Monday, January 25, 2010

Diary Of A Layoff 10: 10 Months Later

It was 10 months ago today that I worked my final day at Billboard magazine. I was among nearly a dozen in Nielsen’s latest downsizing on Feb. 25, 2009, given an extra month to continue working, with pay and benefits. Following, I received 13 weeks severance… and then—and since—I have been surviving on unemployment and COBRA, with the occasional freelance writing job to fill in the blanks.

If you’d told me a year ago I would enter 2010 and still be unemployed—that after dozens and dozens of job applications, I’d not have garnered a single interview; that by year end 2009, nearly 400 print publications would shutter, leaving thousands of journalists looking for the same handful of jobs as I; that a hundred more people that I worked with at Nielsen would be canned, including my boss, who had the dirty duty of releasing me—I’d probably have gone ahead and heaved myself off the Brooklyn Bridge then and there.

Of course, I’d probably have merely broken a few bones and suffered hypothermia and ended up with a $10,000 medical bill. Better off just moping, I suppose.

It hasn’t been easy. I’d love to profess that the silver lining of free time has been a godsend, that I’ve spent my time volunteering for the ASPCA and having a big time. Unfortunately, too much time on my hands lost its sheen many months ago. To be a middle-aged man who worked his ass off to forge a career with countless rewards—truly, to land my dream job in the No. 1 market in the nation—and now be reduced to just another listless, unemployed statistic, just plain sucks. It sure does a job—in a manner of speaking—on ones motivation and self esteem.

I’ve been working on a book project since the summer months and while we have the good fortune of having signed with an agent, the process moves at a snail’s pace. To count on my next calling as an author—much less a funded author—remains in the hopeful category.

And hope is hard to hold onto, after 1) applying for countless jobs that I am qualified for, and never getting response 2) visiting Billboard and realizing that “downsizing” actually means firing veterans and replacing them with greenhorns for half price 3) recognizing that a career as a journalist is dated… writing for a newspaper or magazine is verging on irrelevant… and despite plenty of online experience, I am perhaps 20 years older than the target of most companies looking to fill ranks. It takes one look online (whey’re typoes are as commonn in The Wal Streete Juornal and Bilboardd as any blog) to realize that experience and talent are of little merit.

So what now? What next? Well, what choice? Keep on plowing. Continue networking. Take on whatever freelance I can get. Move forward on the book. Find hope. Hope… perhaps the toughest variable of all. Hope is the holy grail... There’s no guarantee, and boy, that’s the hardest part of this new reality—take a look at the unemployment statistics, locked at 10+%, that continue to wipe away the U.S. economy, while we have a president who worries more about keeping the world “green” 200 years from now than the fact the country is in the red today.

There’s no sweet closing here. Just one fat, enduring question mark. Sometimes life offers no neat wrap-up.

Previous Diary of A Layoff posts (click to read): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

ADDENDUM: Appreciative of this comment to the post... "You're light years ahead of many unemployed folks by realizing this isn't just the economy, but your field has changed. Fortunately, you're in one of the best places in the world to find a new niche, possibly leveraging the contacts from your former life? Typesetters, wagon wheel repairmen, Blockbuster clerks... not so lucky. Don't give up and keep writing!"