After the layoff: Sometimes you need help getting outside the box
I always attributed the length of my broadcasting career to a series of "happy accidents" that spanned 20 years.
When I first got into broadcasting, I campaigned hard for the job. Once my foot was in the door, I made it my personal goal to get to know my colleagues, not only at my radio station, but elsewhere in the local market.
My investments in those relationships helped me forge many lifelong friendships. And many of my friends from competing companies often tipped me off about job openings, whether it was at their radio station or somewhere else.
Now I'm out of work and my friends are rallying behind me again.
Six weeks into my search, a friend mentioned a job opening at her office. Granted, the work was nothing I'd ever done before, but I figured my skills might at least get me an interview.
I applied for the job, and lo and behold, my phone finally rang.
Could I come in Monday for an interview?
You bet! At long last, a chance to get back to work!
Unfortunately, the company hired someone else. But, the experience gave me hope of finding a job in an industry other than broadcasting, where I'd spent nearly my entire career.
Meanwhile, another of my good buddies has many local business connections. During a brainstorming session one afternoon, he asked me about my career aspirations.
"What do you think you want to do?" he asked.
"I never really thought about it," I admitted. "Writing is my first love, but I need a more stable career where I can use my communications skills. Something like public relations, perhaps."
In seconds, he flipped through his Rolodex and rattled off the names of his contacts faster than I could write them down.
"What do I tell these people?" I asked.
My friend replied, "Let them know you're a friend of mine and you're considering a career in public relations. Ask them what skills you need to become a top job candidate."
Interviewing a potential interviewer. Interesting idea. And a great way to get first-hand knowledge from people with experience.
I make the calls, set up the interviews and jot down my questions.
What skill set do you need? What items should be in my portfolio? How is the agency structured?
The conversations lasted approximately an hour each. When they were over, I not only had gained valuable insight about the world of public relations, I also gained allies who were willing to answer future questions and help me set up my portfolio.
Meanwhile, I created an account on LinkedIn.com, which is a business-oriented, social networking site.
Potential employers can view my work history, read recommendations from past managers and colleagues and find out what type of job I'm looking for.
My progress was slow at first, mainly because I didn't think I knew that many people. But once I started retracing my steps through radio – from Massachusetts, to Vermont, to New Hampshire and Maine – one contact led to another, and before long it became clear what a valuable employment tool this Web site is.
Speaking of employment, I'm happy to say some free-lance writing work has come my way, thanks in part to this column.
Although my progress has been slow, it's progress nonetheless and I'm gaining valuable experience.
And I wouldn't be doing so had I not learned to think outside the box.
Fortunately, my friends helped tip my box over so I could crawl out and get a better view.
One more happy accident.
Next: The power of positive thinking.