Advice and Encouragement, Translated
May 11, 2012
Before we start, one last plug: The Revlon Run/Walk for Women, raising funds for research into the cause and cure of women's cancers, prevention, education and support service programs, is coming up Saturday, May 9th in Los Angeles, and my wife Fran (a six-year cancer survivor! Yay!) and I will be walking once again. We would appreciate the support of the radio community, so if you can donate, here's the link: do.eifoundation.org/goto/pmsimon2012. Thank you!
There have been times during the past few years when it felt like everyone I know in radio was getting fired. That's a gross exaggeration, but it seemed that way, and after talking to so many people in that position that I lost count, I found myself grasping for different ways to convey the same advice and encouragement over, and over, and over, and over, and over until it all just blurred into incoherence. There are only so many ways to say "hang in there, buddy." Actually, that's pretty much the only way that comes to mind.
The latest round of free agents got me thinking. I know I'm not the only one on the short list of calls you make when you get the dreaded "hey, can I talk to you for a minute? In my office?" from the boss. And I know there are things everyone says in this situation. Maybe it's time to demystify the Sage Words of Advice to the Newly Unemployed. Here, then, are the things you'll hear from friends and family when you get the ax, and the truth behind them:
1. "Don't worry, you won't be out long." That's only true if you're very lucky. If you're not very lucky, you'd better make sure you saved up enough to get through a long stretch of wondering when your next paycheck will be arriving. It doesn't matter HOW good you are at what you do. Prepare for idleness.
2. "Make your job search into a job." This one's a typical instruction for job seekers; Experts will suggest you wake up early every day, dress as if you're headed to the office, then get right to... what? It's 2012. You can be through all the job listings at All Access and Craigslist and everywhere else in a half hour tops, make dozens of phone calls, send out dozens of emails, and that'll take you to maybe 11 am. That'll leave you plenty of time for "Mass Effect 3," but the whole suit-and-tie early-to-rise thing gets old after a few days. Realistically, you'll be in front of your computer in your underwear looking at Photoshopped pictures of Kate Upton or reading tweets all day. The trick is to strike a balance, but "treating the job search as a job" is a fantasy promulgated by people who get paid to come up with that stuff. That's THEIR job.
3. "Rely on your network." That's always good, and, in addition...
4. "Make sure everyone you know is aware that you're looking." Same thing, just covering more people (like, don't be afraid to have your untimely departure reported at All Access so people you DON'T know see it, too). Combine 3 and 4 and you're doing the right thing, but there's a huge caveat: Keep your expectations reasonable. Your network isn't likely to turn up a job right away. In fact, your network won't be thinking about you 24/7 no matter what you do, or what they say. And that's okay, because of how these things work. The likelihood that you'll tell a Facebook or LinkedIn contact that you're available and they'll come right back with an offer is small. It's more likely to happen this way: You tell them, and they stick it waaaaaaayyyyyyy back in the deep recesses of their minds and go on with life. You periodically remind them of your existence, and they acknowledge you and stick your name back in purgatory. And then a job does open up, and they're asked, hey, do you know anyone who'd be right for this one? After a few moments of struggle, your name pops up. Paydirt! It's not speedy enough and not the way you want it to work, but that's how it DOES work. I can't tell you how many "hey, do you know anyone" calls I've taken over the years. I can't tell you how many times I can't remember every name right away. That's why it's good to keep in touch.
5. "Hang in there." Or, "Keep the faith." I admit that I say this stuff all the time, and it's sincere. By the same token, I recognize that it's largely empty, because, well, what's the alternative? How does one NOT hang in there? Besides, discouragement is natural. But when you're talking to someone who's lost their job, or is going through rough times, something has to come out of your mouth.
But here's a more concrete piece of advice: Think about what else you can do. In 2012, it's dangerous to put all your eggs in one radio basket. If you don't think the major groups are going to continue to cut back on staffing, you aren't paying attention. There are other opportunities, of course, like streaming or podcasts, but those probably won't in and of themselves provide you with the income you need. And that's why you need to look for opportunities in a wider range of possibilities. It could be in an entirely different profession, but you should consider what you can offer in fields that overlap what you do now. Marketing? Coaching people in public speaking and public relations? Social media consulting? Political consulting? Working in PR for a government agency or candidate? Running for office yourself? It's not a matter of thinking big, it's thinking, um, wide. You're not a talk radio host or programmer, you're a communications and public relations expert. Your skills ARE adaptable.
And hang in there.
What? You still have a show? Lucky you. And lucky (sort of) that there's Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports, which has hundreds of topic ideas and news stories and kicker items, all available for free by clicking here; all the topics are also linked on Twitter at @talktopics. Don't forget the radio industry's first-best-most complete coverage at Net News, with the top stories tweeted at @allaccess.
Oh, yeah, that Nerdist Channel show on which I was scheduled to appear has been delayed due to technical issues. Long story, but some logistical issues have to be worked out that weren't apparent until footage was already shot. In the meantime, check out the other shows we have, including the celebrity bowling show (don't miss the "Mad Men" episode) and Justin Willman's magic show premiering today.
Once again, thank you to all who have donated to the Revlon Run/Walk for Women. Now, it's time to walk....