Sunday, September 18, 2016

Unemployment: The End Of Week 1

Last post, I was trying to explain the feeling of unemployment. To give a sense of the immediate personal aftermath and the frantic, hurry-up-and-wait pace of Day One survival mode. What I didn't mention, though, was perhaps the single most important piece of surviving unemployment: support.

When I called my wife, I had no idea what she would say. I knew she'd be sympathetic and loving, but as far as how she'd take the news? I hesitated calling her at work, but knew I didn't want to wait for her to come home tired, to a house full of kids, and then say, "oh, hey, by the way, I'm not going to work tomorrow. Or ever."  So, I dialed, she answered, I stalled with pleasantries, and then dropped the bombshell: "So, I guess I'm going to be looking for a new job..." and held my breath. Would she be frightened? Harried?

What she was, was amazing. "Well," she said after digesting the news, "now you have time to do what you've been wanting to do." And she was right. I could finish a novel, get my house in order and get my home studio ready, really dig into writing and producing my podcasts. We talked about earmarking money for studio equipment.

Yes, the reality is that I will probably, eventually have to get a real job, but even on that score she's 100% in my corner. More so than even I am at times. I told her if neither of these radio jobs I just applied for came through, I'd start looking at things like retail. I knew she'd be happy knowing I was making an effort to support the family. Her response: "We're doing okay. Use this time to find the right job. You belong in radio."

The point is, this could have been one of the worst weeks of my life. Should have been, to be honest. I hadn't only lost a job, but what was, really, the best job I'd ever have, working with the best co-workers I'd ever had, doing something I truly loved. Don't get me wrong: It hasn't been sunshine and pancakes, but my wife has made all the difference.

I've been in that other state of unemployment: That depressed, lethargic unemployment. This was several years ago, before any of my kids were born. I wasn't fired at that time -- I'd left a largely dead-end job to become a freelance videographer, and the truth was, there simply wasn't the work available to keep me afloat. Then, I felt like a failure. This time, what I feel is loved.

And not only by my wife and family, who are all wonderful. God has also blessed us with friends who would do anything for us, and that's a great feeling to have when you're vulnerable. When I announced my unemployment I had at least one offer of a guest room whenever we needed it. Countless invitations to "whatever we can do." I have friends in the industry searching their contacts.

I have support, and because I have support, I don't feel like I've failed. I don't believe it's hopeless. I know that, one way or another, my family and I are going to be okay.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Unemployment: Day 2 Begins

I got fired Monday. Nobody made a big deal. It wasn't a blaze of Rebel DJ Glory. I simply got off the air, got called into a room with the GM and Human Resources and told that my services were no longer required. I was given the option to resign, but let's not kid ourselves, shall we?

I couldn't say anything. I packed my junk: books, CDs, notes from interviewees and listeners and coworkers, various accumulated knick-knacks -- put four years of my life back into my van and headed home.

And then I called my wife, got on the computer, and went into professional DJ mode: sent messages to colleagues and contacts and let them know I'd been shown the door and was now officially, for the first time in over nine years, "on the beach*." I searched radio jobs in the area (my wife has a great job, and moving isn't really an option) and updated my resume. Went outside, quietly celebrated my first ever firing (literally first ever) with a cigar, because it seemed like the thing to do, and prayed that God would show me what His plan was. Applied to two jobs that seemed like a good fit.

Those were my first four hours of unemployment. Things slowed down considerably after that.

Yesterday, my first full day of unemployment, was depressing. It was gray and rainy. My left hand ached with arthritis. I saw the kids off to school, which was nice, grabbed some coffee and... sat. I did manage to get industrious for a little while and went back into "unemployed professional" mode. Which mostly consisted of updating my LinkedIn profile and making contact with more colleagues to inform them of my newfound free agency. In a fit of aggressive optimism, went shopping for interview clothes and found out that if fat guys want dress shirts, we have to pay more than twice what "average" people do. So that was nice. My optimism dwindled swiftly.

Time moves differently when you're unemployed. When you have a job and are merely looking for an upgrade, you understand that job applications take some time to get into the right hands. That they have to be sorted, and gone over, and moved into piles. That it could take weeks before anyone even gets back to you with a "thanks but no thanks" or a "let's talk." In unemployment time, every phone call that isn't from a prospective employer is another reminder that you're waiting. Another reason to ask, "am I good enough?"

Because, no matter how big and strong your ego -- and in this business, they grow them pretty tough. Sampson tough. -- getting fired is a blow, and every minute you're not talking to someone who's telling you that you sound like a great fit for their organization just weakens it that much more.

And that's really what this all boils down to: Getting fired sucks.

Losing a job you loved, with people you truly enjoyed working with -- and getting the news from management you genuinely respect that you're just no longer a fit for their organization -- sucks.

So, it's 4am, the start of my second full day of unemployment.

I should be getting ready for work right now.

*("On The Beach" is a broadcaster euphemism for "unemployed." It... sounds nicer than it is.)