Just been retrenched? Careers coach Jane Jackson shares her tips

by Rachel Smith
17 May 2019

Running a jobs board, you hear a lot from people who have been retrenched or are doing it tough out there in the media / digital landscape – and I’ve long followed careers coach Jane Jackson, who has a personal interest in helping those in our industries get back on the horse and find work. Here, we chat to her about what you need to do if you’re in this position.

RL: I imagine you are seeing a lot of people who’ve been retrenched from media companies in the past few years. How hard is it for journalists who are suddenly unemployed in a market that’s so in flux?

JJ: I’ve worked with many journalists, sub-editors, graphic designers who have experienced a redundancy due to organisational change and the transition to digital platforms.  It’s a huge challenge for many journalists when they suddenly become unemployed and the fear of the unknown can feel quite crippling.  It’s especially daunting if they have worked within one business for many years.   Many journalists I’ve worked with have told me they secured their role reasonably easily in their early days but now that recruitment practices have changed so much they are unsure of what to do next, or what to do first!

Jane Jackson careers coachDo you think journalists and other creatives who may be facing retrenchment have skills they can use to parlay into other areas?

Most definitely – creatives have many transferrable skills that they often have taken for granted or are not aware that they can use to market themselves into new career directions.  Journalists and creatives must remember that they are naturally curious professionals who are able to research and ’see’ what other professionals may not.  Their ability to conduct research and analysis, to innovate and create, to push boundaries and explore are a powerful combination.  Add to that their ability to communicate verbally, in writing, verbally and visually are valuable skills that will be put to use in many different roles including public relations, media relations, writing, marketing and also research roles to name a few.

How easy is it for journalists who’ve been in-house for many years (or decades) to move into freelancing? Is it a different mindset? What skills do you need to successfully do this?

Many journalists do transition into freelancing as this is an option that allows them the flexibility to earn while exploring other options. And some of my clients have decided to freelance as their chosen work option as they prefer it once they have adapted their mindset.  It really is a matter of mindset.  If they are used to regular hours, paid leave and paid medical it takes a fair bit of adjustment to become comfortable with freelancing and the uncertainty that some feel with this way of working.  However, if journalists leverage their extensive network of connections and stay in the loop, there is a lot of freelance work out there as employers are tending towards contract and freelance workers rather than take on additional headcount.

How important is it to learn to market yourself and to network? What is your advice to those newly unemployed people or freelancers who may not be getting as many clients as they’d like?

It is essential to learn to market yourself effectively to stay top of mind when a job or freelance opportunity arises.  My advice is firstly not to panic!  Take a step back, breathe and take stock of your skills and knowledge, identify your transferrable skills and your strengths. Then, acknowledge what motivates you and what de-motivates you – not all of us enjoy a similar work environment, work culture, or management style.  Motivators could be anything from a short commute to an office with a view to being within a cohesive team environment, to working on your own, performing analytical work, performing creative work, etc.  Everyone is different and everyone has their own preferences.

Also take time to identify your career values and what really drives you.  And identify your tangible achievements. What have you done that has made a difference in the workplace, such? Did you identify a wasteful or ineffective procedure or process? Do you always meet deadlines? Have you saved the company money or somehow improved profits? Did you resolve a problem? Did you create something new? Did you receive an award or recognition for a job well done?

Armed with this foundational information, you will be able to explore and make informed decisions about what you can, and want, to do next.

What would be your advice to anyone who has been retrenched or who is struggling as a freelancer? What are some proactive things those people can do today to better their situation?

For freelancers and job seekers, if you are struggling it could be because you are chasing after an elusive role.  It is far better to attract opportunities with a powerful personal brand and reputation.  If people know what you can do, and they like what they find out about you, and they trust that you will deliver quality work, then you are more likely to be approached with opportunities to consider.

The most proactive thing you can do is to take stock of who you are, what you want, what you’ve got that is of value to your target audience and then analyse how your online brand and reputation is reaching your target.  If it isn’t reaching your target then you need to build your personal brand.

(A useful masterclass to attend will be my FREE 3 secrets to Personal Branding for Career Success masterclass here: www.janejacksoncoach.com/3secrets)

Can it be particularly tricky for older journalists / subs / editors facing retrenchment? Do you think older freelancers can feel like they don’t have much to offer in the current market when in actual fact they have amazing skills and experience to offer?

There is the common perception that older journalists are ’too old’ – this perception is usually from the older journalists themselves. Remember that Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”. If you think you are too old it will be a self-fulfilling prophesy.  The skills and experience a seasoned journalist, sub-editor and editor has will always be marketable as long as they stay on top of new technology and methods of performing in their role.

If any professional keeps a 20th century mindset in the 21st century they will not be marketable.  Technology is changing rapidly and many roles can now be automated. In order to stay employable it’s essential to upgrade your skills and develop the skills that can never be automated.  Skills such as communication, creative writing, influence, negotiation, innovation and collaboration cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence. Well, not yet!

It’s a matter of keeping an open and curious mind to learning new ways of doing thing, leveraging existing skills and experience that can be used to mentor younger professionals in your field and developing strong relationships and a wide network so that you will be the one to be recommended for the role you are working towards.

What should journalists do to ensure they are still employable and to get employers to take a chance on them?

The most important thing is to get out and TALK to people!  The more people who know who you are and what you can do, the more likely you will receive a referral and recommendation – networking is by far and away the most effective way to secure your next freelance gig or next role.   People hire people.  Go out and meet the people who are within the sphere of influence of the decision makers you need to get in front of.

Are there any strategies for making it onto the ‘short-list’ when applying for jobs?

If you are applying for jobs online, make sure that you tailor each and every application. You must tailor your resume and tailor your cover letter keeping the key words in the job description in mind.  Often online applications go through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and a human being won’t even see the resume until the scanning system has apportioned a percentage match between the job description and the resume.  If it’s under 80 percent match your resume may not get read.  Spend some time analysing the job description or job ad and then ensure that you highlight in your resume and cover letter what is most relevant to the role.

Is there anything else on this topic you’d like to mention that you think is important?

When making applications and when networking, the key to success is in the follow up.  Follow up after a meeting, follow up after an interview, follow up if you haven’t heard and follow up even if the answer is, ’No.’  Ask for feedback and how you can improve your application process or interview technique for the next time.  No-one has a 100 percent success rate so think of rejection as an opportunity to try again.  Every application you make and every interview you attend is practice.  And preparation and practice is what will ensure success. If you need assistance, please feel free to download my career support resources as www.janejacksoncoach.com or if you need support, join my Careers Academy at www.thecareersacademy.online

A huge thanks to Jane for those great tips. Do you have any tips or strategies that helped you when job-hunting?

Rachel Smith

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