How To Get Started In A New Career


How to get started in a new career

So you’ve decided to switch careers OR you’re just starting out.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Where do I begin?”

Here are FIVE ways to get you going and on the right track.

1. Decide what you’re passionate about

When someone asks you what you are passionate about writing, and your answer is something like “ Well a lot of things,” or “I can write about anything,” you may think that you are showing your flexibility. What you are effectually doing instead is letting the other person know that you haven’t decided what you want to focus on yet. In order to excel in your field, you need to start by laser focusing. If you aren’t sure yet, choose something. If you want to write on music, great! If it’s sports, like it was for me, become an expert in your field.

2. Get a mentor

Once you’ve chosen your focus, find five people you admire in that particular industry, and create a plan to meet them. You can use sites like facebook, or linkedin or truly the MOST effective route; get introduced to them. These people are your best resources. They will tell you what to do and what not to do.

3. Connect, connect, connect. And then….connect.

In Hollywood, they say it’s all about who you know. In fact, this is true about most industries. Knowing how to get around top-level people, and STAY around them is an integral part of making your way to the top in the journalism world. Collect a list of 20 people you know in your niche, and start calling, emailing, facebooking, tweeting at them, and knocking on their doors. If you have a friend who can connect you to someone you are inspired by, ask for an introduction.

4. Work for your mentor for free.

Once you have found a person, or a few people in your niche that you are inspired by, make it a priority to be around them. Spending a decent amount of time around high-level individuals will actually start to rub off on you. The long-term benefit of working for free for someone that you want to emulate is hard to calculate – it’s that big! Adding value to their life will only add value to yours in the long run.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Whatever your passion, you must practice it every day. If, like me, journalism is your passion…you must practice some form of journalism every day. And to truly excel and be a standout, you really must enjoy competition. You are trying to beat out tons of other people just like you. If Kobe Bryant didn’t practice making 400 shots a day, there is no way he would not be performing at such a high level. You won’t either unless you practice your craft. If your passion is strong, you know the right people, and you know what to do around them, going from average to awesome should not be very hard for you. For easy practice ask high-level people around you what you can do for them.

6. Do NOT be afraid of starting small.

Everyone has to start somewhere. Most well known people in their industries got their start in small towns, or at small market outlets. If you think you are above starting small, then perhaps you should try out a different career… or maybe a different reality. If we all started out awesome, there would be no way to improve.

NOW…I want to hear from YOU!

Let me ask you this question:


Leave a comment in the comments section below and tell me your plan. I read and respond to every comment.

Go out there and get it done!

Onwards and upwards!


  • nusrat ahmad

    Hello James, just reached to BD 2 days ago. Couldn’t wait to start reading your inspiring articles. Yes I think you are right about practicing everyday after we find what we are passionate about and be confident and excited about even we start with small! Thank you! All the best – Nusrat 🙂 !!!

    • James Swanwick

      Great stuff, Nusrat. Practice these steps and you’ll go far!

  • Frank C Jones

    I’m launching a blog and podcast to help scholars figure out the business of being an academic. It’s all happening at and the blog is already being populated with content. My next step is to start lining up interviews for the podcast, but I’m having some trouble there.

    I’m struggling with doubts and questions about launching the podcast. How can I get my first interviews with professors and other academics? Since the podcast is just starting, I don’t have an audience yet. What would motivate someone to take an hour out of their day for an interview on a new podcast? How can I approach potential interviewees? These questions have slowed my progress.

    • James Swanwick

      Frank, I understand your doubts and fears regarding asking people to interview them when you don’t have an existing audience. Ask them anyway. Tell them you’re creating a podcast you estimate will be listened to by 10,000 people by June 30. Tell them you’ll promote them heavily throughout the interview. Tell them you’ll mention their website or contact details or mention whatever they want to mention. Speak in their interest. What’s in it for them? Tell them the benefit they will get from being on your podcast – ie, people will listen over time, visit their website, hire them, know them, admire them…etc etc…think about the benefit to the person you want to interview.

  • Javier Luque

    James, you may or may not agree with me but reading number six, I have been concerned lately on how TV stations in bigger cities are hiring people with no proven track records and experience, even with connections, there’s no chance; Based on your ESPN gig story, there’s a way to bluff the big leagues. But the human resources are the biggest obstacle when it comes to my connections. But isn’t life all about taking big risks? Not that I have a big ego.

    A great example is NBC; known for its HR mismanagement which leads to unethical hiring practices. People like Jenna Bush Hager, Al Sharpton, Luke Russert, Chelsea Clinton and Stefan Holt have absolutely no “small market” track record of reporting and anchoring. Other personalities like Sibila Vargas, Kacie McDonnell, Ernie Anastos, Chris Wallace, Geraldo Rivera, Megyn Kelly are just prime examples of the “bluffing” game and yes I read all their bios, there’s an equal amount of traditional and non-traditional personalities. It seems that even a small market is becoming more competitive and requiring candidates more experience than expected.

    Dr. Oz and Carol Alt didn’t even need to do specialty reporting for a
    backwater U.S. market. Sadly this industry doesn’t properly invest in its young
    and rising talent and for worse the SAG-AFTRA doesn’t even care about small
    markets and its young talent. TV unions get very entertained seeing novices smacked with a poor working environment (out of date equipment), no health
    insurance and salaries lower than of a McDonald’s crew member. And when such small market hard work isn’t even recognized (IE: Emmys, Peabodys and Murrows) along with the lack of reward for a fair workload (health, dental, vision insurances, stock option, time off) morale goes down and people quit.

    The prime point is that nepotism is a form of hazing that hurts every aspiring career person, not just journalists. Every career needs to rid itself of double standards. I feel my hard work is no longer paying off.

    • James Swanwick

      You make some good points, Javier!

      • Javier Luque

        James, how can one explain a gap in employment? Mine seems to be a bit big. My biggest weakness is trying to sell an idea or employment candidacy to someone.