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The Big Picture
Rebecca "Becky" Coates Nee, a veteran TV news anchor/reporter, is a professional life/career coach. Check out her website at to take the coachability test, subscribe to her free "Beyond the Box" newsletter and to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie.

Midlife in TV News By:
Rebecca Coates Nee

I'm attracting a lot of 29 year olds lately. Not romantically, of course. After all - at 41 I'm elderly by comparison, not to mention married.

But as a career coach specializing in TV transitions, I'm getting calls from a number of 29-year-old broadcasters who are doing some serious soul searching about their chosen profession.

In a career that won't span more than 15 years for most of us, 29 really is midlife in TV news. And, at that critical age, we often realize that our carefree, post-college happy days are coming to an end. We are about to enter the decade of mortgages, marriages and individual retirement accounts. We tell ourselves we need to grow up, get a real job with real hours and a real salary. Now.

This is where most 29 year olds in TV make their critical mistake: They begin thinking like a mature adult, but then they act as impulsively as they did at their last frat party. Panic sets in and they start screaming in the middle of a live shot or throwing eggs and tomatoes at construction workers from their apartment balcony.

After the meltdown, they take a "safe" PR job, sell the futon, buy a real bed and a practical car. And by 31, they're waxing nostalgic about the good old days in TV, when they used to BE somebody instead of someone else's somebody.

So, they dream of going back. Maybe they could be a news director in a small market. Or a morning anchor in a Top 20. Working overnights weren't really so bad, they tell themselves. It's certainly more exciting than endless vision and mission meetings and more fulfilling than begging 22-year-old desk interns for media coverage.

Some will go back and be happy they did, others will be throwing tomatoes and tantrums again in a few years. And many more will stay in their corporate jobs, longing for the glory days that will begin to look more glorious each passing year.

The problem is few of us take the time to write a vision and mission statement for ourselves at the critical age of 29. You have two choices: plan your life or let someone else plan it for you. To do that, you have to first figure out who you are and what you want. Not what other people want for you - what YOU want. So that's where I start with the bewildered broadcasters on the edge of 30 - figuring out who they are.

I know some people think of me as the Grim Reaper of TV news - beckoning people to come to the other side. But that's not true at all. In fact, I never advise people to leave TV. Only my clients have the answer to that question, so I help them get to know themselves a bit better - which usually involves going back to the age of 7 or 8, before other people's expectations, critiques and applause confused them.

I also assure them that everything they've done has prepared them in one way or another for whatever direction they do choose to head. They just have to define that new direction and see how their broadcasting background fits in. Then, I congratulate them for taking the time to tackle the question people in other professions don't ask until 20 years later. In fact, one of the benefits of broadcasting may be its unpredictability, after all. It challenges us to look at ALL our options a little closer - and, most importantly, ourselves.