I am my lead story.
As my staff and I reported on the world’s economic turmoil for my nightly TV show Money Matters Today, we got the news. Our network, show, and jobs were being eliminated. Three-hundred-and-fifty of us would be thrown back into searching for a job at a time when it felt as though there was no job market. For my staff, the news was particularly hard.
Day-in and day-out we covered the story of the bad economy…we knew the economic forecasts and they were downright ugly. The irony was not lost on us. We had become our lead story.
As we reported the rise of unemployment, some of us would soon be filing for first-time jobless claims. Our fears were real. Would we lose our homes too? Could we even sell them now even if we wanted to? These were questions we had tried to answer for a viewers every night. And now, we had to answer them for ourselves.
At this moment it occurred to me how important a nation’s psyche really is. This is America. We pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. While headlines blared about bailouts, I decided bailouts had no appeal to me personally. What the big banks and the auto industry are learning now is that bailouts come with strings attached. I prefer to write my own script. But how do I pull it together when my industry is cutting back across the board?
Fresh layoffs occur by the day. Newspapers are folding, television news departments are no longer competing with each other. They are sharing material to stay on the air. My predicament is very similar to my friends in financial services and in the auto industry. Smart, hard-working, talented people are paying the cost for a situation caused by a bad economy and,in some cases, colossally bad management.
Worrying about how this happened—is a story for another day. Today, the only story I am concerned about is picking up the pieces as best I can and re-focusing on what really matters. I am focusing on things I can control. There is good that comes from a job loss. Now, you can magically cut through the noise and the trivial and gain clarity about what matters. So, how can you and I turn this situation around and make it work for us? I have three ideas I’d like to present and get your feedback.
1) Re-focus your long-range plan. What really matters now? Once you let go of goals from the past and accept that things have changed, think long term. What are your long-range priorities now? Your goals for yourself and the other people that matter to you – children, parents, community, etc. So often when we are in the middle of a job loss, we think about all we have to, or may have to, give up. I say reshape the discussion. It’s not giving up on things. It’s re-thinking the priorities. It’s not about deliberately shrinking goals, they may be even more grand than before. By acknowledging our world has changed you may also discover some of your long-range goals also have changed.
2) Re-focus your time. Recently, a friend told me that her job search was so time-consuming she had no time to network. I suspected that she was spending hours on Internet job boards as an excuse for not reaching out. When I pushed her on this she said her network no longer existed. She said her co-workers were her network and now they are either laid-off too or aren’t returning calls. I reminded her that she is much more than the title she had on her last job. She has family, neighbors and access to a larger community that she has yet to tap into. I asked if she had won the lottery instead of being laid-off what would she be doing with her time? She told me she always wanted to do non-profit work and that she loved cycling and would do a cross-country trip. I reminded her that her job search took time, but not eight hours a day. She had time to work in 10-20 hours of non-profit work per week. The work would be rewarding and create even more contacts for her network. Joining the local cycling club would allow her to train, stay fit and, again, meet new people. You never know where that next job will come from, but it often comes from personal referrals not a classified ad or Internet job board. Those tools are good, but the pros tell me to spend no more than 10% of your time looking through ads to find a job. Networking—which is simply reaching out to those in your circle—is the best way to get that job.
3) Re-focus your spending. What really matters now? Do you need the cable TV and internet? Maybe just one will do. Look at your spending. Where were you wasteful because you were so busy, you gave yourself permission to be wasteful? What can you do to lower bills or bring in more income. Things like conserving energy can lead to a very quick return on your investment in any season. Adjusting the thermostat or being diligent about turning off lights pays you back immediately. Take a look at things like your auto insurance. A woman I know was spending a fortune to insure a 13-year-old car. Good liability was important—but why pay to insure a car when your deductable is more than the car is worth? Shop around and make sure you have the right coverage. I am not saying skimp here, I am saying don’t be wasteful. Spend what you need and no more. Re-think your cell phone plan. To do this right you need to take a methodical and hard look at your spending. I would take a look at every dollar spent over the last 3 months. I am sure a lot of the wasteful stuff you could list without doing this. But, every time I do this exercise I find new ways to save. It’s tedious and it pays off. Do it.
You will also know exactly how much money you need to earn to stay afloat. Guessing isn’t good enough. If you have to negotiate a salary for your next job, it will be helpful to know what you really need to make, rather than what your ego needs you to make.
Finally, on the subject of our ego. The only thing more bruising to your ego than losing your job is getting dumped by a guy (or gal) that you didn’t really like all that much anyway. It stinks and you can’t help but feel insulted by a pink slip. I am better than this –right? Thoughts can really go down a negative road if you spend too much time serving your ego here. Tell yourself you will deal with the injustice later. Today is about moving on. I promise you there is something on the other side of unemployment. We are different people on the other side, often sharper, more interesting and far more compassionate than before.
I know that won’t pay the bills today, but it is your reward for continuing to work hard to right your ship. You are doing the right thing—keep doing it. It will pay off. In the meantime, I am right there with you. Let me know how you’re doing by visiting me at MaryandMoney.com. – Mary Caraccioli
2 Responses to “When You Become the News”
Marilyn Kleinberg Says:
March 11th, 2009 at 4:11 pm
Hi Mary–so sorry to hear about the layoffs. You are fabulous at your craft and your passion to help people through their financial difficulties will be especially invaluable to you and to your co-workers.
Please come visit us at one of our eWomenNetwork events and be sure to remind your friend that we are here to help make connections. We now have 5 chapters in the Tri-state area.
All the best to you my friend,
March 11th, 2009 at 6:33 pm
Marilyn, I have been to some of your eWomenNetwork events and I can attest to the effectiveness of the relationship building that happens there. Networking is not the icky fake socializing it was a decade ago. The organization does a great job helping women find clients, mentors and vendors, all in a fun but educational environment. Thanks for sharing the info and for the kind words!