The Unexpected Ways Life Can Change

Months ago, I posted about how I’d returned to a career in television after taking an eleven-year hiatus from the broadcasting industry. Some of you may have read that post. If not, you can find it here: https://meltdownmessiah.com/2021/04/06/embracing-change/

Since then, I have been promoted into a position I’d have never imagined finding myself. I am now the News Producer for Good Morning KOTA Territory, a morning newscast that runs from 5:30 AM until 7 AM, Monday through Friday. At no point, during the ten years I spent working in television, between 2000 and 2010, had I considered the possibility that I might someday be working in the newsroom. But, here I am.

After only a week of training alongside another producer, I began my solo journey this morning, producing the first hour and a half newscast without someone there to check my work or bail me out if I hit a wall. There were some minor hiccups, but nothing that wouldn’t have happened even if there’d been someone else working alongside me. That’s the nature of live television. The important thing is to learn from those errors and to do better moving forward. It’s also important to keep in mind that there will always be mistakes that slip through, no matter how attentive or careful we are. I’m actively proud of myself for what I’m accomplishing and how I’ve managed to excel in an industry I’d stepped away from in January of 2010.

On Friday, November 12th, I was credited with writing my first story. We received breaking news in the middle of the night, that a fire had ignited in Custer State Park. One of my fellow producers sent me some details and video provided by emergency responders on the scene, and I compiled it into a story for our newscasts. The other producer tweaked things a bit when he arrived at the station a few hours later, and he posted the story online. I never expected to be credited in a byline, but it seems like life is full of unexpected things for me these days. The story is linked below:

https://www.kotatv.com/2021/11/12/firefighters-battle-15-acre-blaze-east-legion-lake/?fbclid=IwAR38UZimsaoCCqUVKgzOISwZl9lIAtsQxRu5BpOKxKrnBkrxlPyX4rzqGAQ

I’m content remaining behind the scenes. I have no interest in becoming a reporter or an anchor. I’m not comfortable in front of the camera, as you can see from the interview I did during the final week of October.

Miranda O’Bryan, the producer and anchor for KOTA Territory News @ Noon was aware that I happened to be a horror author, and she wanted to do more Halloween-themed interviews and stories leading up to the holiday. It took a little bit of coercing, and she asked really nicely, but I agreed to sit down for an interview. I almost choked at the start, visibly unable to respond to the question. Also, I have a face for radio…so I don’t anticipate we’ll be seeing me in the field or sitting at a desk anywhere down the line.

This is where I find myself now. It’s not where I’d have expected myself to be, but I feel like it’s where I should be, at least for the time being. Looking ahead, I hope–and believe–this will open new doors for me. I feel strangely optimistic about where my life is headed at present, and I feel a similarly strange sense of pride at what I’ve managed to do. I enjoy what I’m doing, I like the people I’m working with, and I feel like I’m doing something that has at least some small amount of value to it.

And…yes…this new position did come with a raise. I’m not back to the $40k a year I’d been making prior to leaving my position with GE Appliances, but I’m certainly closer than I was in my previous role within Gray Television. I’d call that a win. Sometimes we have to take a few steps back before we can find our way forward.

Embracing Change

In early March of 2021, I interviewed for what I hoped would be a second job I could work in the evenings and over the weekends, to gain some much-desired experience and add some surplus income. I anticipated being able to pay off my 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander SE early, maybe purchase some new camera gear, and add a bit of savings for potential rainy days down the road. This is not how things worked out.

I had spent almost six years working in a call center environment for GE Appliances. Initially, it seemed like the sky was the limit for me there. I was promoted from my original position in less than a year, and promoted again in another six months or so to a position I’d decided I wanted when I’d gone through training in May of 2015. For the next two years, I worked as a Team Support Specialist, fielding supervisor requests from consumers, providing floor support when not otherwise occupied, approving or rejecting requests to bend our guidelines for individual situations, and assisting our new representatives for the Consumer Relations department as they first started taking calls (and for the subsequent month or two until they were dispersed to their respective teams).

