The Work You Do In Between Jobs
There are many people in local news right considering making a jump out of a job with no parachute or backup plan. This is what that life looks like. Whether you are about to jump, just jumped, or made the jump to a better place, here’s some perspective on the space between full-time jobs.
After decades of doing job interviews as the hiring manager, when I would hear people say, “I’m not sure” when I asked, “What is your dream job?” I was always baffled by that. How can you NOT know what you want to do? There’s a moment in everyone’s youth where it just magically appears, yes?
Turns out, no. And it turns out, like any relationship, what was good for you at 19 or 25 or 32 or 38 might not be what’s good for you now.
I’m in between jobs right now and I’m in enough social circles to know I’m not alone. Whether people are on the edge of leaving TV but scared to make the jump, in the abyss between jobs (Hello, my name is Jennifer, welcome to this world), or one phone call away from the next career, it’s a tense, exciting, and anxious time.
YOU GOTTA GRIND
In the abyss, you’ve still got to pay the bills and make some kind of a living. You start with dreams of “Companies will LOVE my open availability, reasonable rates, and dedication as much for a single story as a major project”. Then you realize, you have to grind to find it.
There are benefits of freelancing, I’m sure. I see enough posts about people doing it right. I also know like any job, it’s not easy to capture that magic in a bottle right away.
I’ve applied for dozens of freelance jobs. Even a local job reporting for a small newspaper actually got me really excited. At best, I got a rejection letter at least letting me know my services aren’t needed. At worst, I got ghosted.
I tried a variety of options. Pitching ideas to companies and online news outlets. Reaching out to former colleagues and saying “Hey! I can help fill some of those empty digital positions remotely for a while.” Offering social and digital help, sometimes for free, to local businesses I don’t think do a good job with their current platforms.
While most touchpoints gave an “Ok, Thanks! We’ll let you know” which read to me as a dismissive, yet respectful, message, I didn’t stop trying. Ok, there were those FEW afternoons of feeling defeat and going for a long dog walk, envisioning how we are going to live in my car someday.
In the time I’ve been unemployed, I’ve tried selling old clothes online. Some people make a great side hustle with this. I even had special packaging to make my deliveries feel like they were coming from a nice store. It ended up being so much work for so little reward, and constant bargaining from people that was insulting. That didn’t work for me. So I moved on.
Then I tried doing closed captioning work. It made a small little pot of gold for a while. I’m used to deciphering terrible audio and interviews in news. This job was very easy. Until I got one from across the world with accents so hard to decipher and referencing geographical points I’ve never heard of in my life. While most projects took 90 minutes, working at home in PJ’s with dogs underfoot, one took me 5 hours. A frustrating 5 hours.
The journalist in me LOVED all that I was learning about this topic (which I can’t go into because of an NDA), but my ears actually hurt trying to figure out the mumbled words. You got graded each time on a scale of 1 – 5. Apparently getting a 4.44 in one category after 10 articles were enough to just get you immediately banished from the platform. The journalist in me kicked in, and I saw the BBB ratings and complaints of this business. I should’ve looked there first. Lesson learned. And I’m always up for learning.
I had a great first discussion with an up-and-coming company to do some work for them. Excitement seemed to be all over this project. Then ghosted. Long walk with the dogs – head back in the game.
YOU GOTTA GROW
Now at 47, I face that eternal question of “What do you want to do?”. Now I am the one saying “I don’t know”. I know I love news. I know I want to be part of the solution to the ongoing problems, but she’s a fickle mistress. The negatives of the environment are making me second guess if I should do something just because it’s what I know and can do well. I just know I want to be happy and I want to contribute to bettering a community. Jobs for that are far and wide.
All the work you’ve done for your local stations, even if you oversaw the entire digital and social platforms, matters very little to hiring companies outside of local TV news. For the past decade, I’ve hardly needed so much as a resume, much less a cover letter, to get a job in TV. It’s just so much about who you know and what references you get.
