The day Lindsay Holmes ’12 moved into a tiny, way-uptown, three-bedroom apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, she still couldn’t believe she was there on a one-way ticket.
“It sort of reminded me of what I felt like when I started at UCF. It almost felt like extended vacation where at some point it would end, and eventually I would go back home,” says the senior wellness editor at HuffPost.
“I feel like I have a purpose in my writing.”
Her dream of living in New York as a writer took shape when she was 8 years old. While on a trip to the city, her mother told her, “This is the place where writers live.”
“From that moment, I latched onto that goal,” Holmes says.
Five years ago, she got her foot in the door with an internship at HuffPost. Fast-forward to today and she is one of the leading voices in mental-health journalism.
Holmes shares her No. 1 tip for getting a leg up on the competition in the job-search process, her tactics to living a balanced life and how a quick-thinking interview moment led her to a fulfilling career.
How did you get your job?
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to contact people who work in human resources for the companies you really want to work for. I saw a posting at HuffPost for an editorial fellowship that they were starting. I reached out to the HR team instead of blindly applying on the website, and I ended up getting an interview. Once I accepted the fellowship, they placed me in their healthy-living section. I had never covered health journalism in school or covered anything related to it. But when I interviewed with some of the editors, they asked me for some story ideas offhand. I came up with some on the spot and ended up impressing them and got placed in that section for my fellowship.
The editor of the subsection of healthy living, who I was interning for, ended up leaving three months into my internship, and they offered me her position because it was an entry-level role. I have been here ever since.
Why are you passionate about the topic of mental health?
What draws me into it is a ton of people still don’t really know how common mental-health issues are and how universal it really is. It’s a subject that touches everyone, and educating people on how much it can impact your life or your loved one’s life is really important to me. I feel like I have a purpose in my writing. I’ve gotten emails from readers who tell me things like, “This story really helped my uncle understand my mental-health condition,” and it’s those moments that keep me motivated. I am creating some sort of positive change while doing something that I love.
Tips for living a balanced life?
I actually go to therapy, which I never did when I was living in Florida. Since I started working at HuffPost, I thought I’m writing about this and encouraging other people to go talk to someone just because they are stressed, I may as well, too. I realized that’s something that everyone can do.
Everyone in New York is so career focused and driven, which is one of the things I love about this city, but it can also mean that your entire life is wrapped up in one thing. I don’t always practice what I preach when I say this, but I always think it is important to have a separate social life or separate hobby outside of work. I randomly joined a bowling league in the winter. I’m terrible at bowling but I think that really helped me at least once a week force myself to leave the office at 5:30 and get out of my comfort zone to do an activity that wasn’t completely centered on my everyday to-do list.
Tell me about your interaction with singer Demi Lovato.
A few years ago, I moderated a panel about a documentary produced by Be Vocal, which is the mental-health organization that Demi Lovato is a spokesperson for. The documentary followed three people living with mental-health conditions, and I ended up writing a story about my experience with the panel and interviewed Demi for it.
The advocate that you see in the media when it comes to mental health and recovery, Demi is that in person. It’s not a show. She really, really is open and honest about her experiences. She wants to use her platform to help elevate other people’s voices. Her mission was to make the interview about those people and that documentary. I think that the public recognizes that, which is why you saw the outpouring of support recently. I’m really wishing the best for her.
Career advice for UCF students?
Apply for jobs while you are still in school. I started applying for jobs two months before my graduation date. As far as pursuing a career, especially in media in New York, persistence is everything.
I knew this is what I wanted and wasn’t getting it right away when I graduated, so I got a different job in Orlando and made a plan: I applied to everything I could, followed up as much as I could and networked as much as possible from Florida, which was really hard. I gave myself a deadline of Sept. 1, 2013, and I ended up starting my job on Aug. 26, 2013. I made it! But if I would have reached that deadline without a job, then I was going to just take a leap of faith and go and see what happened.
If this is a career path that you really, really want, then you have to hustle for it and be willing to pursue it no matter what because that’s the only way it’s going to happen.
Most memorable story as a New Yorker?
It was 2013 and my first real winter in New York. I had been working at my job for maybe four months and went out with some work friends. It was the first time I was sort of establishing my social group here.
On my way home after dinner, I was in this really happy mood — it was starting to snow and I felt like I was creating this huge life here. And then I got lost. I had gotten on the wrong subway. I went from feeling eternally grateful to just helpless and crying on the sidewalk.
This woman walked by and was like, “Can you move out of my way?” She didn’t offer any sort of condolences. That made me cry even more, and this guy ended up coming up and asked if I needed help. I spilled my life story to him, and he directed me to the subway I needed two blocks away.
I think that sums up New York in a nutshell. You go from feeling really, eternally grateful and just high on life to just all of a sudden crying on the sidewalk and no one thinks anything of it.