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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.

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 attacks.

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 varied.

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 getting there.

You can search referral listings through the National Association of Certified Counselors at Coach University,, and the International Coach Federation Web site, You may also want to take some personality/career assessments online.
Check out 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 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.