Many of you may be wondering who I am — who will be adding to your news content in the coming days, weeks, months, and even years — and to that, I offer you an introduction.
My name is Katie Scaff and I’m a young journalist eager to learn more about the South Sound business community. I’m a Puget Sound native and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a little bit about this community in the last four years while living in Parkland, where, like my predecessor Breanne Coats, I studied journalism at Pacific Lutheran University. Like Bre, I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher, and had I not had a change of heart a few months ago, I’d be teaching summer school in Phoenix right now.
I came to PLU unsure of what I’d pursue. I had considered majoring in math or education, because I enjoy teaching and sharing knowledge. But journalism hadn’t crossed my mind. At 18, nothing seemed more daunting than writing about an unfamiliar topic and sending it out into the world for everyone to read. But the challenge intrigued me, so on a whim I signed up for the “writing for journalism” class. I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t quite rocket science, as I imagined.
I enjoyed journalism from my first story assignment as a freshman at PLU, but it wasn’t until this January, when I took an internship with a local business publication, that I really felt like what I was doing was meaningful. Had it not been for this internship, I might not have written the article you’re reading. Rather, as I mentioned, I’d be in Phoenix, completing the summer institute training with the 2013 Teach for America Corps members. I was set to teach summer school with other recent graduates and professionals who share my desire to spread knowledge, and, in the fall, I would have been assigned my own classroom at an elementary school in St. Louis.
I was attracted to Teach for America because I believe in its mission of eliminating educational inequality, and I knew I would find meaning and purpose in the two-year commitment. But, when I discovered business reporting just a few months ago, I found a similar purpose in delivering information that could inspire business leaders and entrepreneurs and help to transform communities.
So, I resigned from Teach for America to pursue a career in business reporting, but I didn’t set aside my passion for teaching, nor another fundamental belief I shared with the organization. That belief, and what drew me to apply for Teach for America, was the organization’s commitment to increasing educational opportunities and outcomes for kids across the country. What the members of this organization and I share is the belief that education is the great equalizer. But, we also understand that it can’t be an equalizer if there isn’t equal access. One of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome in this effort is economic disparity, which creates barriers to access to a good education. And that’s where you, the South Sound business community, can help.
I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with you as a business reporter. I was the first in my family to go to college and am very thankful for the educational opportunities and mentors who have helped me along the way to get me where I am today.
I consider myself fortunate, because I was able to both earn some money and gain experience that helped me land this job that has me writing for you. But, many of my middle- and lower-class peers were forced to choose between jobs that would help them pay the bills or unpaid internships that would help them gain an edge when it came time to apply for “real” jobs after graduation. One mentor in particular helped me find and secure a handful of paid internship opportunities in a downturned economy, and in a field where nearly all internships are unpaid.
I began my job hunt in March, three months before graduation, with a resume that gleams with an array of experience with local prolific news organizations. And 20 applications later, here I am. But, while I write to you from the comfort of my new desk, many of my peers are still out there — hurling out applications in what oftentimes felt like a complete crap shoot. Applying to job after job after job sucks. But what sucks more is knowing your application is tossed aside because your resume shows two years working with your student body government, which helped you pay the bills, instead of interning two years, unpaid, at some hot-shot marketing firm, which would have left you without a way to pay tuition.
I’m also grateful to the editors at my first internship, who really took a chance on me. Prior to this experience, I had worked as a camp counselor, served frozen yogurt at TCBY and written a handful of stories for local publications. I didn’t have as much experience writing, but I had a number of essential skills that my job-seeking peers have — I was eager, a quick learner and passionate about the work I’d be doing. These traits helped me to succeed from the get go — even though I did not have the relevant work experience that many employers and internship supervisors look for.
Had these editors not taken a chance on me, I might not be here helping deliver the news that’s relevant to you and your business, so I encourage you too to give your young applicants another glance. You may wonder how bussing tables or serving coffee is relevant to the work you do, but I bet someone with this work experience will know how to operate when the going gets tough — I know I do.