Okay, Now What?

Off the top, a couple of minor adjustments. For longtime readers (if reading from April counts as “longtime”), you’ll remember the original title of this blog was “On the Beach,” representing my jobless status as a recently unemployed professional and the direction of topics, which dealt with unemployment and looking for work. Once I started working again, I celebrated that fact in the name of the blog, “Doug Johnson at Work.”

I’ve been back on the job long enough that I don’t want to give the suggestion that part of me being “at work” is updating my personal blog, ’cause it’s not. Since I speak to a variety of topics, “at large” might be more descriptive (although those of you who followed my recent weight loss know that I’m not personally “large” anymore). Also, new header picture (giving Chaplin a rest, replacing him with the first moving assembly line, as well as a new profile picture). And now, on with the blog!

Two more transfers of power occurred in Memphis this week. Both were quick, simple affairs, and unlike the prophecies of doom offered by the former city mayor, nothing bad happened with either.

Man on a MissionAC Wharton resigned his post as mayor of Shelby County, waited a few minutes, walked across Main Street Mall, and took the oath of office as mayor of the City of Memphis. No muss, no fuss. Myron Lowery goes back to being a member of City Council and the Earth did not fall off its axis.

On the other side of the mall, County Commissioner Joyce Avery took became acting County Mayor, a job she will hold until her fellow commissioners select a permanent replacement to complete Mr. Wharton’s term.

Punched Out?


So, the sturm und drang of the Herenton years in City Hall are finally over. That is, until the various and sundry investigations into business deals, vacation pay and whatever else the local, state or federal investigators have cooking come to a head. For a man who styles himself as the greatest mayor in the history of our city, he’s left a fairly murky wake. And I’m completely flummoxed as to how this helps him position himself as a viable candidate for Congress. Oh well, stranger things have happened. Again, I know Dr. Herenton has a lot of strong support in this community, including people who have voted for him and people who have worked for and with him. Still, the job calls for a uniter, not a divider.

All the talk of a mandate for the new mayor is interesting. Yes, he got 60% of the vote in the special election. But only a tiny portion of eligible voters bothered to go to the polls. So, an incredibly small portion of people who could select the new mayor actually did. Is that really a mandate? Either way, the mayor has a pretty big job on his hands. I’m no longer interested in how he got to the office on the 7th floor, and you probably shouldn’t be either. Now, the question turns to how he’s going to manage the city’s problems now that he’s there.

No Controversy PlannedI know a lot of people think highly of Herman Morris, the new mayor’s choice for City Attorney. The Memphis Flyer seems to be pleased with the choice. The Commercial Appeal acts like they’re okay with it too. Of course, the Flyer’s John Branston had some concerns about Mr. Morris’ openness while head of Memphis Light, Gas & Water. He told WREG today that it’s his intention to make the City Attorney’s office one of those places that does not show up in the limelight. Good. After the heat and noise generated in the last days of Elbert Jefferson, we need the office to go about the business of the city without bringing too much negative attention to its operations. It would also be nice to cut back on some of those high legal fees the city ends up paying by using all those outside legal experts.


Never Give Up

I’d been having some real problems decided what to post about today. So many, that I just skipped putting something up Tuesday night. I sat around this morning trying to come up with something when I flipped past CNN.

First, Heidi Collins was anchoring. I never worked with her a lot, but she’s a nice person and we have both worked with the delightful Paula Haddock at different local stations. Heidi’s also got nice enough legs to be Fox News, where they seem to make a much bigger deal of showcasing the physical attributes of their female anchors. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching attractive women read the news as well as the next guy, but it seems kinda pervy to so obviously objectify your anchors. Well, Rupert Murdoch is doing a lot better than I am, so he must know something I don’t.

Anyway, Heidi was reading the story about O.J. Simpson. He’s appealing his conviction on robbery and kidnapping. He’s claiming there wasn’t enough racial diversity on the jury. His lawyers also say the judge didn’t do enough to keep Simpson’s notoriety from tainting the jury pool. You gotta love the brass that O.J. still has after all these years.

If you want a diverse jury, commit your crimes in a diverse community. And didn’t his lawyers approve of every single member of the jury during voir dire? Don’t want people to hold your past against you? Don’t kill any innocent people. How about that?

Still, the legal flailings of the obviously guilty have some bearing on those of us in the ranks of the unemployed. No matter how bleak things seem, it’s always important to keep looking for opportunities. You never know when something’s going to pop up, so keep searching, keep applying, keep networking!

I’m going to skip watching Tony Harris (also a nice person, but a bit loud for me), but I’ll probably come back for Kyra Phillips‘ newscast on CNN. She’s my favorite news redhead anyway.

Stigma? What stigma?

