First of all, I’m sorry for your loss.
I don’t write that in a flippant or metaphorical way. When you lose a job that you spent your entire life working toward, it can feel like a death, and there’s a grieving process that they don’t tell you about when they hand you the folder and wish you best of luck in all of your endeavors.
It doesn’t help that you knew that your number would be up at some point, and that no matter how nimble, or “cross-platform” you were, no matter how talented, no matter how many 60-hour weeks you pulled, it would come to this. And that, if you’ve been at this long enough, you’ve been through seven or eight rounds of layoffs, seeing your colleagues and friends being called into the corner office and then walking out with their boxes.
I know that there are more of you out there today, more than there were last week, and that was already a lot.
But now for the good news: you are not alone and boy, does it get better. Today your fate is no longer tied to a New York board room, and a bunch of men checking their portfolios and desperately trying to dig themselves out of a hole.
Here are a few handy points that I hope will help you today and in the coming weeks:
- It’s not you, it’s them: This is one that plagues many former magazine people and anyone who has been “rightsized,” “downsized,” etc. Let me share with you what I’ve learned 18 months after I walked away from the magazine where I worked for 7 years. Sure, you’re not perfect — no one is. But you know what you contributed to the organization. Most likely, your large media company didn’t evolve quickly enough, made poor business decisions, and talked the talk of new media without making the real changes to keep up with the modern landscape. Yeah they put your brand’s name on pillowcases and microwave meals, but it’s not enough.
It sucks that you are paying for this. But please, please, please try to see it for what it is and try to avoid playing the “If I’d only …” game. That shit plays tricks with your heads and takes up precious time in which you can be building your big, beautiful new life.
- You have serious skills, player: Yeah I just said that. And other people want them. It’s hard to sift through the emotions and logistics post-magazine gig, so give yourself a little break. And then step back and assess: who needs what you have? And, of equal importance, what kind of life do you want to build next. You’re in the drivers’ seat. (“Yeah, yeah. yeah,” you say. “But what about my mortgage or student loans?” Here’s the deal: if you can manage the insanity of working on either the editorial or the business side of a magazine you will be able to find a way to pay that mortgage as you sort out what’s next.)
- There’s more to learn: Maybe you’ll end up at another magazine. Maybe you’ll use your skills at a startup. Or you’ll open your own firm, or you’ll leave this rat race forever and open a goat farm. (If you open a goat farm please invite me to visit.) You will be amazed by the things that you are going to learn as you build your new life. In the time since I’ve left the magazine I’ve used my magazine and journalism skills at a super savvy and growing creative agency. I’ve also been able to work on my own writing. (And I’ve actually seen my family and been able to workout. But that’s another post.)
What do you want to learn? How do you want to change? Now’s the time.
- See it for what it was: Your magazine gig opened doors. You wrote about, or shot things, or solved problems that were intriguing, challenging, funny, poignant. You did what you always wanted to do. And that’s why it can hurt so much. (That and the no-more-paycheck thing.) Those stories? They’re still yours. All that you learned? Yep, yours too? That line on your resume? You earned that.
If you’re lucky you built a great network, and maybe made some dear friends. Call them. Have coffee with them. A caution: it’s easy to romanticize the good old days, which can lead right to Bitter Lane. Remember that great shoot that you had, but don’t get stuck in the past. Instead, plot to take over the damn world.
Imagine what you can do together, when unencumbered by creativity squashed by Wall Street.
Maybe you’ll use your talents and skills to launch something new using your words and images and business acumen. Maybe you’ll hire each other. Maybe you’ll open that damn goat farm.
Call me if you do that, or if you want to talk from someone on the other side.
I’ll tell you: it takes time. Bet on yourself. It gets better.