Finding a New Career After Being Laid Off

Ernie Bjorkman found a new career after he was laid off from his well-paid job.

ByABC News
January 14, 2009, 11:44 AM

Jan. 15, 2009— -- Ernie Bjorkman has been a television journalist for 36 years. A popular Denver anchorman, he has interviewed presidents and rode on Air Force One.

"I loved what I did," he said. "We've been so blessed. We've had the money to be able to have two homes and to go out to a beautiful dinner on a Friday night and not worry about it." To be sure, the Bjorkmans have lived the good life, from expensive clothes to vacations around the globe.

For years, he and his wife, Susan, have been sought after hosts for the black tie charity events of upper crust Denver society, a celebrity role that came with being a well-paid local anchorman.

But that's all about to change. Last month, Bjorkman, like millions of Americans, became a victim of the economic downturn when he was laid off. The 57-year-old was fired from KWGN, his $250,000 salary soon to be gone. He has already applied for unemployment benefits.

"It's a lifetime that's sort of over," Susan Bjorkman said, holding back tears. "It's a new chapter in our lives, and we'll get over this. We will."

In the last year most Americans, regardless of their socio-economic standing, have suffered a serious -- in some cases, devastating -- financial blow to their wallets and psyche. Because money is society's scorecard, a lost job or home, or an eviscerated pension, can trigger intense feelings of embarrassment, shame, anxiety, depression and anger.

"The biggest issue is anxiety and depression," said Santa Clara University professor Dr. Gerrold Shapiro, who has been studying the effect of income loss among baby boomers. "Most of it comes from the discrepancy between what people expect and what they actually have. How much we have, how much we make is in many ways, by many people, tied to their self-worth."

In the midst of this doom and gloom, some are trying to turn a negative into a positive, which is why Ernie Bjorkman's story is so different.

"I didn't take it that I was fired. And I should, I guess, take it like I was fired, because I was," Bjorkman told "20/20's" Elizabeth Vargas. "I firmly believe that when one door closes, several others open."

Bjorkman had planned to anchor for five or six more years and then quietly retire, but when his station merged with another local station, he was the odd man out and the ax came down. He was forced, along with others, to try to convince the new general manager why he should keep his job, an ordeal he described as demoralizing, both for himself and for the others who were eventually let go.