I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing at that time, the work itself was rewarding and the people I worked with were largely a fantastic group of people. I only vacated that role when a position I desperately wanted became available. I applied, and was hired, for a position as a Trainer and Curriculum Developer for the Product Service Specialist department (essentially technical support and the GE Appliances answer center). For the following year, I got to work in a position I might never have considered leaving. I didn’t exclusively train new representatives for that position, occasionally training new Consumer Relations classes as well as aiding with training for our Home Delivery department (interfacing with Home Depot and certain other retailers for whom we assisted with delivery/installation of new purchases for consumers). There was hardly a position I couldn’t slip into within our particular call center environment without the slightest bit of difficulty.

I excelled at that role, receiving post-training scores that rivaled or even surpassed colleagues who had been in the same position for years before I’d gotten the Trainer position. I successfully graduated the first class with 100% perfect attendance in a long time, largely by instilling a sense of accountability to one another and to me in each of the trainees in that class. Maintaining perfect attendance as a class, through the whole of our training period (five weeks) became a challenge my trainees wanted to achieve…and they did indeed achieve it.

I had a particularly low attrition rate (individuals who did not complete training vs. the total number of trainees who had started my training classes) and a great many people I trained were promoted internally within months of graduating from my training classes. I can’t take all of the credit for that success rate, as I could only work with the people who came through the door, but I did prepare them for everything I conceivably could and made certain they had the clearest understanding of what they could/should do when unexpected scenarios presented themselves.

The year after I’d become a Trainer, the company hired a new Director of Quality and Training from outside of the company and everything changed. The writing was on the wall, there was a push to start from scratch and establish a whole new training environment for GE Appliances. I honestly expected that I’d make it through the new interview and come out the other side still a Trainer. That was not how things worked out either. Instead, I found myself in the unpleasant and unfortunate position of needing to either find a new role within the company (if appealing positions became available before the Valentine’s Day of 2020 deadline) or accept severance and part ways with the company.

I had done nothing wrong. I’d not only displayed competence and capability in every role I’d had within the company for the previous (almost) five years, but I had exceeded expectations whenever I’d been given the opportunity to do so…and now I was being forced to apply for positions I didn’t really want so that I could keep my job, my pay, and my benefits as they were. I maintained as much positivity as I conceivably could, having been dealt a blow like that. I’d not only lost the position I’d worked for years to obtain, but I was also potentially going to lose my job altogether. My two colleagues who’d been in the other Trainer roles opted for severance…and it was a choice I understood, with their greater seniority with the company. I was not thrilled with the way things had turned out and my colleagues weren’t either. I suspect anyone would be hard-pressed to accept that sort of turmoil with a smile and total acceptance.

I did find and accept a new position within the company, in one of the only roles where I might have new things to learn. Until the Valentine’s Day deadline, I continued working as a Trainer‚Ķassisting not only my replacement who’d been hired from outside but also the lady who’d taken the Director position. I held no bitterness nor resentment toward these people, and I worked hard to make sure the transition could be as seamless as possible for all parties involved. I wanted the department to continue being successful after I’d vacated my position and moved on to the lateral role I’d been able to find.

I was still in a pseudo-leadership role in the new position. There had been no pay cut and no major adjustment to my schedule. I should have been happy. I was not.

For a period, I was content with the new position, learning a different side of the business and doing things I’d never had to do in previous jobs within the company‚Ķbut contentment is not the same as pleasure. I found no pleasure in what I was doing. At this point, I was just doing a job and collecting a paycheck. There was no more passion and there really wasn’t any room for surpassing expectations or going above and beyond in the role where I’d found myself.

Sadly, it became apparent that there seemed to be no room for me to go anywhere else within the company either. I interviewed multiple times over the final year with GE Appliances, even managing to impress people who worked at the corporate level in one of those interviews…but I didn’t find acceptance in any of these attempts to perhaps move back into a position where I could feel something rewarding in what I was doing. More than that, certain members of the leadership within my particular call center environment seemed to actively strive to keep me precisely where I was. I felt I was receiving none of the respect I had absolutely earned through the years I’d put into the company up to that point. In fact, I felt actively disrespected in some instances.

