Lose your job? Tell your story

Michaela Watkins

Michaela Watkins

Last week, casting news at Saturday Night Live made a big splash on Twitter and the Web. The show fired two of its female performers (Casey Wilson and Michaela Watkins) and hired two others (Nasim Pedrad and Jenny Slate).

There was a lot of debate about the changes: who was funny, who wasn’t, and why SNL only has four female performers in a cast of 15. I’ll admit that I don’t watch SNL frequently enough to be able to offer an opinion.

What really got my attention was how quickly the former cast members, particularly Watkins, got THEIR story out there. News of the cast changes hit the wires early Friday morning (September 4th), and by the end of the day, Watkins had talked to Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times, as well as other outlets.

Both performers talked to the press, but Watkins in particular seemed to understand that she needed to take this news, this change of course, and reframe it in a way that was a win for her. I don’t know if it was her or her PR team, but she was quite successful in putting the focus on her and her talents.

That’s a journey for anyone who’s lost their job: How do you get YOUR story out there?

Twenty or thirty years ago, losing a job was a matter of shame (or at least wounded pride). Job searches were conducted with all of the mystery and intrigue of an extramarital affair. Of course, that was an era when job searches also included coffee-stained classifieds and stacks of carbon paper. (A little Mad Men moment there for you.)

In the last decade, an entire marketing industry emerged to focus on recruiting and job searching. It’s an industry I know a little about; at this time last year, I was working for one of those companies.

Watkins was fired at the end of her first season; I was laid off after less than a year at my company.

And like Watkins, I got my story out there. I’ve worked for years as a journalist, writer and blogger, and I used the tools I’d learned in those roles and the connections I had.  I connected with media outlets looking for sources for their career-related stories.

I’m a pretty modest person, so I was reluctant to do it at first. But my instincts kept telling me that I needed to frame the experience in my terms. I needed to own the experience and the aftermath in a way that let people know I was working to create the next chapter for myself.

And I did get my story out there – a few times, as a matter of fact. No, I didn’t get to tell my story to the New York Times. But my story HAS appeared on several high-profile media sites.

Will telling your story land you a job? In some cases, a job seeker might get an immediate response (and an immediate job) to telling their story so publicly.

That hasn’t been the case with me (as of Saturday, I’ve been jobless for nine months), but those articles have led me to reconnect to contacts and connections I’d forgotten about. And it’s made people more aware of my story: who I am, what I do, and what my job search journey has been about.

It’s the toughest job market in decades, and job seekers need to use all the tools they have. A resume is only one part of that story; successful job seekers are using social media, personal Web pages, and any other communication channel they can to tell their story and ask for help.

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