NEX GEN

Unscheduled mentoring

NEX GEN participant Nate Rodriguez got firsthand experience in dealing with change

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For Nate Rodriguez, participation in the NEX GEN program did not go according to plan. Still, he said, it helped him handle a career crisis.

About three months into the 2015-16 mentoring program, Rodriguez suddenly lost his job at the Las Vegas Review-Journal following its purchase by local billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Selected first- and second-level executives were let go or re-assigned, Rodriguez said. At the time he was senior director of advertising/classified, agency, niche and magazines.

Rodriguez needed some mentoring in a hurry, and is grateful to his assigned NEX GEN mentor, Jeremy Halbreich, chairman and CEO of AIM Texas Media in Dallas. "My mentor, within days of the news, got in contact with me and immediately put me in touch with his media contacts," he said. Rather than discussing on-the-job issues on which Halbreich might have insight, they talked about possible openings at AIM and other opportunities that might be a good fit for Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, 36, wasn't out of work for long, moving to Texas to work for GateHouse Media as general manager of The Herald Democrat in Sherman, Texas. This past week, Rodriguez was promoted to senior group publisher, adding responsibility for three weekly papers in fast-growing parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to his new role in Sherman.

Rodriguez advises others who might be reluctant to apply for NEX GEN because their jobs are uncertain to do so anyway. "Don't be concerned about that, because you can still get something out of this program, even if something happens that you're not planning," he said.

Although the turmoil of transition kept him from taking part in all the formal parts of NEX GEN, Rodriguez did participate in three of the video conferences.

"One of the three conference calls specifically was about change. It couldn't have come at a better time for me, because we were doing a curriculum around being a change agent, how to manage through change, etc.," he said. Initially, the name of the new owner in Las Vegas was being kept secret, and Rodriguez supervised 50 employees who were asking questions for which he had no answers.

"That particular lesson was some of the most valuable coaching and teaching that I've ever received in my life," he said.

Rodriguez said he made multiple contacts through NEX GEN that will continue to help him in career development, and he intends to stay in touch with Halbreich now that they are both part of the Texas media.

"My ability to affiliate with the NEX GEN program for the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association has opened up doors for me employment wise," he said. "And that is something that is due to the credibility of the organization and the leaders who come out of the program. I was honored to be a part of that."

Halbreich was happy to help.

"Neither Nate nor I anticipated our NEX GEN year together would unfold in this manner. I was grateful I could be there for him when he needed an objective sounding board as well as for moral and professional support," Halbreich said. "And, of course, this entire experience gave Nate a crash course in change management that paralleled nicely with the formal NEX GEN program."

Submit an application for the 2017-2018 NEX GEN program.


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at jbnicholes@att.net. Suggestions for future stories and comments on this piece are welcomed.

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