Surviving Your Career in Tough Times
Managing your career despite layoffs and anthrax fears
By Rebecca Coates Nee
October 29th, 2001
A few months ago, the Big Picture was all about exploring
your options, venturing out of your box and broadening your
horizons. Now, as layoffs abound, the Big Picture means just
being glad for what youíve got. The scare running through
newsrooms these days isnít just what may be in the mail. Itís
the uncertainty of whether your news director will still love
As hundreds of broadcasters and other veteran employees across
the board are being dumped onto the streets weekly, itís time
for a little refocusing on what you do have. That way, you
can be in charge of your own exit strategy, rather than letting
your employer plan it for you.
If you have managed to keep your job but youíve been thinking
of dipping into a new profession, you may want to wait until
the economy evens out. Leaving for another job now places
you dangerously low on the seniority list in your new company,
making you even more vulnerable to layoffs there. But how
can you hang on if youíre miserable?
Here are some strategies for taking control of your professional
life while you ride out these shaky times:
What can you do to make your current situation more secure
Can you readjust your attitude and expectations?
How much of your misery is self induced and how much of it
is external? Change the things you can and try to accept those
that you canít.
Anxiety happens when we try to control the uncontrollable.
Read Don Miguel Ruizís book, "The Four Agreements." Pay particular
attention to this agreement: Take Nothing Personally. As Ruiz
points out, if you learn not to take things personally, you
can survive the middle of hell. Itís kind of like being in
the eye of the hurricane.
The crazy people screaming in the storm around you are usually
accomplishing less than the sane, calm people in the center.
Theyíre just making a lot more noise. If time off isnít an
option, build mini-breaks into your day.
Take a walk, phone a friend, stare at your computer. Spending
just five minutes thinking and doing nothing really can help
you put things back in perspective.
Start an aggressive savings plan. Decide what you really need
to live on and how much you can put aside in a safe investment.
You should be banking at least 10-15% of your paycheck, more
if your future is uncertain. And shred those credit cards.
Now is not the time to get into debt. Devise Plan B.
What would you do if your job ended tomorrow? What have you
always wanted to do? What would it take to get there? Who
could help you? Start making contacts now with people who
are doing what you think youíd like to do. Ask them questions
about how they got started. People love talking about what
they do ó you donít have to tell them theyíre part of your
If, on the other hand, your job has already been laid to rest,
make a thorough assessment of your situation before you start
dubbing tapes and running to Kinkoís with your resume. Did
you have a role in the layoff? What did you learn? What could
you have done differently? Be honest with yourself Ė is this
really the right career for you?
Many broadcasters program their auto pilot right back into
TV news after being laid off, not out of true desire, but
to prove they can. Thatís understandable but pointless. If
your gut tells you itís time to leave the industry, taking
another news job somewhere else means youíre wasting valuable
time that you could have spent cultivating a new career. Sure,
you may have to start at the bottom in a different field,
but at least youíve started. And in these times, getting started
sure beats the alternative of inertia.