronicling everything from occupational therapy students spending time in wheelchairs to learn empathy for their patients to alumni changing the way health care is delivered in spots halfway around the globe. I’ve also shot pictures and videos that document life in classrooms and laboratories as well as the fabric of student life in the hallways and atriums of our school. One discipline helps the other – just like the old days.

Today is a great time to be a one-man band. In television and newspapers they refer to people as MMJs – multimedia journalists. More and more communicators of all sorts are being asked to provide words, pictures and videos in formats from Instagram and Vine to blogs, websites, print and broadcasts. It’s an era when time is of the essence and audiences have splintered a thousand different ways.

So what does this have to do with you and your job search? I guess it goes back to that adage about finding your passion. What is it they say, love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life? My thought is to be open to all possibilities because you never know when skills you picked up early on in your career will come full circle and you’ll be able to use them in new ways to find a job or do the job you have better.

While some might argue that media outlets have created MMJs to save money, me, I write and shoot, blog and post because it’s the best way to communicate to audiences from millennials to baby boomers. If you’re out there looking for work, perhaps it’s time you take a serious look at what you do well and apply it to your job search.

Welcome to the DeLorean everybody. Fasten your seat belts. It’s time to go back to our future.

About G Peters

Life during the last five years has read a lot like a country song for Greg. Got laid off ­– got hired. Went to work, and then the new job expired. Went back on the street looking for work, but who’s going to hire somebody older than dirt? Worked the graveyard shift for a year or two, hoping against hope to find something new ­– and at long last did, working in communications for a university. Dream job is still blogger-in-residence for YourCompany.Com, but thankful every day to have a workplace to call home. Best advice: never stop believing in yourself. Check out Xogdog's blog at www.xogdog.wordpress.com/.