Now every job I look at wants all my social channels and my own website. I never dove into this part because I was too busy running someone else’s platforms at 60+ hours a week. My social media scope personally was for actual friends and private accounts.
Now I have a YouTube channel growing at a rate I didn’t expect. I tapped into the humorous yet realistic side of local news. This video alone has more than 8,000 views.
I plan to grow the channel into more serious topics, but if this is what works right now, so be it! It’s fun and a creative outlet for me.
I also created this website. I asked someone who is a website guru to review it and he tore it apart (as I asked him to). So I’m always updating and reviewing the layout and options to make it more of what a website should be for the public, and not just something I like.
I started a TikTok account, where I felt so out of place at first, like how I feel walking into Forever 21. Then I hit a groove. I tried different topics and sounds. It’s a great space where your mistakes are only noticed by you – because if you don’t post good content it just doesn’t get viewers. You can follow me @newsbosslady on TikTok.
My favorite, which didn’t resonate well with only 54 views, is a matter of great importance to a certain select group of people.
I’ve also taken a bunch of online learning courses, mostly on LinkedIn. Everything from SEO to being a better leader to Photoshop. I sat in awe as I watched a session on “Empathic Leadership” and heard that you should NOT share your similar experiences with people dealing with hardship (isn’t that what Empathy is? A shared understanding of what someone is going through?). No, it isn’t, and I learned that. I learned how to better handle those situations.
For a long time, I wanted to get into the long-form storytelling space with topics like mental health and true crime. I’m doing that now. Sharpening up my editing skills as well. Here’s one video I did on the Top 5 Most Haunting Stories of my journalism career.
I’m also working on True Crime special based on the tragedy one of my friends endured and I’m going to have a long-form storytelling expert “rip it apart” when done.
These are all things I never had time for, or allowed time for, in my previous life dating back to pre-September 2021.
My message? Take this time in between jobs to feed your creative soul.
YOU GOTTA GET PAID
There comes a point where you just need to make some money and you need the grind to pay off – literally.
Now I’m doing some freelance writing work. The first project made me feel like a kindergartner trying to figure out high school English. I walked away hoping for a fresh start in the morning. The project came with a lot of specifics about writing which was different than anything I’ve written before. By day 2, I was in the zone and the groove, knocking out paragraph after paragraph. I wish I could tell you the amazing things I am learning in my knowledge arsenal – but again – NDA.
I’ve also signed up to be a driver for a delivery service. My first thought as an introvert was “This is humbling. What if I deliver to someone I know – or used to supervise? What if someone is mean to me? What if I can’t find the address?”. I didn’t want to create an awkward situation for anyone or delay deliveries. Then I snapped out of it and realized that was my devil trying to talk myself out of it. If ANYONE can shop fast and efficiently, it’s me. Also, I love shopping. I love that I might be making the day easier or safer for someone, as many had done for me before I got fully vaccinated and boosted, or when I had COVID myself and it was my lifeline. I have an opportunity to learn about something I’ve never done before, and as a journalist – that’s so appealing. I’ll get so many topics to write about doing this.
I still have a few offers and pitches out there to help people with their digital, social, or writing platforms.
I’m stuck between a large fee to break a lease (I was certainly not expecting to be unemployed or else I wouldn’t have signed a new one) and a desire to get back, at some point, to a full-time job.
I will say that being out of my comfort zone never felt so good. Instead of waking up knowing the problems and challenges of the day, I’m waking up to the possibilities of what today could be.
YOU GOTTA GET SMART ABOUT NON-NEWS HIRING
I’ve applied for about two dozen jobs. In that time I’ve experienced the following:
- Complete and total communication through the process, mostly up to rejection. At least I knew! Mostly from big companies or government entities. How nice is that? No ghosting!
