By Trent Rentsch
Things change. My Father has had one job for his entire professional life. Not that he didn’t have the usual assorted gigs an upper Midwest farm boy has, but as an adult, it’s been one single job, and now in his late 60’s, odds are there won’t be another.
My daughter is another matter. Nearing 23, she has held over 30 jobs since coming of age. “Held” is an ironic word when you do the math; 5 years, 30 plus jobs, equals... well, as her Father, it equals some concern.
Then there’s me. In the middle, in more ways than one. When I made my choice to be in radio, I knew what I was in for; I had heard the theme song, “Town to town, up and down the dial.” But while I knew there would be multiple jobs in my future, I’ve certainly done my best to make each new location home for as long as I could. Because of that, I can still count the number of jobs I’ve had without taking off my shoes. Which leads me to the end of January.
I was laid off. Not fired; my employers made that clear (and my friends have continued to remind me since then). Budget cuts, position eliminated, old story, been there, done that before. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Things change. The last time this happened I was about 10 years younger and less concerned about where the next gig was going to be. Not that the old fart is in a state of panic (yet), but there are facts that can’t be ignored, and they all revolve around one central fact; I’m an aging Creative.
This isn’t a pity party — not looking for any pep talks, words of encouragement or kicks in the butt. It’s just how things are, and they aren’t the same.
Radio stations continue to attempt to do more and more with less and less. Everybody and their dog is putting together a home studio in their basement, spare bedroom, or car trunk. Agencies are overflowing with young geniuses who are more concerned with print and TV than theatre of the mind. Less work, more competition. I can’t help but wonder if there’s any room for me.
Things change. I was content to work for someone else all these years. Regular paycheck, benefits package, usually free coffee. I’ve made many friends along the way, and that includes many of my bosses. It was all good... except when it wasn’t. There were those I couldn’t please, no matter how hard I worked, no matter how good the work was. There were places where the pay was crap, no matter how long or hard I worked. And there have been 2 layoffs, nothing personal, no reflection on me or my work, it was just business. When (not if) I get another job, will I still be content? Yes... and no.
I do have choices. I can look for another job (and oh, have I!). But at the same time, I can finish my book (books). I can knock on some doors for freelance copy writing/production/voice-over. I can also take a walk outside, get some sun, laugh with friends and family... simply be. That might be the toughest of the choices; remember that contentment thing? Hard to simply be when those light bills keep coming and the regular paycheck doesn’t.
Things change. As I write this, I’ve noticed that in the past day or two, I’ve felt like prey, with possible gigs circling, ready to pounce. Some seem very exciting, some less so. The one thing I do know is, I have no intention of giving myself up to the first one to make a grab for me. I haven’t been that way for much of my career. Usually if someone has showed any interest, I was ready to move, and that was that. Now, unless I near the point of homelessness, I’d rather be choosy. I want more than a company that is interested in my skills; I also want respect, responsibility, and frankly, a paycheck that reflects my experience. It’s no longer a question of whether they like me; I really don’t care anymore. Mutual respect is more important to me at this stage of the game... okay, that, and some better bucks wouldn’t hurt.
Where am I going, how long will it take? It doesn’t matter, really. Yes, of course time is somewhat of the essence as the severance and savings dwindle. But if I’m going to be true to where I am in life, what I know I’m capable of, I need to have some faith in myself and the process. Yes, the competition is fierce and the jobs are scarce, but there’s only one me, with my own skill sets and talents. I am unique, just as you are, just as everyone in the world is. I have to believe that there is a company out there who is looking for the unique qualities I bring to the table; and if there’s not, I’ll find a way to utilize those qualities myself and fly my own plane. Right now, it doesn’t matter. I just need to search, Create, and trust that there is a reason I’m where I’m at right now... and where I may (or may not) end up in the future.
No, I won’t lie, I’m concerned, but at the same time I’m oddly optimistic and confident. What can I say? Things change.