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Career Change: From Beat Reporter to Communications Specialist

Published on January 31, 2024, 4:16 p.m.
by Carsyn Smiling.

Every year recent college graduates enter the workforce hoping to find the perfect job right out of college. Many use their entry-level job to lay the foundation of their newfound professional lives, and an increasing number of graduates have found that there are often advantages to making career changes over time.

Finding your fit

Stephanie Taylor found her first fit at The Tuscaloosa News as a reporter covering the public safety beat. Little did she know, she would stay at her first job for almost 20 years before deciding on a career change.

While it was never in the picture for Taylor to leave her job at The Tuscaloosa News, in 2020 she found herself with an opportunity to take a leap into the world of public relations as a senior communications specialist with the Tuscaloosa Police Department, a role that she still serves in today. This transition allowed her to expand her knowledge of public safety.

Taylor is the first civilian at the Tuscaloosa Police Department to fill this role, as the need for media relations continues to grow more important in public service.

Stephanie Taylor

“I think my perspective as a non-police officer has been helpful in a lot of cases,” said Taylor. She was able to confidently make this position her own by honing in on her skills and previous experience.

Networking in the community

As a journalist, Taylor was able to foster positive relationships within the Tuscaloosa community. Her growing network quickly noticed Taylor’s professional qualities, such as her apt writing abilities, which kept her name at the top of their minds when the communications job became available at TPD.

Jason Morton, a long-lasting friend and past co-worker of Taylor’s, said, “She’s always been diligent, ethical and professional when it came to the job.” Taylor has gained respect from many people within the communications industry and proved herself through her ethical and moral character.

Transferrable skills

As an Alabama native, Taylor began her college education at The University of Alabama. She didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do, but her love for writing led her to studying journalism on the reporting track.

In her day-to-day routine as a public relations practitioner, Taylor finds that she still uses many of the skills she developed through journalism.

“Embrace the things that other people don’t want to, and those skills will translate into other roles,” said Taylor.

There are numerous skills that in the world of communications that can easily transfer to other careers. Taylor’s work ethic and willingness to learn allowed for the transition to be easier.

Photo via Unsplash by Andrew Neel

Taking the leap

Even after landing her new position, there was much for Taylor to sort out. She knew that amidst the pandemic, she wanted to play a part in instilling trust in the police force throughout the Tuscaloosa community. She knew working with TPD would allow her to do that.

Taylor loved her career for so many years, but found that it was equally as important to know when it is time for a change and believe in her ability.

“I was torn when she left, but I was glad she found her place,” said Morton.

According to a Forbes, when considering a job change a practitioner should assess their skills and lean on their network, both of which Taylor did.

Knowing your audience

Although her job title may have changed, Taylor has always been a public servant. In both of her careers she has helped disperse information to the public — just in different ways.

Knowing your target audience is crucial, and it is the PR practitioner’s job to know how to best reach the target. Taylor plays a role in deciding when and what information is released to the public.

“It was definitely a change to know that the things I was posting were better received by the public,” Taylor said. “The main things I had to change were my tone and language.”

Although she was reaching out to a similar audience, about similar issues, the delivery needed to be altered.

Taylor was able to adapt to the way different industries have changed over a 20-year time span, including learning new communication channels and changing from print to online. for example, Taylor uses Facebook to keep residents of the community up to date and has found that it works best for TPD social media communications. Through trial and error, she found that she was able to reach a broader audience on Facebook rather than other communication channels such as X.

Journalists and PR practitioners are often perceived differently by the public. According to a LinkedIn article, PR practitioners often focus on creating a positive image for those they represent. That’s exactly what Taylor aimed to do when she transitioned over to TPD.

Change is good

Working in communications provides professionals with a diverse skillset. There are multiple different sectors to explore, and it is never too late to make a career change. Taylor has effectively used skills developed through her degree and experience to her advantage as she has navigated the change in her career paths.

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