Here we go again

The day before 9/11, a Canadian TV network launched its first national newscast, a supper-hour program that wouldn’t compete directly with the two major networks’ 10 and 11 p.m. shows. At the time it was my job to watch all three newscasts. The two legacy networks handled 9/11 and the ensuing weeks’ coverage like the pros they were. The upstart added a little sumthin’-sumthin’ underneath the items about 9/11. I noticed it because while I was watching the newscast and taking my notes I would feel unsettled, my heart would beat a little faster, I’d breathe a little faster, my hands would sweat — things that didn’t happen when I watched the coverage on other networks. It was an extended low note, almost but not quite subliminal, that ran as long as the 9/11 items lasted. I called it the Tone of Dread. I’ve probably written about it before on this blog, because it’s one of those things that has stuck with me, and today it’s useful as a metaphor.

That tone of dread, subliminal or audible, is familiar to most people working in media these days. There’s an under-buzz, a hum, in newsrooms that accompanies the death by 1,000 cuts to staff. It makes your heart race and your palms sweat as you wonder, “when will the next cuts come?” and “when will they come for me?” Living under that hum does things to your brain that simply don’t go away when the job does.

My media job went away five-and-a-half years ago — to the day, as it happens . To my great relief I quickly found another job out of the media, with an association that seemed about as solid as it gets. The excitement level was through the floor, but, lack of adrenaline notwithstanding, it’s been a good place to work and I’ve been lucky to be there and I’ve actually learned a lot.

But that damned hum is back. Associations everywhere are facing the same problem — companies that still haven’t fully recovered from the 2008 recession, or which cut back on spending during the recession and decided they liked having the extra cash — are not shelling out for elective items like they used to, which means associations are losing members. And they’re starting to look at how they can adapt to having less money. My association, having gone through the assessment stage, is now preparing to implement its change measures. And yes, there will be layoffs. And yes, my head’s as likely to be on the chopping block as anyone’s.

And my heart’s beating a little faster and my palms are often sweaty and — this is new! — I’ve started to wake up at night gasping in the throes of a panic attack.

I dropped this blog like a hot potato five-and-a-half years ago when I started my new job — there was some question about whether the social media rules allowed me to have a blog, and then once that was resolved there was the question of whether I felt like writing at the end of a long day of writing. The answer – I mostly didn’t.

But that damned hum is back. And I’m thinking that five years on maybe there’s something to be said for saying something in this forum. So we’ll see how this works. I’m going to try for regular updates. And if there’s anything you’d like me to discuss, I’m all ears.


Laid Off? 10 Tips For Suddenly Unemployed Journalists – Recovering Journalist

This is a good article — I’ve said most of these things at one time or another myself, and am patting myself on the back for my smarts — but the really interesting thing about this are the comments, especially the last one, from a journalist who was near retirement age when she was laid off. She became a security guard to supplement her severance/unemployment/pension and says it woke her up to what she should be doing, and all in all the lesson she learned is “you are not what you do.” That was a good one.


Laid Off? 10 Tips For Suddenly Unemployed Journalists – Recovering Journalist.

Should I stay or should I go now?

Do you like to move it, move it? I’m not a fan. My parents were near-radicals in their place and time in that they moved an hour’s drive away from their parents, but they stayed in the house where I grew up for 30 years, moving only after retirement. I haven’t managed that record, but it’s taken a major event — job change, layoff, job change, buying a house — to get me out of my comfort zone any time since.

I’m from what we Canadians call a “have-not” province, and because of that I’m more familiar than some (immigrants and emigrants not included) with the idea of leaving your home and family and everything you know in order to chase a dream — or at the very least a decent paychque — elsewhere. At one point in the recent past, my four brothers and I were spread from one end of the country to the other, and into the U.S. I used to feel bad for my parents — you’d think with five children they should have been able to guarantee at least one would be home for Christmas, but that wasn’t always the case.

So I have a little experience with moving away, and I’ll say honestly it has its pros and cons. The overwhelming pro is job opportunity. As a journalist, I had essentially four options for GOOD jobs in my home province. One of them laid me off, and I couldn’t get a look-in at the other three (because it has never been a good time to be a journalist since I entered the profession.) After the GOOD jobs, there were other places that hired journalists, to be sure, but none of them paid enough to live on and so weren’t an option for me. Once I was laid off, it was pretty much a given that I would have to move. So I did. But I’ll tell you right now that if I could find a job paying what my jobs in this province have paid, I’d move back in a minute to be with friends and family there. And I refuse to move farther away.  I’m no longer as homesick as I once was, but I miss the ocean and my favourite people on earth.

