Taking Initiative


It’s now week six at my editorial internship and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is this: take initiative.

The magazine office where I work isn’t that big, so everyone on staff is constantly buzzing around, juggling assignments and scheduling staff meetings in our conference room. At first I was a bit disappointed that no one was rushing forth to give me my first big breaking news assignment. And a small part of me had hoped that my internship experience would go something like this: “That intern is a genius! Let’s send her to New York to review that new restaurant all the celebs go to!”

Sadly, I quickly learned that nothing of the sort was going to happen. The most I could do is step forward, come out of my comfort zone (and cubicle) and take initiative. It’s been a very humbling experience.

I started off by suggesting story ideas to my senior editors. I figured I’d have nothing to lose and I wrote to them knowing I could take on the workload in addition to my regular editorial tasks. I spent a lot of time researching and emailing possible contacts for each story and ceremoniously laid out each idea in a story-pitch email. And the reply from my editors?

“Sure, go for it.”

Timber Joey, a.k.a the bouncer from Kells, takes a little initiative as well, sawing off a log slab for the Portland Timbers.

I’d been so worried they wouldn’t take on my story pitches that it hadn’t occurred to me that they’re always open to more ideas. As of now, I’m currently working on a couple of fun pieces; one of which is about Portland’s most bad-ass bouncers (coincidentally, you’re all welcome to nominate a bad-ass bouncer you feel is up to par; I’ve already interviewed Timber Joey, who also happens to be the doorman at Kells)  and another about Blue Dog Mead, a business started up by some UO students from the Business School’s Entrepreneurial Club. And I wouldn’t be working on either piece if I hadn’t just taken initiative and asked.  Not every idea I have will get a “yes” but it’s nice to know that the times I put myself out there can sometimes be the most rewarding.

Emily Wilson

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About wilsonemily

Journalism student at the University of Oregon
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10 Responses to Taking Initiative

  1. michelletag says:

    That’s awesome Emily! You never know if you don’t ask. I bet that makes you feel more passionate about your work (not that you weren’t already!), but when you came up with the idea for a creative piece yourself and give it life, it can mean that much more to you on a personal level. Great job taking initiative at work!

  2. codynewton says:

    I couldn’t agree more, that it’s important to ask, whether or not they’ll like the idea. There are always going to be good and bad ideas. One of the interesting things I’ve learned is that sometimes a lot has to do with whats on the editors mind at the time. They sometimes think some ideas wouldn’t fit at all, and other times will give a very similar idea two big thumbs up. I mean this could have something to do with the fact that I’m not quite as good at noticing a good story when I see on as most established editors, but at the end of they day their human too. It’s just important that we keep suggesting ideas and make sure our skin is thick.

    Good luck!

  3. Like Allie pointed out a few weeks earlier, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. That’s really great of you that you put effort into carefully researching information and finding contacts on projects that were outside of your usual editorial tasks. I bet your initiative has totally wowed your editors and they’re excited to read the stories that follow these pitches.
    Awesome job, Emily! I can’t wait to read about the badass bouncers 🙂

  4. McKenzie Ingram says:

    I think the advice “take initiative” is as relevant to work as it is to any aspect of our lives. We have the ability to make our work, and our lives whatever we want it to be. By having a go-getter attitude, and initiating new ideas and projects, we’re essentially helping ensure that we have a positive experience at work (and in life!). Not to mention, I’m sure your editors and happy to have an intern who cares enough to go beyond what is asked of them. I never really understood how much work it must be for an employee to take on an intern. Your initiative and willingness to dive into new projects is probably taking a lot of pressure off of your editors. Good work!

  5. agavette says:

    Well done, Emily! I’m so proud of you for going out on a limb and pitch some stories without being assigned to do so. I’m sure it probably helped that you were so thorough in your research beforehand. I think when an editor sees that you’re truly invested in the story and that you’ve already started the research, they’re more likely to tell you to continue with it. Hopefully they’ll like the finished product and put it in print! I can’t wait to read your bad-ass bouncer story–I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for some extra-intimidating ones!

  6. It’s so great to hear that you are getting more opportunities at your internship beyond fact checking. They obviously feel you have earned your stripes if they are giving you stories and hearing your ideas. I’m crazy jealous that you were able to interview Timber Joey, plus I never knew he was a bouncer at Kells. I would not have guessed he moonlights as a chainsaw-happy Timbers fan. It’s great to know that by taking initiative that you are probably growing as a writer and in the company, kudos!

  7. Ah you have such great ideas, Emily! Your magazine is lucky to have you there. They may not say it now, but when you’re gone you surely will be missed. Did you take that chainsaw picture? I’m also proud of you for pitching those ideas. It’s scary to share your ideas with people that have been working in the industry for a long time. Good luck pitching more ideas! Your portfolio by the end of this internship is gonna rock!

  8. rkaapu says:

    I think it’s great you mustered up the courage to pitch your ideas and even more exciting they picked some of them. I am very intrigued by this story idea addressing bad-ass bouncers. I’m very interested to know about the lives of bouncers, especially after you posted this picture of Timber Joey. It’s always scary pitching to your superiors, but what a reward when they say yes. Keep up the good work!

  9. pdxsx says:

    ‘Atta girl! All managers love initiative, so all they have to do is approve or decline an idea. Same thing for binging your manager options, instead of problems. Take the initiative to lay out a few options in any situation and you’ll be regarded as a can-do employee!

    ~J

  10. shannonsloan says:

    Great job! I found this post very inspiring. I’ve been struggling with stepping out of my comfort zone and stepping up to take on more tasks. But you are right, what manager wouldn’t be open more ideas. Keep up the great work and I’m sure you’ll be reviewing hot spot New York restaurants in no time!

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