In 1993, I was a twenty-two-year-old hotshot. Or so I thought. As a publicist for NBC News in New York, I was making enough money to have a nice life, rent my own apartment, enjoy manicures on weekends; not bad for a girl from Miami Beach who had always dreamed of making it in the Big Apple.
I was on a roll. I had been offered a job working as a very junior publicity assistant for Barbara Walters at ABC’s 20/20 while I was still in college. I jumped at the chance. Then NBC recruited me, and soon I was on a first-name basis with some of the biggest stars in broadcasting. Jane Pauley, Maria Shriver, Stone Phillips, and the late Tim Russert.
It was my responsibility to promote these superstars and their work. I called newspaper reporters across the country as well as the producers of TV shows from Entertainment Tonight to Larry King Live to sell them on what my stars were doing. And the answer was always yes.
“We’d love to promote Maria’s new special.” “Of course we’ll showcase that investigative piece on Dateline.” “What’s happening Sunday on Meet the Press.” I was kicking butt. And unbeknownst to me, my butt was about to get kicked.
One day, an HR woman told me to report to the office of the newly appointed president of the news division. When I walked in, he was sitting in his big leather chair, and he didn’t get up to greet me. Not a good sign.
He told me that anytime someone takes over a company or a division, he wants to put his own mark on things—new protocols, new processes, and a new team.
“Are you firing me?” I interrupted. He said, “You have thirty minutes to leave the building.”
I went into spin mode—I told him he was making a terrible mistake. Talk to anyone internally or externally, I said, and you’ll hear that I’m a great asset, that I really know my stuff, and I’m totally devoted to NBC.
He looked at his watch.
Changing gears, I said, “Give me three things to accomplish in three weeks, three months—whatever time frame you want—to prove myself directly to you.”
All I wanted, I said, was to stay at NBC News.
He listened, cold, devoid of emotion.
It was clear that I was not going to keep my job. As I stood up to walk out of his office—trying desperately not to burst into tears—his parting words were, “Tory, it’s a big world out there, and I suggest you go explore it.”
I walked out in shock. My world as I had known it had come to an end.
I walked to my apartment, climbed into my PJs and threw myself a good old-fashioned pity party, catered by Häagen-Dazs. I had lots of sleepless nights filled with self-doubt. I was embarrassed, humiliated, and just plain scared.
Not long after, I got an email from Maria Shriver, now California’s first lady but back then a correspondent for NBC News.
She told me that I probably wouldn’t believe it now—nor would I want to hear it—but that in no time I’d look back and realize that this was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I deleted the message—angrily. How could this successful, rich, powerful Kennedy girl, the gorgeous wife of a movie star, know how I felt? What did she know about having the carpet ripped out from under her, about being afraid where the next month’s rent would come from?
But there’s a reason Maria is a success at whatever she does. She’s no dummy. And after the benefit of some distance, I realized she was absolutely right. This was indeed the best thing that could have happened to me.
Now in Fired to Hired, I share my tales of woe, and my steps to triumph as the CEO of Women For Hire and the workplace contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America. I let it all hang out. And along the way, I offer readers like you solid advice on how to get hired today. Jobsearchng now isn’t what it was twenty years ago—or even two years ago.
Excerpt from Fired to Hired by Tory Johnson