Yesterday my daughter, Katie, posted a meme on her Facebook wall about how much she has been working between having three jobs and volunteering.

This got me thinking about Labor Day, and the work I do.

Katie starts her last year of college next week and I reminded her that she is building her life. Yes that work can be soul sucking stuff, especially when it’s not the work you want to be doing. That’s the way it is sometimes when you are in the process of building a knowledge base for a career.

But then, every job or career has that thing that you don’t always like about it.

Labor Requires Dedication

I want my daughter to know that working is a learning process. If we want our world to be better, then we need to be better at what we do for a living. We need to be humble in our work because there are always opportunities to learn. And learning requires humility. But what you dedicate your life to is important, no matter what kind of work it is.

Even with my own workaholic ways, I find myself defining journalism as a disease. There are aspects that I truly love about what I do and things that I’m not as in love with. I sometimes get angry phone calls about a story that wasn’t right or I’ll have sources try to discredit my work. That’s life sometimes, but those are the moments where I own my humility.

Looking back at my own career, my ability honor my sources and respectfully challenge them when needed has helped me get to where I am today. I never want to get a story wrong and I cringe when I push the publish button sometimes. On big stories there’s always some doubt, some fear of failure or need to know that the story was well received. And I find that I’m just better at managing those feelings. Not everyone will like my work. But when they don’t, I listen to why they aren’t happy with it (unless of course they are being abusive). I look for errors in my own understanding and make the needed corrections.

Humility is a must

I can’t make corrections on stories when sources go around me to discredit my work. This has happened with a few stories where corporate entities didn’t ask for a correction, but felt compelled to write their own “setting things straight” blogs. On the other hand, there have been times when people have raised concerns that a story wasn’t right. And those were opportunities to verify the accuracy of the information I was getting from sources.

In one instance, the relative of a victim raised concerns about the information I received from the district attorney’s office. The issue: the criminal complaint had multiple errors in it that I had repeated in my story. I was able to help him by getting the criminal complaint and the story corrected. In another story, I had written that a man had gone to prison when he had only been in jail. This detail mattered to the man’s mother and correcting it mattered to me. We were able to sort the issue out and get the correct information into the story.

And I want my daughter to know that no matter what kind of work you do…. if you are taking big enough risks, there will be fear, doubt and uncertainty. When you work there will be mistakes, opportunities for creativity, and to demonstrate your creativity. But if you are dedicated to learning, show your humility, and commit to building your expertise — that’s when your work matters.

Happy Labor Day! What are the most important aspects about your work?

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.