This column originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on February 24, 2019.
Bad news comes on many fronts — a cancer diagnosis, a death, or loss of a job. While we often can’t control the circumstances, we can control our response. Which means life can deliver us to a crossroads with a challenge to make a difficult choice, one that may require us to pull up our big-kid pants and forge ahead.
I’ve adopted a framework that has helped me to sort through challenges large and small, trivial and life-altering. It’s simple, though not easy.
When bad news or bad luck visits, will I be bitter? Or will I be better?
Just over 16 months ago, Kim Insley found herself at the crossroads of bitter or better. Though some might have taken a different course, she chose better.
For more than 24 years, Insley called KARE11 home. She woke up just before 2 a.m. through good weather and bad, assumed the Sunrise anchor chair, and ushered Minnesotans into a new day. Then in October 2017, she was told it was time to relinquish the chair.
There was no forewarning, but the news was not wholly unexpected. Insley worked in an industry that is undergoing dramatic change, where others eagerly waited in the wings to step in were she to step out.
She didn’t take it personally, for she understood the business side of her profession. Decisions are made on the basis of economics. She knew the industry was in flux, that the economic model had changed, that the owners were trying to adapt, and that they owed a fiduciary duty to shareholders, not employees.
She didn’t ask for an explanation. What was the point? She always knew she didn’t own the anchor chair.
And she felt her time there had run its course. Her children were grown. It no longer served her family for her to work the brutally early shift.
She had planned to leave when her contract was up. The station’s decision to make a change simply advanced the timetable.
Rather than focusing on the “why,” Insley focused on the “what” and the “how.” What new opportunities awaited her? How would she move forward?
Her attitude served her well. Today Insley is a public relations and communications manager for Meet Minneapolis. The position hits on many cylinders important to her — working for a nonprofit, engaging with both the community and local corporations, allowing her to use skills she mastered in front of the camera in new ways, and to continue to grow and acquire additional skills, for public relations and television news are different animals.
Insley says she has straddled two generations that bring different approaches to careers. Her parents’ generation tended to be loyal to a career. Members of her generation were more inclined to take a job and hope that things would work out for the best. The younger generation realizes that to be successful one must own her career, she says, and that approach is instructive to all.
It means taking responsibility for what you do and where you’re going.
It means examining what one can do to be the best possible person for herself, her employer, and her career.
It means stepping out of our comfort zone and reaching out to strangers. Never stop networking, she says. Connecting people is fun. It’s not about helping yourself. It’s about helping others, though you never know how it might circle back.
Her advice applies to more than the broadcast media business. Many industries are undergoing dramatic and unsettling change, driven by a host of factors beyond the control of both employers and employees. Weathering change well requires one to understand the trends and the forces at play as well as to prepare for and adapt to new expectations and practices by continually examining how one can remain valuable in a dynamic work place.
What advice does Insley have for others who may find themselves at the crossroads of bitter or better?
Always keep learning. With an innate curiosity, journalism was a great fit for Insley. But one not need be a professional storyteller to be a perpetual student. What are we here for if not to be lifelong learners, she asks? You’re really closing yourself off if you think you have all the answers.
Set money aside. Losing her job didn’t cause her financial hardship. She and her husband, a realtor, were good savers, for he also works in an unpredictable industry that is undergoing change.
Always be thinking about the next step. Be flexible and accept what you can and can’t control.
Recognize that change is inevitable and complex.
Regardless of how much we anticipate and plan for change, it’s still difficult. Insley spent many years developing relationships with her co-workers. Some were professional, others personal. Some of the best advice she received was to give herself time to grieve, for once you leave the job those relationships are never quite the same.
At the end of the day, Insley says, a job is just a job, regardless of the industry or profession in which one earns a living. Though it may feel like the end of the world when it ends, it is not. Embrace the next opportunity and power ahead.
In addition to writing my Pioneer Press column I serve on the TeamWomen Marketing Committee. Occasionally, I share inspiring stories about TeamWomen members such as Kim Insley. On April 26, Kim Insley will emcee TeamWomen’s 8th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference. If you’d like to attend or get more information, click here.