- But there is ghosting. I’ve heard nothing from half of the applications I’ve sent in. The nice part about using a hiring platform like LinkedIn or Indeed is they will at least let you know when your application has been viewed, when the job closes, and what your status is.
- Government jobs grade you. I got one email that read, “You got 50 points on your application! You are being considered.” Now I didn’t know if that rating scale was 50 out of 50 or 50 out of 1,000,000. I don’t know if I’ll ever know.
- Jobs with law enforcement agencies include an extensive background check and a polygraph and some incredibly uncomfortable questions. You do learn why these questions are so important in the process and it makes total sense.
- Sometimes an application submission comes with an immediate request for an interviewer with a recruiter. These mostly happen with very large, popular corporations.
All of this has really helped me understand this side of the job process, a place I haven’t been in a while as an unknown entity applying for a job in a new world. Should I ever end up in a hiring position again, I will totally change my approach based on lessons learned.
You need to be prepared with an updated resume that will focus on the strengths you bring that aren’t specific for TV. A lot of jobs I apply for ask about dealing with Crisis Communications. Oh goodness, I can do that well. I wasn’t selling it on my resume. Changed that one up.
Find the groups and people who are in jobs you want to do and ask them about it. Consider this payback for all those studio tours you did back in the day. If you are considering leaving news for a PR job – there’s a group for that. (Message me for the link if you don’t know about it).
YOU GOTTA GO DEEP PERSONALLY
I’ve also used this time to learn about myself. Whether it was a personality test, strengths and weaknesses test, or one-on-one conversations with trusted individuals, I have learned a mountain of new information about myself I can’t see in the 6 feet of space I take up any given day.
Things I thought were beneficial to me are seen as downsides to some people. One perception given to me, which I will always appreciate, suggests I am not good at doing something I happen to be great at – and I need to re-evaluate how I present that.
People I thought I had let down in some way insisted I helped them grow and achieve levels they couldn’t imagine.
I strongly recommend before a career shift consideration you do this self-evaluation. Any new job isn’t going to be good for you if you haven’t worked out what was frustrating you inside before.
Set the boundaries for your professional life that were never allowed or acknowledged before. Stick to them in every job interview you do.
YOU GOTTA KNOW THE DAY OF THE WEEK
It’s easy in a leisure life of unemployment to not know what day of the week it is. They all seem to blend together. Schedule your week for time to Grow, Grind, and Get Paid. Don’t forget to schedule “job application time.” For example, I apply for jobs on weekdays right after I feed the dogs breakfast. They chill out and lay down and it’s quiet so I can focus on the 10 forms I need to fill out for each job.
For the first few weeks, I didn’t really care about appearances. I was still battling COVID, so that’s part of the excuse, but I also didn’t care. Nobody was going to see me. Now I still shower daily, put on a good face 3-4 times a week. I actually have time now to make myself presentable and not work against a news clock that could drop an emergency anytime so I had to rush through getting ready. Add in the COVID distancing with masks and who really took too much time with their looks? Get yourself presentable and you’ll feel better about whatever work you are doing.
YOU GOTTA GLOW UP
This is the time to better all you can about yourself. Come out of unemployment better than you went in. The reality is right now, it’s November. Budgets are about to come to a close for the year. Hiring is going to be slow or frozen through the end of the year.
Don’t judge your job search at this unusual time. The holidays always mess up hiring. The good news is your favorite retailer is hiring for the holidays. Great way to get some extra money in the short term.
I put up my Christmas tree this weekend and did it with no interruptions aside from a curious 5 months old puppy.
I also recently posted a picture of myself on social media to my friends, and one commented “You look fantastic! Is that what good sleep looks like?”. I didn’t even realize I looked better – that the bags under the eyes – and the interrupted nights of sleep – and the constant frantic pace showed in every photo I took.
This time is an opening for growth on every level. I encourage anyone who is on the fence about a career change to take the time to really evaluate if this is what you want. And I’m always open to a conversation with you confidentially.