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.