How Chatzky stuck to her strengths and became successful
Adam Mendler of Thrive Global spoke with Jean Chatzky, financial editor of NBC’s “Today” and a longtime personal finance journalist, about the hurdles in her career.
Here is an excerpt:
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Jean: I got here, in part, by sticking to my knitting – i.e. my subject matter of personal finance – and in part by allowing it to take me where it wanted to go. My intention was to be a print journalist, but when I landed at Smart Money magazine and they needed people to go on television to talk about our stories and promote our magazine, I raised my hand. Once I landed on Today, opportunities came to me – to write books, give speeches – and I forced myself to say yes to those things, even when I was frightened or uncomfortable because I thought they might lead somewhere exciting.
As for failures, setbacks and challenges, I’ve had many but here are two – one from early in my career, one from more recently.
The early one: When I left my first job at Working Woman, I wanted to get a job at a big business or personal finance magazine. I applied to them all. None would hire me. Some wouldn’t even grant me an interview. They didn’t think Working Woman had given me the chops I needed to work for them. Eventually, I got an interview at Forbes and the chief of reporters told me I needed an MBA in order to get the job. Going back to school wasn’t appealing, but I thought about what he said and realized he didn’t really care about the piece of paper, he cared I had the skills an MBA would bring like being able to analyze financial statements. I knew that when I reported business stories, I’d often interview Wall Street equity research analysts who covered the companies I was writing about and wrote reports on them. If I worked in equity research, I figured I could be useful in helping to write those reports and learn the analytical skills I needed while I was there. That led me to Dean Witter where I worked for two years before being hired at, yes, Forbes. To this day, when I’m mentoring or advising others I tell them to think about other ways they could put their skill set to use.
The more recent one: I got fired from Money Magazine. They were going through a round of cost-cutting, I had gotten expensive, and though they tried to soft-pedal it by allowing me to keep my column as a freelancer there was no doubt what had just happened. Initially, I looked for another job to replace the one that I’d lost. But magazine salaries had shrunk and I couldn’t replace it. I was already managing a number of side jobs – including working for NBC, writing books, giving speeches and I decided that instead of going back to work for someone else, I’d build my own business. That was more than 10 years ago.
Read more here.