Yes, It Does Look Bad. No, We're Not Doomed.
It’s going to be okay. One way or another, we will all be fine. Take a moment and let that sink in.
Now, sure, yes. Spend a day in a newsroom–TV or newspaper, doesn’t matter–and you’ll find most people are just not in the “it’s okay” mode right now. The news at the top of nytimes.com at this moment? “G.M. Notifying 1,100 Dealers That They Will Be Dropped.” That’s 1,100 fewer sources of revenue for local television stations across the country, and not exactly the gust of desperately needed fresh air the sales folk were lighting candles and praying for. And yet, today, I insist, it will be okay.
Ariane de Bonvoisin’s new book, “The First 30 Days,” suggests that times of change happen–because we either make the change or, in local news these days, it’s made for us. And yeah, that’s scary. When P. Kim Bui was laid off last year, she feared for more than just her career: “When I got laid off, my whole world crashed. Journalism was and is my life. This is what I was meant to do and all of a sudden, I had someone telling me I could no longer work.” And she’s not the only one, not by a long shot. I received a lot of supportive feedback for my recent post about the loss of a my journalist’s identity and the fear that I might never get it back.
Ariane de Bonvoisin: "The First 30 Days"
Ariane de Bonvoisin argues “life is on our side,” and that if you can get through the first 30 days, you can not only survive, but thrive. “The first few days and weeks are often the hardest, most emotional time. It’s when we have the most questions, emotions, doubts and fears, and when decisions need to be made. This is also the time when we are most in need of direction, information and support.”
Direction, information, and support rarely comes in the pile of paperwork HR hands you on your way out the door. It can come in the form of loving support from friends and family, and with the help of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, it can come from social media connections and networking. There is power in talking and brainstorming. It can also come more directly from a coach.
Coaching, in this case, does not mean picking up the phone, calling your agent and bitching about the lack of leads, the loss of work, and the generally sucky state of the business. And it’s not necessarily surfing the couch at your therapist’s office.
It can be refreshing a resume that’s looking a little too, well, 1999. Deborah Brown-Volkman, a coach to senior corporate executives, says “no one is going to give you a chance to explain yourself. If you want a job, it’s up to you to prove that you can do it. Your resume is your proof.” And if you’re trying to translate a reporter’s skill set to a new line of work, like PR or social media, re-writing your resume to make your case will be critical. A little professional help couldn’t hurt.
As Brian Curtis at KXAS/Dallas reported this month, an executive coach can help you reinvent yourself by developing a personal brand beyond the “guy/girl from the news” and, as Curtis writes, “understanding who you are and what you need.”
A coach can help you leap from what you know–to what you never thought possible. As coach Julia Stewart puts it: “your skills are just as valuable as ever – maybe more so – the need for your skills is just showing up differently.” Stewart says the trick in coaching laid off journalists is getting past the past–and to the future. “I might shift the conversation away from what’s being lost to what you really want. That’s usually where the opportunities are and there are probably more opportunities than ever for journalists. Or I might ask, what do you see as the biggest problem that the media has and how could you help fix it? Or what does the world/your
community/your family/etc need most and how could you help with that? After the big questions, you can narrow down to actual opportunities and that’s where it gets fun.”
Maybe it’s the dream you put off–and off–because you couldn’t break away from what always seemed like a pretty decent gig: bigshot TV reporter or anchor or news director. “But I’m Channel 7’s…” Well, now you’re not. So what are you? Maybe it’s time to get back to that crazy dream. What was it?
P. Kim Bui: Loss, then a New Direction
For P. Kim Bui, it was a move onto the internet, though she made the move without the help of a coach. “I write a lot about feeling lost in my own journals and I wonder if having someone to help me think things through would help. It definitely would have helped with my initial panic and depression.” Those feelings, coaches like Stewart say, are absolutely part of the process: “Self image can be the biggest hurdle and it can take some time to get over it. It’s not unusual to feel grief over something like this, although it may show up as anger or depression.”
I had a chance the other day to spend some time with a Coney Island sword swallower and fire eater. Not a personal or professional coach by any stretch. But she helped me see something nonetheless. If I sat down–by myself–and tried to think my way from reporting local news to eating fire, I’d never get it done. I could read a thousand books on the process and the history and the economic upside, but when it got down to the nitty gritty–the you know, eating-the-fire part, well, that might’ve been a problem. As it was, I needed the one-on-one stop-thinking-and-just-give-it-a-try motivation to actually light that thing and put the flame in my mouth. The result: euphoria.
The Power of Coaching: a Journalist Learns to Eat Fire
I did it twice more. The rush came in part from doing something I would have–on my own–thought my way out of trying. My coach, covered in tattoos and ever so patient, showed me I had a talent inside I never knew was there.
We’re all going through massive change. We will find our new paths. Some of us will even create the new model of local news and become very, very rich. Others will just hit the jackpot by discovering ourselves. Whatever: All is well.