Darkest Before The Dawn
May 27, 2016
My fellow All Access columnist and Cumulus digital tsarina Lori Lewis posted something on Facebook the other day about how it was the eighth anniversary of her getting laid off as PD in one of those festive Clear Channel we're-gonna-need-your-key-card events. She related the embarrassment she'd felt, but then wrote this:
"But the saddest day of my career turned out to be the most important."
That's because it was, as motivational posters say, the first day of the rest of her life. (They also counsel you to "hang in there" like a cat dangling from a branch, but that's not apropos right now.) The loss of a programming job led to her moving to the digital and social media content side and to what she does now. That qualifies as a win, but she's not alone. Let me tell you a little about my own experience.
My last programming job left me walking out of a studio in Pasadena with all of my stuff in a box, wondering what I was going to do next. I had no desire to continue on the job-a-year PD carousel, no desire to move again. I had no idea what I was going to do for a living, but I realized then that it might not be what I expected to be doing when I started.
That turned out to be an understatement. What I ended up doing didn't exist when I started. I can't even clearly explain it when asked; I just tell people I'm a writer and hope they don't ask the dreaded questions "oh, what kind of writing?" or "have you written anything I might have read?" It is not what I pictured doing, but it has been just fine. And I learned a few lessons from that:
1. Trust your instinct. I was told by more than one radio person not to "quit on programming," and to just consider moving back across the country for more programming work. (1a: Don't worry about what others will think.) My instinct was that the digital realm was going to grow a lot more. But...
2. Don't worry that you're making the wrong call. Even if digital hadn't taken off, I would much rather have taken the chances I took (not all of which worked out) than play it "safe" and wonder forever after what might have been. But most importantly...
3. Stop defining yourself by the job you're doing now. If you're out of work or unhappy with your present job, and you're just looking for the exact same job someplace else, you're shortchanging yourself. "Talk host" or "DJ" or "radio programmer" are limiting. It's not just about doing the same thing on the digital side, either. Ask yourself what you can do beyond the duties you do now, and ask what other things are out there to which you can adapt your skills. You might think you're "just a DJ" and "radio is in my blood," but there's a limited number of jobs left in radio; by all means, try to get one of those, but don't hesitate to look beyond, either, even if it's at careers completely outside of radio or broadcasting. Radio is still, and always will be, a special, rewarding industry, but so are many others, and defining yourself as strictly a "radio guy/girl" is unnecessarily limiting.
I, though, still do refer to myself as a "radio guy," even if I'm not the kind of "radio guy" I started out to be. But the day I walked out of that station in Pasadena, squinting into the sunlight and packing my car for the last drive home from there, was the day things changed for the better for me, too. No regrets. If you're in the place I was then and Lori was eight years ago, know that there IS life after this. You just have to think of yourself as more than the job you've been doing, even if you love that job, even if you ultimately get another job just like it. It's kinda fun not to know what's coming next. Not that anyone really knows what's next anyway.
It's a long weekend in the States, so All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, with news items and kickers and bad jokes for any kind of show, will be off for an extra day... but there's a ton of stuff there now, and I'll be back by Monday anyway. (You get a three day weekend. My "long" weekend is two days.) Get it all by clicking here and at the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item. And there's the Podcasting section at AllAccess.com/podcasts.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, a division of Legendary Pictures and Legendary Digital Networks, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities. See, there's ANOTHER thing I didn't see coming, mostly because there was no such thing as podcasting back then, or Nerdist, or Legendary, or iPods.
As always, a reminder: Memorial Day isn't just about barbecues and baseball and beaches, it's a day to remember the people who gave their lives in service to their country. Take a moment this weekend to pay your respects.