I began feeling stifled and demotivated. I dreaded even moving from my bedroom to my home office to log into the work computer to start my day. The pseudo-leadership role I’d pivoted into was beginning to feel less and less like a “leadership” position and more like something being micromanaged and otherwise dismissed.

Sure, I was making just shy of $40k a year and I had three weeks of vacation to look forward to every year as well as a bank of accumulated paid-time-off that rolled over into each new year and could have become quite substantial. The health insurance, dental, and vision were fantastic and reasonably low cost. There was plenty to keep me there, and so I remained in that position I’d never wanted in the first place for more than a year.

I applied with Gray Television (the media conglomerate that owns/operates the ABC and FOX affiliates, KOTA and KEVN, locally) because a friend of mine who works there had told me a position opened up for a Technical Media Producer (a combination of master control operations and directing newscasts). He and I had worked together at KNBN (the local NBC affiliate) years before, during the eight years when I’d worked there between 2002 and 2010. I’d made a comment during one of our conversations that I actually sort of missed working in television broadcasting and he had that remark in mind when the position became available. I’d worked in Master Control for ten years between my previous stint with KOTA (when it was still locally owned/operated) and the years I spent with KNBN. I’d also worked in any number of positions in the production department for newscasts, aside from directing. This seemed like a fantastic opportunity I’d be foolish to ignore.

I applied, not sure whether I’d even be considered, having been out of the industry for 11 years. I’d worked here and there in various production capacities for short films being produced/directed by local filmmakers as well as working on the Full Throttle Saloon television show for what became their final season of the series…but those were different things altogether from what I’d be needing to do in the Technical Media Producer (TMP) role. I figured it was worth a shot, just because of the potential to gain some new experience and expertise while making some extra money. Working part-time in television again might be refreshing enough to make me hate my full-time job just a little bit less.

It turned out that there were no part-time positions available. The job was full-time and they wanted me for it.

I was going to be facing a pay cut to almost half of the $19+ an hour I’d been making (not quite half, but near enough that it’s not worth being more precise) if I accepted the job. There was no way I could work both jobs, I spent a while dwelling on the logistics involved, and it simply wasn’t an option. I told them that I’d need to consider things and weigh everything before making a decision. I wasn’t sure if I could realistically take that sort of financial hit. They accepted that I wouldn’t have an answer until the afternoon of the following day. Based on the reaction when I called and stated that I’d like to accept the job, I don’t think they expected me to take it, knowing how much money I’d be losing in doing so. Though I’d gone into the interview hoping to increase my income (instead, I was being faced with potentially decreasing it dramatically), I also knew that I wasn’t happy where I was, regardless of the income level.

Since starting with Gray Television on the 19th of March, my 16-year-old daughter and my significant other both seem to think I’ve been happier. My schedule was all over the place during these first three weeks, and the permanent shift I’m transitioning into has me waking up at 3:45 AM Monday through Friday, but I can’t deny that I’m happier now than I’d been for more than a year with GE Appliances. Not only that, but less than three full weeks into my new job and I already spent almost a full hour and a half directing newscasts today. Good Morning KOTA Territory is an hour and a half morning newscast that runs from 5:30 to 7 AM (on KOTA, obviously), followed by Good Morning Black Hills from 7 to 8 AM (on KEVN, in this case), and then there’s an interval until the Noon newscast runs on KOTA for half an hour. This morning, I directed most of the 5:30 to 6 AM segment of Good Morning KOTA Territory, the full 6 to 6:30 AM segment, as well as the full KOTA Territory News At Noon. Naturally, I had another director there to shadow me in case I fucked something up beyond repair–I didn’t, by the way–but I already feel like I’m treated with more respect with Gray Television than I had with GE Appliances for quite some time.

There, now you have an update on what’s been going on in my life.

Sometimes there are more important things to consider than money, though it can be damned difficult to take a leap that will diminish one’s income. It’s not a choice everyone can make, that’s for sure.