Hire This Guy #2: Randy Thornton
While it's not easy to job search at any age, imagine being shown the door at 60. That's what happened two years ago to Randy Thornton after a life-long career as a videographer, with no intention of slowing down any time soon. I recently connected with him to get the full picture.
Tell me about your work history.
I worked as a videographer for one news network for 28 years, with one 15-month layoff in 2001. I enjoyed my job of traveling around the country capturing people's stories -- some victorious, some tragic. I covered the news, including chasing this third-place candidate around the corn fields of Iowa in 2007. Some guy named Obama!
Then what happened?
That job came to an abrupt end when I was called into my boss's office and given a "loss of confidence" reason for being let go. When I asked why? What did I do wrong? The answers were vague -- ending with, "We don't have to tell you."
A half hour later I was in the streets with one month's severance. The bubble had burst. One day I was under the bubble protected, the next day outside and exposed.
How did you respond?
Shock turning to numbness, but most of all sadness, because I felt like an outcast. I had made a lot of friends over 28 years, and now they were distanced from me. I'd see them on the street, or in a grocery store, and there's always a limit to what we could talk about. Bottom line, I didn't know the truth, and that bothered me.
I then faced other cold facts. The big one was no one really wants to hire a 60-year-old. The average entry level age for my job was 23. I was two years from Social Security, in the worst economy since the Depression. All the job fairs, applications, and job searching weren't going to even get me an interview. I've applied to hundreds of jobs and never hear back. The safest route for any potential employer was to ignore me and avoid any "age discrimination" issues.
So what's a guy to do?
My other alternative was to re-start my video production business. I shot wedding videos, created a small website, and got a business license. But how? It was floundering when I was let go. Then in June 2009, I actually booked three weddings and that got me through that month. I struggled through the winter, with unemployment insurance providing the bare minimum.
Spring is here now, and the calls are coming in. I still have to learn this thing called accounting. I have Quicken, but need to learn how to use it. I have two full weddings and three half weddings with another company.
That's terrific, but I know you're still frustrated.
My biggest frustration is the unanswered phone call, or no email response. It's sitting at home with no one calling, and nowhere to realistically apply. Another big problem is giving into hopelessness. Nobody's going to hire me, I'm too old.
I don't allow myself too much of that pity time; it's so fruitless. I get up each day saying how can I make some money somehow. I sell books on the internet, so I'll get on and list some books, in the hopes that they'll sell in a week. I've made $100 on a good day doing that. Then I search for different ways to use my humble DV camera to shoot marketable videos. Lately, website videos are lucrative, and I've been able to secure a few clients.
Bottom line: Are you optimistic?
I'm beginning to see that the entrepreneurial route is the most promising and the most frightening. It sure makes me appreciate the pioneers and their spirit to cross uncharted terrain in search of a new home. I'm going in direction I have not been before, but am excited about the possibilities and the potential for success.
Where's the money?
(Since losing his job, Thornton's first step was to downgrade his lifestyle and monthly expenses to adjust for his new financial reality.)
Ideally, I would want a 40-hour-a-week, video-related job with benefits, such as health care. I realized that when I was let go from my job of 28 years, that due to my age, I would not be getting a similar job that paid well. My wife and I then made the decision to sell our house in suburbia, and buy a foreclosure in Norfolk. It might not be the inner city, but it's close to it. Our goal was to live on half as much as we made in 2008, because 2009 was half work/half unemployment, kind of a washout. I intend to compare cost of living between 2008 and 2010 to see how much I am different. So plan A is to work 40 hours a week for someone.
What if you can't find a full-time staff position? What's the second option?
Plan B is to re-start my video business and attempt to live off of shooting video for various clients via freelance, website videos, weddings, or what I call "Have camera will travel." Just recently I almost got a 10-day assignment to Ethiopia shooting doctors doing surgeries. Someone else got it, but I would love to do this kind of shooting two or three times a year.
Lastly, I'd love to include an occasional video blog. I have a friend who gave up his 40 hour a week delivery job (with benefits) to pursue a home-based computer career servicing client's medical accounts. Also, I saw a homeless guy with a sign on a street corner and decided to get my camera out to interview him. He was an out-of-work construction worker wanting enough cash to feed his family that night and was living out of his car. He had some interesting things to say that would make a great video blog.
Resume at a Glance
Name: Randy Thornton
Previous Position: Director of Photography / Videographer / Producer
Work Experience: Proven professional with more than 28 years experience in the broadcasting industry organizing, shooting and completing international and domestic video EFP and ENG projects used for immediate broadcast, public relations, fund raising, and motivational purposes. Seasoned abilities managing people onsite to ensure performance and timely completion of the projects. A team player with strong communications skills known for accomplishing objectives efficiently.
NOTE: If you have a legitimate job lead for Randy, please leave information in the comments below. Thank you.