Q It Up: No doubt, the last ten years have been full of changes, particularly when it comes to job security. Did you quit or get fired at some point in the past ten years? How did you deal with losing your job or the fear of losing your job? Perhaps you quit without a new job to go to. How did you handle the stress and fear of wondering where your next paycheck was going to come from? What advice would you give to someone concerned about their job security or someone desperately wanting to leave a bad situation but afraid to?
We deliver the responses to this Q It Up question in two parts with Part 2 next month.
Don Elliot [voiceovers[at]earthlink.net]: This is a lot of gut work here, but it’s a mix of experience and observation… at a lot of personal cost, I might add:
Obviously you need enough of a cushion to make it through your startup period if you are going in business for yourself. I learned an important rule of thumb that’s never in the business plan: It seems as if it will always cost twice as much and take twice as long as you projected to get there. Partner or seek venture capital for your break. You’ll need a year’s worth of money.
In the alternative, if you have been an avid freelancer, the other formula is a simple one; when your outside work equals or exceeds your income at your gig, it’s probably safe to cut loose and put all of your efforts into yourself.
One very important thing to remember in all of this is that it pays to invest in yourself. I see a lot of people in the business throw money into the stock market like crazy and then seem to worry and play it every day instead of making a long term investment. This is fine if it’s “play money” that you can live without. In addition to or instead, why not invest in yourself and your own future with training and keeping current or ahead of the curve on your profession? Computer classes, acting or improv sessions, voiceover workshops, mentoring, idea exchanges, CPSI (Creative Problem Solving Institute—brainstorming methods), conventions, programming/production boot camps, and just plain hanging with someone in the market who’s smarter than yourself so that you are constantly challenged. In your own facility, try to learn the rather sophisticated techniques of turning “conflicts” into “creative abrasion.”
Job Security? Do the absolute best you possibly can in every last detail of your job. It will show. When it’s not appreciated or there is little recognition within your own walls, enter awards competitions—the industry will decide, and the added push you give yourself will make you all the better for it.
Last but not least, start looking around for a good lawyer you can count on in the pinches. We right-brained folk need that balance. You might even find one for a partner!
Ed Thompson [ethompson[at]notails out.com]: In my last article for RAP, “It Ain’t the End Of The World,” I wrote about making preparations for loosing your job before the ax falls. Now, here I am. Sitting in my new home studio after leaving my job as the Creative Director for a radio group in Illinois, it’s uncanny that I would be following my own advice. The irony is just so...ironic.
For nearly a year, I had been on the hunt for a new job after the GM began playing games with my contract. After some personality conflicts and several attempts to make amends, it only got worse. It became very apparent that I was trying to get along with people who really did not want to get along with me. I had reached that ugly place where I loved my work but I hated my job.
The company offered a transfer to another property in a different market, but the market wasn’t that attractive and the offer was soft. They gave me the weekend to think about things. No pressure, eh? Oddly enough, that very weekend I was scheduled to be out of town, which put me in the vicinity of several people whose opinions I trust. After several heart-to-heart conversations and an honest self-appraisal, it was clear that the best thing to do was to follow my heart and leave the company, move to a town where we had lots of family, and concentrate on running my production company.
It never ceases to amaze me, but there’s a stunning moment of clarity that comes after making an important decision. It’s as if the fog that blocked the view of the future is suddenly burned off and the road ahead is as clear Pfalzgraff leaded crystal. Being a spiritual person, I was certainly a bit frightened but somehow reassured that no matter what happened, things were going to be alright. With our family’s support (some financial but mostly moral), we’ve now set up shop in my home-state with a Rolodex full of contacts and an appetite to see what kind of challenges are out there.
But even if things don’t work out the way I hope, I can rely on a piece of advice from someone wiser than me who said, “Don’t worry about trying to make the right decision. The important thing is to make the decision. If it turns out wrong, you can always make another decision.”
Monica Ballard [Monica[at]Wizard OfAds.com] Roy H. Williams Marketing: As a survivor of five mergers, I saw those around me - talented people with a passion for radio - get cast overboard or jump ship since deregulation. My own husband, one of the most savvy programmers and best producers in the biz, was replaced when the Regional VP had to “justify his own job” by messing with our already successful station. (Great going, buddy. We went from being number 2 to number 8, but I’m glad your portfolio stayed healthy! ) I saw the writing on the wall long ago, and began to take stock of what else I could do and still remain happy. As I became more “cubically challenged” at work, I honed digital editing skills in audio AND video, creating soundtracks for community theatre productions and editing home video projects or station promotional events. I became a Certified Stress Management Consultant and developed seminars on Goal-setting to practice presentation skills. I did a weekly presentation for the sales staff on Creative Thinking methods. I remained flexible in my career plans, constantly looking for opportunities where I could grow, rather than looking for the same job I was doing - just for a different corporation.
