Searching for the New Normal
by Rebecca Coates Nee
October 1st, 2001
Politicians are deciding it’s not yet time for them to go.
Michael Jordan is coming back. Travelers are canceling vacations.
And just about everyone is taking another look at their lives,
families and career choices in the wake of the Sept. 11th
Gallup polls show seven in ten of us are depressed and the
Wall Street Journal reports that a "far-reaching shift in
priorities is underway."
Money, status and career are taking a backseat to family,
friends and community, according to the Journal. We’re told
to get back to normal but we don’t know what that is anymore.
Philip Schwartz, co-founder of a company called Brain Darts,
coined the term the "new normal" a few weeks ago – and it
seems to be spreading as fast as forwarded e-mail urban legends.
What will the new normal look like? We’re beginning to see
some signs with an amazing show of unity among the media,
celebrities and politicians alike. While the tragedy brings
us closer, individual definitions of the new normal are widely
In a small, very unscientific poll of former and current broadcasters,
I found a surprising gender difference in how the terrorist
attacks are impacting career decisions. With a few exceptions,
men tended to want to stay in TV news or return while women
were inclined to do the opposite.
Here are some excerpts:
Male, former anchor now in PR:
"So many of us feel helpless when we watch this over and over
again. We are like the survivors of a shipwreck, struggling
to go on, struggling to understand as we watch part of our
lives swallowed by an ocean of evil. As a journalist, you
may be an observer, but you still feel as if you have the
ability to pull someone up on to your raft."
Female, network producer:
"I want to leave the business. I felt drained emotionally,
physically and mentally partly because I feel like my own
friends died in the crashes."
Male, former producer now in high-tech PR:
"I was hurting to be back in the business … I think that I
actually could have helped some people. You know the reason
many of us got in the business in the first place -to do some
good. I love having access to a story."
Female, former reporter now in marketing:
"The tragedy makes me glad I'm out of TV. The whole thing
makes me re-evaluate what is and isn't important in life.
Unfortunately, our lives will never be the same." Others still
in the business guiltily complained about the long hours and
demanding deadlines. At least one news director told his staff
that "if you can’t get excited about this – you shouldn’t
be in TV news."
He’s probably right. If you really couldn’t see yourself running
from the rubble, even if you work in local news, it may be
time for you to start thinking about a new career. Still,
switching careers at midlife is a scary thought for most people
and broadcasters are particularly skittish about leaving TV.
Since nothing quite compares to the rush of live TV, most
broadcasters who do decide to quit the business fear that
their next job will pale in comparison.
The Internet has made it easier than ever to research careers
— but before you start zapping your resume to 500 employers
and 2,000 headhunters, take some time to figure out what you
really want to do. Career counselors and coaches can help
you define your passion and guide you through the steps of
You can search referral listings through the National Association
of Certified Counselors at www.nbcc.org
Coach University, www.coachu.com,
and the International Coach Federation Web site, www.coachfederation.org.
You may also want to take some personality/career assessments
Check out www.assessment.com
for a free mini-version of the Myers Briggs personality
test, which many employers also use to screen applicants.
You’ll find the full MBTI test available for $50 at www.discoveryourpersonailty.com.
also offers employment resources. Be wary of headhunters.
They want people who have the exact qualifications for the
job. If you don’t have the right experience, they’ll either
write you off or try to mold you into whatever jobs they do
have available. Ideally, the molding should be the other way
around; you tailor the job to fit your interests. Whatever
the new normal is – make sure it’s yours – no one else’s.
Write a personal mission statement for your own life and take
one step this week to make it a reality.