Beach reset helps Varney land on his feet after layoff

“Sometimes, you can do everything right and it still doesn’t work out. Its what you do next, that matters most.” Those were Chris Varney’s words after a whirlwind few weeks where he was laid off, wondered ‘why’ and ‘what’s next,’ then landed on his feet. An STAA member since 2013, Varney is the new sports director at 96.5 KSOM in Atlantic, IA.

Atlantic is less than three hours from Varney’s previous home in Grinnell, IA. The road, though, was challenging. Varney was less than a month from his 13th anniversary as sports director at KGRN 1410 in Grinnell when he was laid off. He was part of Alpha Media’s sweeping nationwide cuts. “I was devastated,” Varney recalls. “I had spent 13 years at KGRN, though not all of it under Alpha Media. I had put my heart and soul into the radio station and into the community. Last year, I received an award from the Iowa High School Athletic Directors and now I was out of a job. I had to ask the question, ‘Why?’”

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After the layoff, Varney traveled to coastal North Carolina to reset. “Reset my brain, which was going in too many directions,” Varney remembers. “I have always found peace sitting on the beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was where I went for vacations as a kid. Luckily, my family were going for a week in early June. Originally I wasn’t planning on going because it was the heart of baseball and softball season in Iowa. Now, I had no commitments so the decision was pretty easy.

“I also knew that it was important to get the vacation out of the way to prepare for a new job. I needed some separation from the end of one thing and the potential start of the other. I did a few things in the job search while on vacation, the most important was updating my talent page on STAA and updating my resume. All that helped me when I came home and started the process to find a new job, which was a full time job of its own.

Varney has been an STAA member for 11 years. “First and foremost, to keep up with what’s going on the sports broadcasting industry,” he states. “Second, there are always emails from [STAA] that are interesting in some way — tips about interviewing or broadcasting or whatever. I think a broadcaster is always looking to improve his or her craft. Sometimes, [STAA] writes about things I was already doing on the air and it reinforced me that I was doing things right. Third, you never know what can happen. I guess in the back of my mind, I knew a rainy day could come. If it wasn’t for STAA, it would have taken a lot longer to get back on my feet.”

Varney learned of the KSOM opportunity through STAA. “I saw the job opening on the email sent by STAA. I applied for the position on a Tuesday and got a response the next day.”

The process continued moving quickly. “We agreed to an in-person interview the following Monday. I was offered the job the next day and accepted two days after that.”

A friendship with a senior KSOM employee helped open the door for Varney. The pair met while sharing a broadcast booth at the Iowa State Track and Field meet. “You never know when a friendship you develop with a colleague could help get you a job offer,” Varney grins.

Varney strategically used a comment from that friend when introducing himself to KSOM’s hiring manager. “One time, he paid me a nice compliment and compared me to Eli Gold, the legendary Voice of Alabama football,” Varney smiles. “That stuck with me, so I included the story in the cover letter. The GM told me he actually listened online to Gold and compared it to my voice. That personal story, I believe was crucial to my getting this job.”

Writing smart cover letters is a job market staple for Varney. “Every job that I applied for, I wrote a different cover letter. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the person hiring that job and think about what they wanted and how I could fit that vision.”

Varney continues processing his layoff. “I still haven’t recovered 100 percent, but getting the KSOM job takes a lot of the sting out of it.”

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