What to do in an employment gap

“I’d never had a gap before and it was very new and very frightening.”

This from a top-ranked executive producer of TV spots who had been laid off in the financial crisis. “When I was first out of work I thought for sure I’m going to be everybody’s first call but there weren’t a lot of offers out there. It took a lot to get up every day – but I got up enthusiastic and that just made a world of difference.”

A few months earlier, a friend from LA had called to see if she was interested in helping produce his feature film – for no money of course. So now she called him back and told him she was in. He asked her to do the production breakdown for NY. “I said: ‘Absolutely, not a problem’. But truthfully I had no idea what a movie breakdown was, so I went on Wikipedia – okay that’s a breakdown – then I went to the library and found books on how to produce movies. All of the sudden I was a movie producer, and it cost me nothing. But then I wasn’t getting paid either. But don’t forget, I was very available!”

She got up every day, sent out at least two or three emails to her connections within the familiar advertising industry “and then I’d get dressed as if I were running into an ex-boyfriend. Seriously, this makes a big difference. Because you know you don’t want to go out like a slob, you want to look professional, like you can run into anybody. I would go to the library where there was free Internet and bathrooms. I felt like I was somewhere, around people.” “I was producing, doing what I loved doing,” she told me. “Production is the same kind of mindset and the same tools whether you’re making a 30 second ad or a long format web video or a 90-minute movie. And I was learning a new way to do it. You meet a lot of people in the independent movie world and every one will give you some bit of advice, or put you in touch with someone. It was exciting to be part of something.”

So what’s her advice to someone who has lost their job? “Get up, get out there and do something. Anything. It doesn’t just land in your lap. Even if it’s not what you were doing before. Even if it’s for no pay. It kept me in the land of the living, it kept me busy and the new connections I made carried on even after I was back in advertising many, many months later. I do think it’s a success story. Because as scary as it was it felt good when I was doing it, my little victories. And it feels good now.”