Since being laid off last October, I have often lamented hearing about more layoffs at my old company or reductions at any other media company, mainly because it increases the competition I will have to beat out for whatever job I eventually land. It’s obviously much easier to outshine 50 people than 500.
But the news a couple of weeks ago that The Associated Press was trimming its staff probably rocked me harder than any other layoff-related news besides my own.
I mean, honestly, this is the AP we’re talking about. Every single newspaper and news-related Web site uses the AP. It is absolutely impossible to think of running any kind of news organization without content from AP. AP can’t disappear, can it?
I’ll bet many people thought the same about Bear Stearns.
While I don’t really think AP will ever vanish, the idea of layoffs striking at the heart of the media, and the thought of having to compete against people who can include AP on their résumés, made me seriously think for the first time about changing careers, at least temporarily.
I know people who have done it successfully. I have a cousin who went to college for public relations, ended up managing a bar for years and has now transitioned to selling tools. And a close friend who was an architecture major ended up being a real estate broker before going into hospitality management. They may not be in their ideal, dream careers, but they’re in stable jobs and making money, which is all you can ask for these days.
Sadly, all of the serious thought has resulted in a big, fat zero. I have no concept, clue or theory what I would do if I moved away from writing and editing.
I wrote about the idea of becoming a teacher in February. I love and respect teachers and will never say a bad word about them. For that reason, I’d never become one. I would be an absolutely, positively horrible teacher. I dread speaking in front of any kind of crowd, even if the crowd is a bunch of snot-nosed second-graders. I cannot remember people’s names to save my life. And I am putrid at explaining how to do things.
Another suggestion I’ve heard from quite a few people, especially considering what time of year we’re in, is retail. Retail may be the one job I’m more ill-suited toward than teaching. I don’t like dealing with people. I have zero patience for stupidity. And while I have a very calm temper, it explodes if I get yelled at, and Lord knows a lot of yelling goes on in stores during the holiday shopping season.
Anything sales-related is pretty much out for me. Not only do I feel uncomfortable approaching people I don’t know, but I flat-out suck at negotiating. Some people have the knack for bargaining and some don’t. I am awful at doing it.
I’m not afraid of change: I just don’t want to do something that I know I won’t be good at. I’ve always been more of a background person – the editor, rather than the scoop-seeking reporter. I’ve done interviews, but I’m not very good at them, and I am the world champion of thinking of the question I should have asked minutes after I hang up the phone or leave the room. I’m far from shy with people I know, but I don’t do so well with people I don’t know and, at age 41, I doubt that skill will suddenly flourish.
Yet another suggestion I’ve heard is the Census Bureau. My Aunt Rose has worked with them in the past, and it’s steady work that doesn’t pay too badly. But Aunt Rose is the type who has no qualms whatsoever about marching up to a door, knocking on it and barking questions at the occupants. I, on the other hand, just can’t see myself doing that.
People have even suggested bartending. I love bartenders, but that’s another job that I’d be brutal at doing. Aside from the fact that bartenders have to be good with strangers if they want something besides dust and bottle caps in their tip jars, I have an absolutely God-awful memory, both when it comes to remembering drink orders and when it comes to remembering drink ingredients. I would make an atrocious bartender. Besides, you need a license to bartend in New Jersey, and I don’t really have the time or money to take the classes for something I hope to never use.
I’m really lost as to what career path to explore if I stray away from journalism. I’m very good with computers, but anything IT-related these days is all about network administration, which I know very little about. I love baseball and have been checking the job boards on Web sites of area minor-league teams, but they’re mainly focused on hiring interns, and I don’t think I’m in a position to be an intern at the age of 41.
I’m just a bit rattled right now, mostly due to the news of AP cutting back, which pretty much rocks the foundation of the journalism and media world. I really don’t know what my next move will be, although I hope the events of the past few days eventually provide some clarity.
Being unemployed truly sucks.