Human Of The Week: Francesca D.

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Interview feature image of Francesca D., by GradSimple.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by our interviewees are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of GradSimple. We only edit these responses for clarity. All opinions remain those of the interviewee.

  • Name: Francesca D.
  • Year Of Graduation: 2023
  • Major: Journalism
  • College/University: University of Central Florida

What do you do for a living? 

Since October of last year, I’ve been an editorial fellow for an online publication called YourTango. It’s kind of like the main role that I’ve been pursuing and I will say that it’s probably what I envisioned as my dream job out of college. I applied for it around September or October of last year, so maybe three to four months after I graduated. So it was pretty quick that I was able to find this role.

I started as an intern and didn’t get paid on a standard cadence (they promised a stipend at the end of the contract), but I was willing to make the sacrifice. I now work fully remotely for them and get to choose my hours. The stories I write focus on entertainment news, relationship topics, and human interest stories. Everything is online and through social media. So, I’m not really doing the traditional path of journalism where I’m interviewing people. It’s more like researching and writing. It’s been a really cool experience! It’s definitely taught me a lot.

I was also working part-time as a barista at a coffee shop while I was still an intern, nothing crazy, making nine dollars per hour plus tips. It was pretty decent and I liked the little community I had there.

Around the same time, I pitched a story to a local newspaper in Orlando called The Community Paper. It was about a yoga teacher and her business, and after getting to know her I thought she had a really interesting story. After submitting the story I ended up becoming a contributing writer for them. It’s basically a freelance role where I’m writing a few stories a month.

I’m kind of reaching a point where I’m trying to decide if this is what I want to continue doing or if I want to maybe start applying for different things, and expanding my skills because I’ve been doing the same thing for a pretty consistent amount of time. I’m also interested in doing multimedia projects, like video segments. There are so many different avenues to take in the journalism industry. I’m just not sure if I really want to work a traditional nine-to-five, or if I want to find my own path.

Can you tell me about your job search experience after graduation?

Okay, that was a crazy time. I was definitely having breakdowns almost every week because I was constantly applying for different jobs and everything felt so unattainable. I didn’t have a lot of experience. I technically did an internship during college but because I was working as a server at the time and trying to balance my classes, trying to do everything at once was a lot. I made the decision to cut the internship short. I kind of regretted that decision later because I realized that if I’d stayed, maybe it would have led to something else. It was unpaid, so I decided to just focus on making money and graduating.

One thing I did do while taking my courses was networking with established journalists. Right after graduation, I took a bit of a break to decompress, and then I began doing anything and everything I could to figure out what options I had. I focused heavily on expanding my network. I was trying to reach out to different journalists, editors, and writers from different publications and news stations, just to get to know different parts of the industry.

I became connected with a journalist who had come to one of my classes as a guest speaker. She really stood out to me because, I don’t know, just something about her energy. She was giving us such valuable insight into her background and her experience. I was like, I want to get to know this girl. I want to reach out to her. So after that course, I emailed her and tried to introduce myself.

She was super responsive and very interested in getting to know me as well, which wasn’t common. Whenever I reached out to other journalists, I normally would get a short response with some resources and maybe some people they knew. I really valued that this person wanted to form a genuine business relationship with me.

She ended up reaching out to me around September and asked if I’d be interested in doing an internship with her where she would teach me stuff in a very intimate way. We would meet at coffee shops and chat, and I would tell her about all of my story ideas. She was trying to help me navigate the industry. I did this with her for about three to four months, and this was also right around the time when I found YourTango.

How many jobs did you end up applying to?

Maybe around a hundred? I was looking everywhere and I was also interested in relocating. My goal after I graduated was to move to another state to get a fresh start, but I realized that that was kind of unrealistic. I just didn’t have the funds to do that.

I kind of realized maybe I was meant to stay here and get my foot in the door where I’m already comfortable and know my community and then eventually, if I want to move 10 years down the line, I could probably do that. 

Would you still pick your major now if you could go back in time?

