by Ed Thompson
The headline in the trade magazine always reads something like, “Big Broadcast Corp Announces Purchase Of Little Town Radio Group.” Further in the story, Beau Tomline, Vice President In Charge Of Corporate Reorganizations And Other Important Radio Stuff is quoted, “We don’t anticipate any personnel changes at this time.” Two weeks to two months later, without fanfare or publicity, former Little Town Radio Group Production Director John “Voice Boy” Smith is quietly released in order to “maximize resources” and production duties are added to Big Broadcast Corp Creative Services Director Jim “Overworked” Jones. It’s a scenario that plays out almost every week. The afternoon guy at my first radio job told me once, “Kid, you ain’t really worked in radio until you’ve been fired at least once.” Little comfort when you’re filling out forms for unemployment benefits.
It’s a scary thing, getting fired. The range of emotion you experience in the split second after the boss says, “we’re going to have to let you go,” is remarkable. Shock, denial, fear, powerlessness, anger, rage, grief, even relief are all a part of it, even if you know it’s coming. It’s not unlike the guy in the old newsreel that bounces the fired cannonball off his stomach…it hurts like hell. But the sting of being fired can be lessened if there’s a contingency plan. I call it Plan C.Y.A.
Part one of Plan C.Y.A. is called, “Praise God And Pass The Ammunition” and should actually take place long BEFORE getting the heave-ho is even an issue. It’s just basic networking. Every event, meeting or get-together I attend, I pass out and collect business cards from producers, voice-over talents, sales reps, business owners and the like. I stockpile contacts just in case. Then I have a ready-made database of people who might provide work or lead me in the right direction to get a new job if I need it. I also run my own production company. I can use those contacts to line up production or voice-over jobs that’ll help keep my head above water until I do land new employment. Some folks say it’s what you know, not who you know, that counts. In a perfect world, that would be true. You can be the most talented voice on the planet, but if nobody knows it, you go hungry.
Part two is called, “Keep The Guns Loaded.” Now, if you’re sitting there and you don’t have a resume and demo ready to go at a moment’s notice, shame on you. If you have a family and you don’t have demo and resume ready, shame on you twice. Every time I win an award or add something to my experience, I go back and update it immediately. It waits in my computer like firefighters in the station, hoping they’re never needed but ready to go when the call comes.
Update your demo once or twice a year. Three minutes or less is best. I like to follow an old show business axiom that says, “Always leave ‘em wanting more.” A GM’s time is precious, and I’d hate to blow my chance that he’ll stop the CD player because he got bored. I prefer CDs to cassettes for demos. It’s just more convenient for me. I keep the demo on file in the computer and just burn a disc as I need it. I also have a website with other examples of my work on-line where I can invite potential employers to go there to hear and learn more about me.
Let me now add a thought concerning the presentation of your package. I have a philosophy that simple is best. My wife suggested that I use a glossy two-pocket folder with my introduction letter in one pocket, resume and CD demo in the other. She even spent the extra fifty-cents to get the ones that had a cutout for a business card. It’s attractive, organized, and it stands out more than just a plain envelope. Whatever you use is up to you, but for God’s sake never, ever send out a tape or a CD without a computer-printed label. You’re supposed to be a professional, remember? Just the other day I saw a demo come in to the station. It was in a CD album with a very attractive, very professional looking cover, and I thought, hey, this is pretty neat. But when I opened the album, what I found was a CD on which the sender simply used a Sharpie to write his name and address. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even bother to listen to it.
Now you might think having preparations for being fired means I have an expectation that I’m going to end up getting fired. On the contrary, Ronald Reagan believed a strong defense didn’t invite conflict. It prevented it. And that’s the point. When it hits the fan, having things ready to go cuts back on the freak-out factor considerably.
I’ve been fired from two jobs in my life. After the initial shock wore off, it was easy to start feeling sorry for myself. But there’s something about self-pity. It’s no fun when you’re feeling it alone. I would try and get others to join me on the pity pot by whining about the unfairness of it all. It goes without saying that I ended up alone pretty fast. So, I really needed to take an inventory of what brought about this business of losing a job—I mean a deep and honest appraisal of what really happened. Did the company let me go for economic reasons? If so, it’s a situation that’s out of my hands, and I’d better get over it as quickly as possible and move on to getting a new and better gig.
Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that opportunities often come disguised as difficulties. My grandmother used to say, “when one door closes, another door always opens.” Getting fired ain’t the end of the world. But, if you’re not prepared, you sure can see it from there.