Late last week the news came out about a slew of layoffs at Gannett. “It was a total bloodbath,” was the headline used by the American Journalism Review. Between 2006 and 2012, Gannett’s workforce went from 49,675 to 30,700, according to a chart used in the now-defunct Gannett Blog. And with the company’s plan to spin off its newspapers and focus focus on digital and television, layoffs will probably continue, unfortunately
As I read this and other stories about the cuts, along with posts via social media, I saw a theme — most of those laid off got no warning and most didn’t even have enough time to pack up or download items from their computers before being escorted from the building.
I know the pain of layoffs up close and personal, having experienced my own on Oct. 6, 2011. Fortunately, I had several job offers before the month was out and things have been great for me. But in journalism, I know the ending to my story isn’t the same experienced by thousands of scribes across the country. So even if you feel that there’s not even the slightest chance that your job may be on the chopping block, you still need to be prepared in case the worst happens. Below are my tips to help you do that.
- Have a resume and online portfolio ready. I spent a happy five years at my former employer, but I always kept mine ready. I have it on my Google Drive, where it is easily available on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro. I was able to send my resume to three friends on my train ride home the same day I was laid off. For tips on creating that online portfolio, click here and here.
- Save your contacts outside of your employers’ email system. I felt so bad for those who were laid off at Gannett who didn’t have time to download their contacts. In the old days we had Rolodexes that we could carry. These days, Google is the new Rolodex. My contacts are on my Google account so if I’m cut off tomorrow morning, I’ll be OK.
- Make copies of your files and stories. If you work for a company that has a paywall, make PDFs of your best stories for your portfolio. Potential employers can’t get behind a paywall, so don’t get caught.
- Create/update your LinkedIn profile. One of my job interviews came from this network. My profile was 95 percent complete, but I needed recommendations. I tapped my network again, asking for recommendations on my listed jobs. This brings you to the attention of potential employers. Also, sign up for the next session of LinkedIn for Journalists on Sept. 22. Not only do you learn how to use this to job search and help with reporting, once you complete the hour-long session, you get a free year of premium service, which is invaluable when job hunting.
- Clean your desk. You don’t need all that junk. Keep a few photos, files and personal items, but leave the rest at home. it shouldn’t take you more than a half hour to clear out if the worst happens.
- Don’t be afraid to use social media. One thing you DON’T want to do is bash your former employer. Tell people you’re job seeking and ask them to pass along any opportunities they may hear of. I got great job leads from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Think outside the box. The inevitable question always comes up: what do you want to do next? My choice was to stay in journalism, but I didn’t limit myself to that because of my unique skills. I looked at communications/PR, community manager, social media consultant, aviation media/marketing efforts and anything else I think will fit my unique skills.
Benét J. Wilson writes for a non-profit aviation association. She is also an aviation/travel freelance journalist, and has written for publications and blogs including CrankyFlier.com, ACI-NA Centerlines, Aviation International News, Airport World, the Airline Passenger Experience magazine. and the Runway Girl Network. She is currently a board member for the Online News Association and Vice Chair, Education, for the National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Journalism Task Force. This post was first published on the NABJ Print Journalism Task Force blog.