May 10, 2023
(ATLANTA) — Laura J. Downey, executive editor of WebMD Magazine and point-of-care products, exemplifies a journalist who has climbed to the top through sheer hard work, dedication, and an unwavering desire to excel. Despite the notion that journalism culture is waning, Downey has shattered this myth with her wealth of experience in various forms of journalism, including fashion, entertainment, freelance, and travel writing. In a recent interview with The Click, Downey shared invaluable lessons she has learned over the years, revealing how she has used them to become the influential editor and individual she is today. Here are five key takeaways from our conversation:
- Transferable skills are everything: “Every job will have skills that are transferable. So, even if you start as a fact checker, which is how I started at People Magazine, you can build a foundation. Back then, I thought, ‘This job really isn’t anything—it’s the lowest on the totem pole.’ But, each skill you learn builds on another skill. I took every skill that I’ve learned from every job and brought it to where I am today.”
- Organization and time management are key: “My mom is Trinidadian and very strict. As a kid, my sister and I grew up with rules. So, I have always been meticulous based on that. So how does that fit into someone’s career? Do you know how many people are not organized? Do you know how many people don’t have it together—can’t find things? I’m very organized and that helps me with work. Everything has a place. My schedule is so jam-packed so I have to be organized. I have a system for everything.”
- Mistakes are opportunities to learn: “At one of my first jobs, my supervisor gave me an assignment. I did not ask a lot of questions because as a new hire, I wanted to come across as competent and knowing it all. That was a big mistake and that’s when I learned I have to ask questions. Essentially, a spread in the magazine was designed after I said we had enough content for it. But after further digging, we found out that we did not. After that assignment, I felt like I was looked at like, ‘She can’t do the job.’ That crushed my spirit and I started to question myself. ‘Gosh, can I not do the job or can I?’ It messes with your mental a little bit. I wish my supervisor would have said, ’Laura, let’s learn from this.” Instead, I felt like she had no more faith in my abilities. This experience helped to shape me into who I am today. I am particularly conscious when working with others and I believe in giving second and third chances should someone make a mistake. I don’t ever want anyone to feel like I did many years ago.”
- Self-care is essential: “I’m a spa girl, so facials and massages are my thing. I workout, get massages, and start my day with prayer. Going to church and worship services calm me down—I release everything there. Eating well also helps me mentally, physically, and spiritually. Find what you like and what works for you.”
- Trust yourself and don’t give up: “I’m 45 and I still experience imposter syndrome and nervousness. It’s going to happen. If you’re a human being, it’s going to happen. But my mom always says, ‘Fake it till you make it, Laura.’ You can do it. Trust yourself, know what you want, and go after it. If there are areas that you feel like you need to improve on to be the best at your role, then work on those areas. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something.”
As the media landscape undergoes rapid transformation, it’s heartening to see a journalist like Laura J. Downey, who has harnessed her diverse expertise to thrive in the field. Her journey serves as a testament to the power of perseverance, continuous learning, and a strong work ethic. Ultimately, her story is a reminder that success is within reach for those who are willing to put in the effort.