My first last job was with CNN. I was 40, I’d just gotten hired as the senior Washington editor in the digital unit, I wanted to work there for the rest of my career and I was gone two years later. I thought the gig would at least last longer, but then AOL bought CNN and tried to run it like AOL, which at the time was on a “We Don’t Create Content” kick. As a result, almost all of my staff was laid off and my job existed only because someone had to maintain the website pages. I managed to get transferred into AOL proper, but I knew that never would last, and I left after another two years.
My second last job was with USA Today. I was in charge of the news section of the website and also ran the breaking news desk with another manager. It was a great job and I loved it. But after five years, parent company Gannett started swinging the layoff knife, and I could see what was coming. They had a reputation for ruthlessness when it came to making their numbers No Matter What. I knew that, eventually, the gears of that machine would grab me and I’d be ground into chunky bits. I got a new job instead.
My third last job was with NPR. Who wouldn’t want to work for NPR? But it was exhausting, day in and day out, to reconcile the enormous talent of some of that organization’s key journalists with their nearly constant and reflexive resistance to change. Eventually I accepted a voluntary buyout just to get on with my life, as did a surprising number of digitally oriented staffers at the same time. (NPR did change, though; it just took a very long time.)
I’m now on my fourth last job, this one with AARP. I’m pretty sure that if this doesn’t work out, I’ll have to rely on gig work until I retire. I really want this to be my last last job in the best way. Things are looking up so far.