WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUíRE FIRED
by Dan OíDay
(Note: The best-selling item in our WHOLE O CATALOGUE is my book, PERSONALITY RADIO. The book includes a 24-page chapter entitled "The Job-Hunting Survival Guide." This article is excerpted from that chapter.)
You havenít been getting along with management. Personality clash, philosophical difference, whatever you want to call it. The PD or GM calls you into his office and says, "Ed, weíre really unhappy with your work. I think youíve got an attitude problem."
An attitude problem?? Hell, youíve been busting your back for this station, putting in very long hours for very low pay. The PDís a jerk and the GM doesnít know the first thing about radio. And now theyíre about to pull the plug on you. Your immediate shock quickly is followed by a feeling of anger. You want to tell them what they can do with their job: "You canít fire me; I quit!" You then stride purposefully from the room, pride intact, door slamming behind you.
Wrong! Unless youíve got an independent and adequate source of income, you never resign in that situation! If you quit, you wonít qualify for unemployment compensation...and if youíre being "let go" or "phased out" or "terminated" due to reasons beyond your control (ratings, economics, politics, format changes, etc), youíre entitled to your unemployment benefits.
Itís not unheard of for management to try to maneuver you into quitting. Donít take the bait! I know of a station in the southwest that wanted to fire an air personality, who happened to be a woman. The PD decided women donít belong on the air, at least not as disc jockeys. Instead of saying, "Weíre letting you go," the PD told the jock he wanted her to be News Director...even though the jock in question had no experience in news and no desire to change her career in that manner.
"Just try it out for a week or so," the PD said. What should the jock have done?
Well, the jock had a contract that specified her job as "disc jockey." She wasnít described as "general announcer" or "member of air staff" or "on-air employee;" she was described only as a "disc jockey." Had she agreed to try being a newsperson and ended up quitting, she probably would not have qualified for unemployment compensation. The station had, after all, given her another job.
She told the PD, "Iím not qualified to be News Director." The PD replied, "So youíre quitting, then?"
"No," she said. "Iím willing to continue in my job as a disc jockey and, in fact, I would like to continue in that job."
They went back and forth like that for some time, until finally the PD uttered the fateful words: "Weíll have to let you go, then."
THE GRACIOUS & THE GUILTY
So....You havenít quit; youíve been fired. Now you can let the PD know what you think of him and his operation? No. Because you still need the PDís assistance, and the time to ask for it is immediately after youíve been terminated, while heís still feeling guilty and uncomfortable. The first thing you ask for is a letter of recommendation. Itís important to ask for and get that letter the same day youíre fired, if at all possible, because thatís when the PD (and the GM, too) will be most likely to be generous with you. After all, guilt can be a powerful motivator.
Be both direct and gentle: "Well, I guess Iíd better start looking for another job. Would you mind giving me an honest letter of recommendation so I can show prospective employers that we parted on good terms?" Usually the PD will graciously agree, and when he does you add, "Great! Why donít I get my things together while you type up the letter?"
At this point the PD might indicate that you should come back later in the week for the letter. Itís crucial for you to be firm on this point: "Gee, Iím really feeling overwhelmed at suddenly being unemployed, and Iíd like to start sending out tapes this afternoon. I donít mind waiting around for it."
Remember, the PD wants to be let off the hook and is grateful to you for not making a scene. Heís so grateful, in fact, that you hit him up for another "favor": "I really wasnít prepared for this. Would it be okay with you if I were to use the production room a couple of nights this week to dub off airchecks? Iíll provide my own tape, of course."
Get the PDís commitment before he has second thoughts and posts a notice informing all employees that Ed Jock no longer is allowed on the premises.
Getting fired is an unsettling and upsetting experience. It takes character to see it through with some style and class...and it builds professional points that may help lead to your next job.