Be ready for the worst
by Brad Ingram, photojournalist, WGHP-TV
Within the last year there have been mass layoffs in both newspapers
and television news. Some of us has have experienced this first
hand while others have seen colleagues laid off. Having been laid
off before in another profession, I developed this quick check list
to see if you’re ready to face losing your job. Let’s
take a minute to see if you’re ready for the worst.
First find out how much you owe in credit card debt. Pay
down the amount owed to be better prepared for a potential layoff.
In the current credit crisis, variable interest rates and the minimum
balance due will go up the more you owe. If you have to carry some
debt on a credit card, try paying down the balance to around 30%
of your credit line.
Also some credit card companies offer credit protection insurance.
If you have good credit and or can handle a small minimum payment,
this option is pointless. But if your credit card is maxed out the
insurance will pay your minimum balance until you land a job. Having
this insurance would pay itself back with the higher minimum balance
due these days. Otherwise you’d have to pay those minimum
balances charges out of your savings or unemployment check.
It’s suggested that you should have six months worth
of salary saved as an emergency fund for unexpected bills or expenses.
If you do online banking you can set up a deduction from your checking
account to your savings account when you get paid every month or
every two weeks. But when you make peanuts like some of us do it
can be hard to sock a little money away every month. So I’m
a realist when it comes to putting a little money away a month.
Look for ways to save money in your everyday expenses. By cutting
back on expenses you’ll quickly see how much you can save
just in three months.
If you don’t already pack a lunch to work you’re missing
out on big savings both in time and money. Eating out at lunch or
dinner can get expensive. Even if you pack lunch times a week you
can easily save $15 to $45 dollars a week. That money can be spent
elsewhere within your budget. I pack at least three times a week
if not four times a week. I do allow myself to eat out at least
once or twice a week to prevent getting bored with the same old
turkey sandwich. Lastly, if you don’t clip coupons already,
start! If you buy convenience store sodas or a Starbucks coffee,
The Exit Plan
Managers are always planning for the big story; so should you, if
there is a possibility of getting laid off. Planning your exit from
the building without forgetting anything is so critical. In the
coming days, take the time to make sure you have all of your story
contacts and colleague contact information copied at home. Ask a
few of your closest and respected associates if you can use them
as a reference in the future. Then make sure you get their correct
information and go ahead and make a reference list on your resume.
Speaking of your resume, make sure that it’s up to date
and that whatever changes are needed can be done quickly at home.
Purchase resume paper and envelopes while you’re still employed.
Same applies to any other materials you’ll need if you’re
on air or off air talent: blank DVD’s, DVD cases, bubble envelopes,
postage (10 Priority Stamps, 10 1st Class Stamps). Having these
items already purchased you’ll be saving $75 or $100 dollars
for other expenses.
It’s important to have your portfolio and resume tape updated.
That way you won’t have to worry about making this after being
laid off. If you do get laid off and you’re not up to date
on this task, ask your manager if you can come in during normal
business hours and use the equipment to get it done or to make copies
of your reel.
If you have any personal belongings or equipment stored at work
make sure it’s in one area if possible. Make a list of all
of the personal equipment that is yours and supply that list to
your department head. That way you and your equipment are protected.
Getting the Word
There’s never a good time for a manager to tell an employee
they’re needed by Human Resources. As you head up to HR take
a deep breath. The next thirty minutes will dictate how well you’ll
land on your feet. Know that no matter whether you’re a good
or bad employee, how you act in this meeting is vital to your future.
Trust me, you’ll have plenty of time to be angry and upset
after you’ve left.
Know that in these times letting people go is a business decision
and not necessary personal decision. Know that management is simply
doing what has been handed down from corporate. It’s not their
fault nor is it yours.
During the meeting with HR or with your department head be as positive
as you can. Make sure you ask if you’ll qualify for unemployment.
Ask about any other benefits they might provide to help ease the
blow. Ask them to pay for a month or two of health coverage while
you actively search for other employment. Don’t be afraid
to ask for things. The worst they can say is no.
Gather your things and say your goodbyes if you can. Remember,
be positive! Leave the building with class just as you entered.
You have to be in the frame set that they’re doing you the
favor by letting you go. This will help you in the coming weeks
to come as you search for other employment. Once you’re in
the parking lot you’ll be glad that your exit plan worked.
The Day After
You’ll go though several emotions after being laid
off. It’s important not to get out of your work routine during
this time. The sole purpose of your day now is to land a job quickly.
There will be a lot of factors you’ll have to consider during
this time: What's best for your family? Do you want to stay in the
area? Do you want to stay in the profession?
The first calls you should make is to competing stations in the
area to see if they have any openings. If they do, go ahead and
apply even if they're not in your area of expertise . If nothing
more you may get a lead on other employment elsewhere or maybe another
character reference. From there make a round of calls to production
houses in the area. Tell them your situation and advise them if
they need assistants in the near future to call you. Follow that
up by listing yourself on freelance websites. It will help you with
landing short term gigs before you get your next job.
There are plenty of job listing sites for our industry. If you
don’t already subscribe to one I suggest you pick one and
add a year membership even if you’re currently not looking
for work. That would be another expense you can save yourself if
the worst happens to you.
Once you have access to job listings that are updated daily you
need to plan your attack wisely. One thing I’d suggest is
getting your reel on-line for quick review by potential employers.
Call newspapers or stations within the state if you want to stay
in the area. Otherwise get your resume and reel out to other markets
Lastly, just because you’re out of work doesn't mean you should
settle for the first thing that comes your way. But you do need
to realize how tight the job market is currently. A lot of companies
have openings right now but some are in a hiring freeze. Keep this
in mind: You might have to take a step back in your career to take
a step forward.