It was that willingness to explore new things that got me my next job: I landed in Nowhere, Texas, working for the Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams. I now help teach and host the illustrious Wizard Academy. This very afternoon, I’m flying to New York City where I will oversee a video training project, interviewing journalists from CBS, USA Today, Reuters and others. I feel excited, yet prepared - like all those times before the curtain went up, before the first key in the contest was tried, or when the intro jingle played as I was filling in on the morning news. I’m not telling you this to brag about my great new job away from corporate radio. I want to guide you more purposefully toward a path I stumbled upon out of frustration. Always consider yourself in training for the next great opportunity - and be ready to leap fearlessly when it makes itself known. As the Wizard reminds those around him, “Small plans do not inflame the hearts of men. “ Get yourself a big dream. Start acting like you’re already doing what you are meant to do. And your dream will catch up with you like a wave and carry you to a new adventure.
Brian Wilson [bwilson[at]dfwradio .com]: One thing is for certain, if you stay in radio long enough, you will get fired. It happens to everybody, and it doesn’t have to be your fault. Downsizing, consolidation, new Program Directors with “their own guys” to replace you, whatever the reason, you will get canned someday. And when you find yourself out of work, you feel like you’re out of the country club. Nothing feels worse than sitting in the lobby of a radio station with a demo, at the mercy of a receptionist. You ask your employed friends if you can borrow their production room after hours to make an aircheck/demo tape. Maybe your “friends” in the biz don’t return your calls anymore. The most important thing you can do is plan for the inevitable.
Once when I was in a bad situation, I gave a three week notice to quit without another job to go to. The interesting thing was, that was the best three weeks I ever had at that station. Maybe it was because I knew I was going to be free very soon, or because I had adopted a “What are they going to do? Fire me?” attitude. If I had approached the job with that same attitude, I might have stayed. But here is the lesson I learned. Look at your current job as if you know it is going away in a few months. What would you do different? Save money on eating out for lunch? Use the photocopier to print out resumes? Dub the entire playlist? If you took care of these things ahead of time, had your bags packed and ready, so to speak, the stress reduction would be amazing.
So here is the plan: First, archive a copy of your work for yourself, and keep it at home. Most everyone is using digital workstations these days, and to back up a personal copy to CD costs you about fifty cents. Second, start setting aside a chunk of your salary in a KMA account (Kiss My Ass). The goal is to have 6 months salary in the bank for emergencies. Then, the next time some PD tells you that you have to put in 70 hours a week AND do a weekend shift, you can tell him to KMA. Third, keep up with your radio contacts on a regular basis. Don’t wait until you’re out of work to call your best radio buddy for the first time in five years. And finally, don’t take it too hard. I have found that leaving one job for another always turned out for the best.
Gary Griffey [radiogriff[at]hotmail. com]: I have seen both ends of the spectrum posed in the RAP Q It Up. I have noticed how a tier system exists within the sales department that causes each situation to present itself, and both reactions to be displayed. The top of the tier is the General Sales Manager. The next level is the guy or gal who’s been there almost as long as the GSM. Then there’s the third salesperson who was hired because the controlling corporation said we needed to sell more. It is at this third tier where we see the mixture of both situations. The new person wants to do their best, and worries about losing their position before they really get started. As time goes on, and the fact that the GSM and the second-tier salesperson already have most—if not all—of the business locked up begins to sink in, you find someone who has a few clients and wonders why they were hired to begin with, when no selling can be done. That is when this salesperson gets fidgety and moves on, or gets fidgety and stays and complains a lot. They start asking the people they are closest to whether or not they should look for another job, or if their friend thinks they will be fired.
While my first response to someone worried about losing their job is, “Just do your best, and you’ll be fine,” I know that brings little solace to someone who has to feed someone besides themselves. However, it has always been a true statement. It is when this person becomes agitated and feels like everyone is against them that it becomes hard on the production staff. I think that the uneasiness in the job market—at least from where I sit—is in the sales ranks. As afternoon drive/production magician, I am more secure in my position than are many other people. Down here in market 200, there’s not a whole lot of change. If you can do the work, do it well, and (more importantly) show up to do it, then you’ve got a job for a good long time.
My overall advice would be just do your best. Do not worry about your job. If things get so bad that they start cutting on-air jobs, then as a production engineer you probably saw it coming and made necessary arrangements for a softer landing should the unthinkable occur. We Production Directors are among the first to notice a work slowdown on the technical side. We have a unique position that allows us to be ready should the bough break—so to speak.
When we are good at what we do. We are usually the last to go.
Part 2 Next Month!