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Top 3 things I learned at my first NABJ conference

For those of you wondering where I’ve been and why But…Don’t Take My Advice has been on a hiatus, I want to first say that I have a small excuse.

I been busy.

The last few weeks have been a little hectic for me- marked by a trip home to Pittsburgh, catching Beyoncé ft. Hov on the OTRII tour here in Philly, and heading to Detriot for the National Association of Black Journalist Conference.

As I have now returned to work, I diagnosed myself with what I call “post-conference depression.”

August 6, 2018This was my first NABJ experience and it was truly unforgettable. Here are some highlights, and lessons I learned at #NABJ18:

1. Finding your own lane

The first night I arrived in Detroit, I immediately headed to the host hotel at the downtown Marriot Renaissance Center, changed clothes and headed down to a welcome reception party to meet my old classmate who I would be rooming with the rest of the trip. I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of black excellence I encountered as soon as I left the registration table. But the welcome reception was far more intimidating than I’d imagined.

Up until this point, I thought I was prepared. I had my business cards, both personal and professional. I had practiced my elevator speech about who I was and what it is that I do. I had my resumés on hand. I was good to go to start networking, right?

As I stood in line at the reception to get a plate of hors d’oeuvres, a young woman in front of me turned around and introduced herself. She was an on-air reporter with her photo on her business card. And the next stranger I met was a producer from CBS Sports. The next, a marketing and PR director at her own firm.

These exchanges became more and more difficult as I had to repeatedly describe myself as a “reporter for (insert my employer here) in New Jersey that used to be on TV doing local news but now has a personal entertainment blog and podcast.

Damn, am I all over the place?

I went on throughout the conference to attend several workshops and listen to various panelists about how they found their lane, stuck with it and became successful. And more and more it made me question what exactly my lane was?

I consider myself to be well versed in many things, but I am not an expert at ONE thing –hence the name of this website– and here were thousands of journalists, writers, bloggers, videographers, hosts, and sportscasters who seemed to have it all figured out.

It was the last day of the conference and I was expressing my grief with my roommate who said to me “Don’t worry. We’re all lost and still trying to find our way. You’ll get there.”

I sure hope she’s right.

That made me realize there was a point in time where all of these successful figures I was looking up to and admiring were once in my same exact position, maybe just at a different point in their lives.

NABJ taught me to stop focusing on the dissatisfactions I may have for where I am today, and to look at the amazing people I met during the conference as an example for where I can and will go. I will find my lane, with patience and hard work.

But most importantly a positive attitude.

2. Celebrities are people too

NABJ brings together the best of the best in black media across the entire country. I ran into people who your average girl from Pittsburgh would never encounter on a regular basis.

The first- I ran into Jemele Hill on my elevator and worked up the courage to ask for a picture…(well, I asked the guy she was with to take the photo for us, to which she immediately interjected and suggested we just take a selfie. I later found out that guy was her boyfriend. Whoops- sorry girl)

Later on, we learned that Chance the Rapper was headed to NABJ. It only made sense because he recently bought a local newspaper in Chicago, and he came to learn more about the journalism business. But did I ever think I’d run into him?

Then on Friday, in he walks into the back of my workshop. Just casually strolled in! We all just so happened to turn around once we heard some gasps… and boom. There’s Chance.

He didn’t want to take any photos with us, but I snuck in a sighting on my phone. Later that evening I ran into him again at a happy hour, this time with his fiancé. Again, he didn’t want any photos but he did allow people to approach him and say a few words. (I chickened out and was not one of those people)

After seeing Bobby Brown, Tyler Perry, Roland Martin, Rev.  Jesse Jackson, Deray, Kevin Frazier from Entertainment Tonight (who checked my reel during the career fair) – my inner fandom calmed down, and I realized that these celebrities are just people too.

They were walking the same halls, attending the same events and conversing with the same people that I was.

I’m grateful for that experience because now, when I get big enough to interview some of these public figures, I will have gotten the shock and giddy all out of my system.

3. The power of networking

I really didn’t know what to expect going into NABJ. I didn’t know if I would come away with a new job opportunity, a new friend, some advice, or if someone would say “Drop everything and move to LA tomorrow for a $200,000 gig)- a girl can dream right?

Well I didn’t nab 200k, but I did walk away with a new friend and some sound advice which may be more valuable than a new job opportunity in the long run.

Even if I was unsure exactly what I was looking for at NABJ, I am grateful for being able to meet and converse with some amazing people in the industry that I love. They say you have to surround yourself with people that motivate you, and I couldn’t have been in better company.

Here are some of the highlights from my very first NABJ. Until next year- I’ll see you all in MIA!

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1 comment on “Top 3 things I learned at my first NABJ conference

  1. Samantha says:

    OMG!! What an experience Lex!! Thanks for being on top of your game by recording and sharing highlights of the conference. It almost made me want to attend next year’s conference just to share the experience with you and rub shoulders with the Who’s Who among journalists/reporters/entertainers, etc. that you’ll be joining the ranks of soon. I’m sure of that. The sky’s the limit chicky!! Proud of you!! Mom

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