Hemal Jhaveri is no stranger to the unconventional.
As senior social media editor for USA Today Sports, she tweets and writes stories about the sports world – and namely her love of hockey.
But, while Jhaveri’s found herself in a decidedly fitting role, “it wasn’t even a pipe dream,” she says.
Apart from the fact that social media jobs weren’t really a thing when she was studying at James Madison University, the idea of a woman writing about sports seemed fanciful as well.
So, Jhaveri embarked on a path that’s certainly common – but one that is quite untraditional for a journalist.
ONE SHIFT AT A TIME
“It’s not a pretty story,” said Jhaveri.
In college, she majored in media arts and had a tech background. She minored in English – because she liked to write.
Jhaveri’s first jobs were in customer service, where she quickly fell victim to layoffs and eventually unemployment. It wasn’t until her next stint at a lobbying firm that she took a chance on an email from a friend.
The prompt: Trying her hand at an unpaid gig at a budding DC website, DCist.com – because she liked to write.
The experience spring boarded Jhaveri into digital journalism, working for places like the now-folded DC Style magazine and AOL. She also got her master’s degree in cultural studies to help sharpen her expertise for culture-focused pieces.
Again she faced layoffs and struggled to find passion in her work. “My writing wasn’t going anywhere. I wanted to give up,” she said.
With the staying power of her writing career in question, she made yet another change. Jhaveri left her writing behind for a role at Politico Digital, dealing in SEO and mobile strategy.
After a few years in a new field, with grit now intact, her calling became clear. She missed writing and followed her voice – and happiness – over to sports.
LIFE LESSONS IN HOCKEY
In short, Jhaveri’s early career was full of transition and riddled with failure. “It’s not a path to be replicated,” she emphasized. But, Jhaveri’s experiences allowed her to find her resilience and ultimately unleash her success.
She spent some time with us recently to share the details of her career journey. And while she doesn’t consider herself a role model, Jhaveri has an enviable level of badassery.
For anyone considering a change, or charging ahead into the unknown, here are some of her top tips for embracing change and failure.
1. Success is an up-and-down journey. “Don’t be so future focused that you forget what you have to do in the meantime,” says Jhaveri. For her, every job she took was a stepping stone to something she’s always wanted to do, but it involved a lot of compromise. “Success is not a continuous peak,” she says. There are a lot of ups and downs and those experiences are formative.
2. Listen to your unhappiness. While your passion may be the fire that drives you, your passion can change and your passion can burn out. This was a major factor for Jhaveri in both leaving and returning to writing. “If you are not happy in what you are doing – and you have these ambitions or you’re not moving in the direction you wanted to – you should look into that unhappiness,” she says. “Be willing to do whatever it is that you are passionate about.”
3. Make a mindmap. To visualize the year ahead, Jhaveri suggests drawing a mindmap of your goals. She drew for us an example of her own 2016 mindmap, with objectives ranging from traveling more often to landing an interview with a major name in hockey. The power of the mindmap really lies in its simplicity. Start by branching out your goals and underlying passions, hang it in a prominent location, and revisit it regularly to help keep your plans and wishes top of mind.
4. Don’t be afraid to take the risk. Fear is boring. Jhaveri learned this as she sat on the email from a friend about the potential writing gig at DCist. “I was so scared to have to prove myself if I did get hired,” she says. But by taking the risk, it turned into this amazing thing where she built the foundation of her writing career. The same happened for her when she came across her current role. “You have to have a willingness to fail. I wanted something so bad that I was willing to fall flat on my face,” Jhaveri says. If you’re thinking of trying something new, focus on the “skillset you have that other people don’t,” she added. Even if you aren’t the most qualified.
5. Let go of the results. Reward the effort instead of the results, says Jhaveri. Find your own metric of success and stop wondering what other people will think. The fear of failure is what stops many of us from pushing forward. “Try not to view failure as a value judgment,” she says. “Take value judgment out of it and you can move forward.”
6. Don’t resent your decisions. It’s all part of our path, so no choice should ever truly be considered wrong. “The decisions we make are all practical,” says Jhaveri. “Whatever choices you made, you thought about it and took ownership.” She quoted a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
7. Be nice to people when you don’t need something from them. This is sage advice Jhaveri got from a former POLITICO colleague. It’s human nature that we’re all more likely to help a friend before helping a stranger – and you never know when you might need someone’s help. Better to be remembered for being a kind and familiar face. Show up and connect on something simple. It’s as easy as that.
8. Failure = resilience = success. Finally, this is the formula that Jhaveri came up with as a result of her experiences. “Resilience is the key to success in everything you do,” says Jhaveri. “When you fail a lot you build resilience – you’ll get grit.” Don’t take it easy on yourself. “You have to start, fall down, start and fall down. And then you keep going,” she says. That’s how you hit the finish line.
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Anna Jasinski is manager of audience relations at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter at @annamjasinski for expert tips on writing and social media. You can also catch her tweeting the latest news in journalism and blogging on @BeyondBylines.