So increased job opportunities, money … personal growth is also a big one. If you never see anything but what you know, if the world-view you grew up with is constantly reinforced because your world never really changes, it doesn’t make you a bad person but it stunts you a little bit. Leaving your comfort zone exposes you to new people and experiences that may not change your life in any great way, but they all have a subtle impact.

The cons can be equally persuasive. I remember listening to one co-worker years ago question why all the recently unemployed fish-industry workers in Newfoundland didn’t just move to the then- and again-booming oilfields in Alberta instead of collecting pogey at home. It seemed perfectly obvious to him — he’d left his home province to go to school and was looking at his professional moves afterward as career-builders, no big deal. Reasons for not leaving, on the other hand, seemed perfectly obvious to me: in Newfoundland they may have owned their own homes, or had places to stay with friends and family; they had social safety nets; they had any number of things that could not be easily duplicated in a new place, certainly not without incurring a lot of start-up costs for which they might not have the funds. So there are two cons: leaving behind your people, your place and the environment you know how to operate in, and the money it takes to get started. Another con, depending on the field you’re in, is not having contacts to find work. That’s less important if you’ve got a ticket in skilled trade, the ticket is  your entree. You have to work harder to find work if you don’t have that kind of professional lubricant. If you have a job nailed down before you move, that’s a different kind of calculation.

I don’t know, I have had two careers and I chose both for their portability — I never intended to stay where I was. But moving because you HAVE to, and not because you WANT to, can be its own kind of hell.

I don’t have any answers. Sometimes you just have to do it — pick up sticks and move, make that leap of faith and/or desperation, hope for the best. Millions of people do it every day. Sometimes sticking to what you know is the best thing for you, sometimes it’s the worst. If you’re in a depressed job market, the choice can sometimes be between remaining unemployed, or underemployed, at home or finding professional success away. It’s essentially a deeply personal question of what you can bear.

Playing 20 (or so) questions

Nobody tells you this, but there’s a quiz.

The questions ebb and flow depending on the circumstances of your layoff, and there’s no one with a master answer sheet saying whether you got it right or wrong. But the way you answer the questions will have a direct impact on your job search.

Here are some starter questions:

1. Did I like what I was doing?

2. Do I want to find a job in the same field?

3. Are there jobs locally in this field?

4. Do I have the qualifications for jobs in this field?

5. Do I have contacts to help me find jobs locally in this field?

Depending on the answers to this question, some of the next questions would be:

6. Are there good jobs in my field somewhere else?

7. Do I want to move?

8. Can I move if I have to?

9. Do I have the contacts/skills to find a job somewhere else?

10. Does it make sense to take a lesser job and stay because my spouse has a good job?

Seriously, this question of moving/not moving is an important one, especially if your spouse is employed, your children are in a good school program, or you own a house in a slow housing market. And even if you’re single and don’t own your home, leaving behind your social safety net — family, good friends, places you’re familiar with — can be traumatic and empowering in equal measure, depending on where and why and how you go. If you were holding on to a bad job because you were afraid to step outside your geographic or social comfort zone, you could be pleasantly surprised if you land in a friendly spot with good money and the opportunity for new experiences. Or you could be homesick and never really fit in, I’m not going to lie. I’ve done both and you never know what you’ve got until you get there.

If you decide you can move, and you start applying for jobs outside your area, here are some other questions:

11. Where would I go? (This website can give you an idea of what kind of jobs would be available in other parts of Canada, and here’s one for Ontario).

12. Do I want to look from here, or can I move there and look on-site?

13. Do I need to upgrade my skills before I start looking elsewhere?

14. Is there some place I’ve always wanted to live and are there jobs available there in my field?

15. Do I know anyone there?

There are some other questions the homeowner has to answer:

16. If I sold my house, would I lose money?

17. Is my house ready to sell? (Does it need paint/repairs?) — A married couple I used to work with bought paint almost immediately after hearing about our layoff, on the assumption they’d have to move. And it’s a good thing — they did move out of the province and were able to sell their house fairly quickly for a good price.

18. Do I know a realtor?

19. Am I prepared to pack and leave?

20. Can I afford to pay my mortgage and keep the house going if I stay here and take a pay cut?

You will not be graded on this quiz, but it will be counted against your final mark…

What to do if you’re laid off in 2008 recession — Scobleizer

This article was written four years ago but the economic times don’t seem to have changed much — and the advice still stands for anyone laid off now. I followed most of these tips and people keep telling me I got a job quickly — though it really didn’t seem like that to me at the time!

What to do if you’re laid off in 2008 recession — Scobleizer.