By Amanda Ernst
I moved to New York after college for one reason: to work as a magazine writer. But three years and three jobs later, I found myself working at a dying magazine in a dying industry. In November, that magazine folded, and I’ve been collecting unemployment ever since.
Truthfully, I had been worrying about my job for months before the ax dropped. It was no secret that the media industry was faltering, and I was reading news stories every day about people just like me getting laid off at other magazines.
On the day that I was laid off, I mourned the loss of the magazine more than the loss of my own job. Then the reality of unemployment set in and I started to feel like a failure. I questioned my career choices. I had worked my way up from an editorial assistant to a reporter and finally landed as a market editor at a men’s fashion magazine – a dream job. When I lost that job it felt like I would have to start at the bottom again. I wondered, was it worth it?
Eventually, I decided that I hadn’t gone to journalism school and worked my butt off since then to give up now. I resolved to find a new dream job, no matter how long it took.
Finding three different jobs in three years has made me pretty good at navigating online job boards like mediabistro.com, a Web site that features jobs in media, advertising and public relations. But ever since scoring my first job out of college, I had always been on the hunt while already employed and relying on job postings was good enough to get me a gig. Now that I was unemployed I learned that my old method was less effective because magazines and their jobs were disappearing. This job search would have to be different, but I worried that if I ever stopped searching I would never find another job in magazines again.
Although I had never had to do it before, I knew that networking was my best option for finding a new job. At first, I was reluctant to broadcast my unemployed status. But when I started telling close friends and family and updating my profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, I was surprised by how many people were going through the same thing. I started to build a group of fellow unemployed workers, starting with my former co-workers and adding friends from college and high school as well as friends of friends. One of my father’s cousins, who found me on LinkedIn, suggested that I speak with his wife about networking with her connections. A few weeks later, she was also let go. I added her to my growing list of unemployed contacts.
What has also surprised me during my unemployment has been the willingness of people like my father’s cousin who have offered to help me. Friends who I haven’t spoken to in years will send me notes on Facebook, suggesting that I send my resume to this person or apply for this job. They offer to give my resume to possible employers, give me recommendations and pass along tips about freelance or part time work. I try to return the favor, by relaying information to my network of unemployed friends. I hope the good karma will help me down the line. It certainly can’t hurt.
I have also started to build a network of currently employed friends, former colleagues and bosses, focusing on those in the media industry. I have reconnected with various human resources contacts at old companies, even the company that had just let me go. That relationship led to a job interview, and when I didn’t get that job I went back to HR for an informational interview. I think if I maintain that relationship I have a good chance of returning to work at one of their surviving publications – if a job ever opens up. I know they will keep me in mind for future openings, and if I see or hear of a job posting I can go directly to them and ask to be considered.
I’m also applying to the few jobs I find on online job boards and through word of mouth. And while I wait to see if any of those pan out, I’ve been trying to make myself more marketable by working on freelance projects. I have started by pitching stories to people who I have worked with before. Once I build up my clips and expertise I plan to pitch other editors outside of my network.
Recently, all of my networking and self-promotion has started to pay off. I’m still not sure if I will ever find another dream job, and I will always feel like there is more I could be doing to get there, but I’m on the right track. I know the best thing I can do right now is believe in myself and my abilities. Every day is a challenge, but giving up is not an option.
Amanda is a graduate of Boston University’s College of Communications and has worked for Forbes, DNR and Law360.com. She currently lives in Brooklyn. You can learn more about her here: http://www.mediabistro.com/AmandaErnst.