Monday, March 2, 2009

Unemployment... One Year Later!

I spent last week working the early morning shift at WMAL, which explains in part why this blog has been so sparely amended as of late... On Thursday, Bryan Nehman asked me how I was planning to celebrate the first anniversary of the loss of my job. Technically speaking, I won't be able to mark the anniversary on the actual date until 2012, because I was canned on Leap Day. However, I appreciated Bryan's sentiments. And sure enough, when I showed up for work on Friday, this sign was posted in the lobby of WMAL:

Mind you, I LOVED the sign. No one enjoys a good bit of snarky, cynical workplace humor more than I do. Frankly, it's hard to believe it's been a year!

I also received a phone call on Friday from my friend, David Burd. I worked with David for many years at WMAL before he went down the street to work at the evil empire, aka WTOP. David is now in the exact same position I'm in - looking for full time work and freelancing at his former employer in the meantime. David was one of the first people to call me a year ago when I lost my job, and offered me reassuring words that ended up in my very first blog entry.

When I spoke with David last week, he asked me how unemployment was going one year later. I paused - and before I could answer, he said, "Wasn't so bad, was it?"

The fact is - is hasn't been so bad. Yes - I still desperately want a fulltime job, and yes - I am still plenty frightened about the future - especially the future that the rest of the world is also going through right now. But if there's one thing I've learned in the past 12 months, it's that my world isn't going to crumble TODAY because I don't have a full time job.

So much has NOT changed in my life. I still have my house - and I'm still pleasantly shocked I was able to refinance the mortgage. I still have my wife - and she still has a job that has good benefits! My kids are still doing well, and going to camp this summer. And heck - I'm still going on vacation - albeit less expensive ones.

I have learned some new skills - basic website design and rudimentary html. I have greatly expanded my social network, and somewhat expanded my professional network. I have taken on several freelance jobs, which have allowed me to further expand my skill sets. And I have even become a "published author" - which I will write more about later this week.

Some things have disappointed and surprised me. When I first started looking for work, I truly thought I'd have something sewn up in weeks - a month, tops. I quickly learned that the job market doesn't work that way.

I quickly discovered that being riffed from my job was just an early symptom of a pandemic in the radio business. Jobs continue to evaporate on a daily basis, and there were at least two positions that I applied for that literally disappeared before my eyes - deleted even as I was being considered for them.

I've also learned that just because jobs are posted, it doesn't really mean they are being filled. Some places just like to post jobs, apparently. I've seen some of the same jobs at one particular company held open for close to a year now, and I have no doubt, they'll still be open a year from now - assuming the company remains in business.

Honestly speaking, I haven't seriously looked for a fulltime job since November. I still peruse the weekly job notices that are being robo-sent to me, but up until now, I have literally been too busy working, which is a total blessing. It feels good to be productive, and it feels even better to put a few dollars into the bank.

Speaking of money... I thought the worst part of being unemployed would be watching the reaction of my wife. She is the "worrier" of the family, and she also doesn't do well with watching her spending. Robin is definitely of the school that "if one is good, then three must be better". But even though it's been a struggle adjusting to a new mindset, we have also found that we can get by perfectly well by buying less stuff. We also eat out less often, but not dramatically so. We usually eat out one night a week and bring in carryout another night, when we used to do one or the other probably 3 nights a week when I was working.

I still have worries. I have home repairs that can't be put off much longer. Spencer's Bar Mitzvah is two years away and counting, and we don't have a penny saved for it yet. Who the hell knows when the recession is going to end - and when it does, what will the new media world order look like? And will there be a place for me in it?

But it snowed overnight, and I have several inches outside my doorstep. I can just sit here and watch it fall. I didn't have to be up at 3 am to go to the office. I won't have to drive home in it later. And I won't have to worry that the station's website is updated with school closings, or making sure there's someone available to answer the phone tonight when the next batch of openings starts pouring in. I have shows to watch on the TiVo, and work projects to attend to on the computer. Oh - and I'm leading a singalong on Facebook later, if you want to join.

No - it really hasn't been that bad.


Jean said...

I heard you the other day, but hadn't realized you'd been gone so long. I'm a faithful WMAL listener and have been since you started there - long ago, back in the day. They're letting all the great ones go, eh?

John Matthews said...

Jean - Thanks for reading my blog! Yes - it's tough watching what's happening to WMAL - and really the entire radio business - especially in this economy. But persevere I must! I was somehow aware of your listenership, and I thank you for that after the fact! I am back filling in on occasion, as wel as working on occasion at ABC News... And always looking for other gigs, too!

I poked through your blog, and really loved your photos... You have a great visual eye!