Career Off Script | Margaret Montgomery – Digital Marketer Turned Journalist
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Margaret Montgomery – Digital Marketer Turned Journalist

If you’ve ever spent time on the MoneySense site, chances are you’ve read an article that Margaret first edited. Despite wanting to be a Journalist since high school though, she felt the pressure to initially complete a Business degree – the ‘safer’ choice.

I spoke to her about her role at the magazine, how she first ended up in digital marketing instead of Journalism, and what eventually pushed her to make the career switch.

So can you tell me what you do right now?

Right now, I’m an editorial assistant. It’s an introductory role in the world of journalism, or editorial newsrooms. I’m getting the opportunity to write editorial content, that’s the journalism side of things and then also getting some exposure to editing, work by freelancers, writers, other people on the team, financial experts. I also do a bit of fact checking and other miscellaneous tasks, to keep our website polished and up and running.

And where are you currently? Can you tell me a bit about the company?

Yeah, so I work at MoneySense magazine, a legacy, Canadian financial publication. It used to be a print magazine, owned by Rogers, but now it’s completely digital. MoneySense is owned by Ratehub Inc, but it’s completely editorially independent. We have readers of all ages – some people are used to us from [the] print magazine and then some of our new readers are coming in through organic search like through SEO. So it’s a really awesome magazine with a really broad audience.

What made you choose Journalism and how did you get into the field?

I started out in business administration, that was my undergraduate degree. I just honestly always heard it was hard to get into journalism. I thought you needed to have a portfolio and all this creative experience. I didn’t have that. And it was the imposter syndrome or the fear of doing something I’ve always wanted to do and what if it didn’t work out – that was holding me back. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t without a job [after school], and worried about a more creative industry.

So I chose business. I landed a job with a consumer packaged goods company doing marketing, sales, project management and also some data analysis. And I really enjoyed this experience. I learned a lot and it was quite challenging. But the thing I enjoyed the most was researching and reading articles about the industry. There was one article in particular where a journalist had investigated practices at a major grocery store, finding out all sorts of ethical breaches and different interesting issues like that, and I was like, wow, this is really cool. [Because] ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a journalist. I loved writing in my spare time and was always reading. I was a bookworm. I worked in that job for a year and had gotten a raise and was on track for a promotion. And then I just thought to myself why am I doing this? If I’m going to get a promotion, which involves a lot more of a time commitment, more responsibility, and possibly more stress, is this what I want?

I was unfulfilled. I decided at that point, there’s already a pandemic and things are tumultuous in the world, I might as well do something for myself. So I decided to apply to journalism programs.

Did you have any fears about making the switch? Especially because journalism is not considered the ‘safest’?

Yeah,I got a lot of comments like, ‘oh, isn’t journalism a dying industry?’ People worried about me giving up benefits and steady pay and things like that. But I had saved upwards of $15,000 so that I could  live in Toronto and go to college and I also intended on getting another job. But I also had a lot of fear myself. Fear of failing at something I love so much, or if I would even find a job given the pandemic and the effects that had on the economy. I was quite worried about that. Or if I would just end up in another marketing job after. There were a lot of concerns but I just decided to do it anyway.

Why is that?  You had the same fears and pressures about going into Journalism back in highschool, but what was different this time around?

I tried doing the safer option, something other than what I wanted to do, and didn’t feel that it paid off for me. It’s the effect of living a life that doesn’t really align with your values, or the vision that you have for yourself. I guess it just sounds really cheesy, but it’s like you have one life. So what’s your contribution going to be?

Now that you’re in Journalism, is there anything that surprises you about the field that you didn’t first anticipate?

How technical it is. It’s really driven by SEO now. There’s a perception of journalism that it’s very creative and goes with the flow, but it’s really not. There’s a lot of technical skills you need to have to be an effective journalist and to make sure you’re reaching the people that you intend to reach.

Do you have any advice for people that are looking for a bit of encouragement or confidence in making a similar decision?

I think at the end of the day, it’s about connecting with yourself as a person and asking yourself, does this align with my values? If you just listen to other people’s advice or words of caution, then you might end up in a place where I was – where you’re unfulfilled and feeling trapped or stuck and it’s not really a place that you want to be. I followed a therapist on Instagram who talked about why it’s so important to know your values and did a values exercise. You pick like five words that stick out to you the most from a bunch of different words and it’s all about connecting with how you feel about them. I would recommend that for anyone before you try and make a decision or before listening to anyone else’s advice, to connect with your own values. 

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