Friday, April 15, 2011

The worry generation

For several years now I've been hearing many clients with a lot of talent sound the same over the phone when it comes to job hunting and careers. The worry simply pours out in their voices; worry that they'll never find another job, worry they'll never reach your goal, worry that they'll get stuck in the current market forever. The worry factor seems to be a common denominator of people under thirty.

And today it finally occurred to me why this is happening. It's the parenting skills, or lack thereof, of my generation.

I realize that some of you grew up like I did, with lots of responsibility and strict parents. (By the way, I don't have any kids, but if I did my parenting skills would lie somewhere between Bill O'Reilly and Dick Cheney.) But there are plenty of young people who got the proverbial ribbon for trying, who were covered in bubble wrap by helicopter parents determined to protect them at all costs from the real world.

And then when the real world strips off the protective covering, you can end up bruised and battered.

The real world isn't like childhood or school. People play mind games, beancounters make decisions that have nothing to do with your talent, managers hire and fire for superficial reasons.

Life, without the bubble wrap, isn't fair.

What does this do to young people who have never had to worry about anything? Well, if mom and dad have always kept you behind a protective force field, it can be a bucket of cold water in the face. If you've never failed, it's hard to experience it for the first time, especially if that experience is in your 20's.

Who's to blame? Doesn't matter.

What does matter is that you master the art of not overthinking. Worry can consume your life, so much so that you lose your focus and can't do the best work you can. Sending a tape and then worrying if your montage had the right order, if you had the right packages on your tape, or if your cover letter was good enough will send your muse into vapor lock. And when a great story falls in your lap, you're too worried about something else to see it. A News Director tells you to call, you leave a voice mail, and then wait days or weeks for a return call, worrying about why you're not at the top of his to-do list. And while you've been worrying and waiting, I'll bet money you didn't knock out any exceptional work.

As news people, you have control over your own careers. You control the look of your stories, the way you anchor, the words you write. After that, it's up to the universe as to where you end up next. You may be the best reporter in the world, but the stars still have to align for you to move on.

Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity. You make your own luck by living and working in the present, and not wasting time or energy worrying about things over which you have no control.


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