I don’t want to sound like a crotchety old man, complaining about how things aren’t like they used to be… but kids, lemme tell ya, things nowadays aren’t like they used to be!

Used to be that parents took pride in their children’s accomplishments and in fact, insisted on their kids working hard and making every effort to achieve something in their lives. Not that most parents don’t still do that. But you hear about kids getting to college and being surprised at how much work they’re expected to do… or that they’re expected to work at all. Or, how in some communities, opportunities are hard to find and expectations end up being lower than they should.

In some places, kids actually take heat if they do particularly well in school. It seems the stigma of being poorly educated no longer exists and has become a badge of pride for some misguided youth.

It seems that the current economic condition has affected the stigma of being jobless. It used to be embarrassing to lose a job, to be… unemployed. Now, things are so bad, it’s surprising if you don’t know someone looking for work.

When it comes to how to deal with whether there’s a problem being out of work in a society that values being employed, the piece quotes a California career coach who notes employers are getting a different perspective on the problem, saying, “Today, it happens so frequently, it just doesn’t have the stigma.”

I’ve noticed lately that it’s not just employers who don’t seem to see stigma. I’ve been on the phone recently, cutting back on various services to save some money. Most of the customer service people don’t seem affected when I tell them I simply can’t afford my old level of service. In fact, a political fundraiser continued to ask for a contribution, even if it were smaller (Sorry, Al Franken. I’ve done all I can. If you end up in the Senate, it’ll have to be without my money).

While I’m glad people don’t look at me sideways when they find out I don’t have a job, I have some concerns about how the economy might affect the national zeitgeist. It’s possible that we get used to people losing their jobs and become too accepting of the situation. If ways can’t be found to stem the wave of layoffs, do we become a nation that accepts the idea of a growing percentage of people without work? And how does that not breed resentment among the people with jobs, knowing they’re carrying an extra burden to support the jobless?

Step into my web…

Spend anytime without a job and look at any article, website, blog or other piece looking at the process of finding work and all will promote the value of networking. And even though I’m still one of 10% of the Tennessee workforce who are unemployed – I completely agree.

I’ve been separated from jobs two other times in my adult life (radio in 1984, TV in 1988), and both times, I found my next jobs through personal connections. Someone I knew got in touch with me and let me know about a job they’d heard about. That’s why I’ve been aggressive (for me) about telling people about my situation. In fact, I got my first legitimate contact about a possible opening before I was escorted off the property of my former employer. It hasn’t turned into a job yet, but you never know.

One of the good things about this Internet-based society is that it’s gotten a lot easier to get in touch with people. In the 80s, I was spending major telephone time trying to reach out to everyone I knew. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and e-mail, creating an initial network has become easier.

I went to a Red Cross luncheon this week (got to hear retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré, who is a hoot, by the way). I ended up at the table of my former company and mentioned my job status to one of the people there. At first, they were a tiny bit taken aback, and wondered why I had said anything. Before the end of the event, that person had mentioned my situation to several of the people there and asked for their help – classic networking-by-proxy.


Another former news director shout out. Everyone in news has stories about good news directors and bad ones. Mike Cutler falls into the good category. I worked for Mike at WTVF in Nashville. I had not contacted him directly about my situation, but he’s aware of what’s going on and got in touch with me with some extremely helpful information. Thanks again, Mike. Same thing for Ted Iliff, who hired me at CNN.

It’s been two weeks since what some people are calling “Black Friday.” One of my fellow travelers made that point at resume training today. Unlike most two week breaks, this feels nothing like a vacation.

In the wee small hours…

Here’s the tough part so far.  I’m financially secure (for the time being). The outpouring of support from family and friends has been amazing (truly). I’ve already got some decent prospects (keep your fingers crossed).

Even with all that, I haven’t been able to sleep through the night since I found out I didn’t have a job anymore. I’m falling to sleep, but end up slipping into some kind of a half-awake, half-asleep state, very early in the morning.  During this, I imagine any and every kind of negative outcome to all this. Will I ever find a job?  Could I lose the house? Is my car too small to sleep in?  Do really hot chicks dig the unemployed?

I’m okay during the day, although I feel like I have to spend as much time reassuring people I’m okay as they do telling me I’m going to be okay. Anyway, for a guy whose mother always accused of “sleeping his life away” when younger, I’m not liking sleep so much.

On another note, I want to give a shout out to a former boss of mine.  Bob Jacobs was one of the news directors I worked for at WREG-TV in Memphis. Time came when the station wanted to make a change and did – all over him.  Many of us thought the treatment was shabby, but Bob not only survived, he’s prospered.  He’s been very generous with his observations on things I can do to navigate this storm, and I wanted to say publicly that I appreciate it.