So if you asked me that while I was still pursuing my degree, I probably would have said I picked the wrong major. If I’d done something like creative writing I would have been able to do more experimental things rather than having to stick to the very strict guidelines that much of journalism has. I wasn’t able to be as creative as I would have liked. I write everything to be very curated in a specific style, and I felt very limited in what I could really do. 

However, in hindsight, I realized I did, in fact, pick the right major. I’m interested in so many different areas and industries. As a journalist, my job is to learn about many different people and stories and there’s no limit to what topics you can and can’t write about.

What’s your biggest struggle right now?

I’m definitely feeling torn and conflicted right now between what paths I’m willing to take and what I’m willing to make sacrifices for. I’m trying to consider my need for a work-life balance while also working in an environment where I get to be around people and connect with others. I want to do something that ignites my passion but pays me well. I guess I’m just trying to decide what’s next.

I’ve been really conflicted because, with all three of the jobs I work right now, I really enjoy aspects of each one, but there are things that obviously I’m not too thrilled about. And on top of that, I also sometimes deal with feeling burnt out or lacking motivation. I think I’ve had to learn that it’s not really about having the motivation sometimes, but it’s about having discipline. On the hard days when I’m tired of doing the same things over and over, I know I’m also getting stronger and better. Whatever I do next, I know these experiences have helped prepare me for that.

If money was not a factor, what would you be working on or spending more time on?

I’d like to give myself the time, space, and creativity to focus on different hobbies and projects. I’m very multifaceted, and there are many things I’m passionate about. I love music and I play the piano a little bit, so starting to write my own songs is something that’s been on my mind. I’ve tried before, and whenever I’m doing that I feel like I’m really releasing my emotions in a creative and productive way.

I’d also love to start a podcast where I can collaborate with my community and friends to discuss all sorts of interesting topics, from spirituality to everyday things you don’t hear about often. I don’t really make the time for these things though. I’m so focused on building my career, in my free time all I really do is rest or spend time with the people I care about.

Traveling and experiencing different communities and cultures is high on my bucket list as well. I went to Oregon a few years ago and fell in love with it because it’s so different from Florida. The mountains, the massive trees—it’s incredible. I’d love to go back and maybe even move there someday. Portland felt so authentic and community-focused, it was great.

Working from home is great, but sometimes I do feel stuck in a repeated day-to-day life and not really experiencing the community and the world beyond.

If we traveled 3 years into the future of your life, what would you hope we’d see?

I’d definitely want to have built up a decent amount of savings. I’ve been working these jobs that don’t have the greatest pay and I’ve kind of been living paycheck to paycheck. That’s another struggle I should’ve probably mentioned. I want to begin building my sayings so I can have the experiences that I want to have.

I really don’t want to end up in some nine-to-five job, but if I do end up doing that I hope it’s more catered to my preferences, and that I’m working with a community of people that I feel inspired by. Connections are really what matters at the end of the day, and that’s one thing I’ve learned working from home – I don’t get any of that. It kind of drives me crazy.

I just hope that I’m comfortable with what I’m doing. I want to be content. I don’t want to say happy because that’s unrealistic. We have our good days. We have bad days. There’s going to be disappointment. There’s going to be struggles. There are going to be challenges, but I hope that whatever it is I am experiencing, it’s at a comfortable level for me to manage and that I’m doing something I love. Whether that’s writing, photographing, editing, multimedia, or whatever it is.

What advice and/or learnings would you give to current students or recent grads? 

For current students, take your time in school. I felt like I just needed to get my degree done within four years, and I’m glad I did but at the same time, I wish I would have been a little bit more mindful that I’m young and it’s okay to not know what I want to do right away.

I would also recommend taking advantage of the resources that your major offers you. If you can get involved in different organizations and really connect with your fellow community members, that’s super valuable. Make sure you do your research on what your options are and be open to new experiences that you may not have considered.

Focus on your network above everything else because it’s not only what’s going to help you push through and navigate things, it also could lead to potential jobs and internships.

Remember to trust the process, even when it feels like things aren’t working out.

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