Why I Left Journalism for a Career in Nonprofits

Success is liking yourself,liking what you do,and liking how you do it. (4)

After the eloquent writer Maya Angelou died in May 2014, I was compiling a list of her most inspirational quotes for a work assignment. At the time, I was the digital content editor for an iconic Black magazine and these tasks were par for the course. When I came across her quote about success, I had a revelation.

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

According to that definition, I wasn’t very successful. Growing up, I wanted to create a teen magazine for young women of color to fill the void that existed in mainstream media. Despite an internship at a national teen magazine in college, my journalism career had humble origins as a general reporter for my hometown newspaper. Fast forward five years later and I had accepted an editor position in Chicago. I thought I was finally on my way…until I realized I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore.

I started reflecting on why I originally wanted to become a journalist: to encourage and empower young girls. Surely I could achieve the same goal without feeling burned out by the news industry, so I began researching nonprofits that benefit girls. While I didn’t have any professional nonprofit experience, I’d volunteered with various organizations and I had highly desired transferrable skills such as writing, editing, and effectively communicating. Thanks to websites, such as YNPN Chicago and Idealist, I was able to learn more about careers in nonprofits and narrow down my options.

After scheduling coffee dates and informational interviews with people who essentially did what I wanted to do, I decided I definitely wanted to transition to a career in nonprofits. I made a short list of dream companies I’d love to work for and at the top of that list was Girl Scouts. Unfortunately, the first marketing position I interviewed for at the local Girl Scout council went to another candidate.

Undeterred, I went back to the drawing board and weighed all my options, which included a job offer with the local school system as a communications strategist. I took the position and soaked up everything I could. When a media relations manager position became available at Girl Scouts just six months later, I knew I was ready. I submitted my writing samples, aced the interview and was offered the job. But here’s the catch: the salary was about half of what I was making at the time. What do I do now?

My stomach churned. To accept or not to accept? This was my dream job, but everyone kept telling me not to accept less than I was currently making. I tried negotiating…twice, but to no avail. It pained me to do it but I respectfully declined the offer, and almost instantly regretted it. Shortly thereafter, I saw Girl Scout news everywhere! From camping on the White House lawn with first lady Michelle Obama to a council in Washington rejecting a $100,000 donation because it came with the stipulation that it couldn’t be used for transgender girls, Girl Scouts were making headlines. I wanted so badly to be part of the movement.

I made another pros and cons list for the position and, honestly, the only con was salary. But I decided I’d rather be making less money doing what I love than just coasting by collecting a paycheck at a job I wasn’t truly passionate about. At the end of the day, I finally listened to my gut, which is what I should have done in the first place. I had to seize the moment. So, after talking to my future colleague at Girl Scouts about the position, I swallowed my pride and essentially told the hiring manager I had a change of heart. Just like that, I had accepted my new dream job: a communications position with a nonprofit that benefits girls. Allowing other people to fill my head with their ideas of what I should and should not do nearly cost me the opportunity of a lifetime.

Every day I am confident I made the right decision by listening to my inner voice. Every day I have the chance to make a positive difference in the lives of young women. Talking to these girls and learning about their hopes and dreams is my favorite part of the job. There’s another quote I love that says “be who you needed when you were younger.” By being a role model and mentor to young girls, I feel like I’ve finally become that person. I feel like I’m finally successful.

About the Author

A former journalist, L’Oreal Thompson Payton is currently the media relations manager for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. When she’s not busy blogging at LTintheCity.com or freelancing for girl-powered publications, she can be found mentoring young women, reading, dancing, and eating her way through Chicago. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @LTintheCity.

One thought on “Why I Left Journalism for a Career in Nonprofits

  1. May 26, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    An inspiring story of second chances, priorities, and knowing in your gut what will bring joy to you and positive change to others. Loved reading this, L’Oreal! Glad you listened to your gut and are doing your dream!