Promise Bruce ’10 worked since the age of 16 and never knew the feeling as an adult of what it was like to be without a job until he was suddenly laid off. The job loss hit just before the pandemic of 2020—with 1,100 jobs cut by his employer in a round of layoffs—but the lockdown added to the strain of what he might do next.
His first step: Talk to mom. Her advice was simple but solid.
She told him, “You have to deal with this in your own way. This isn't the end for you. You have other things you have to do. You did a lot in your time in radio in Milwaukee. You informed people. Now maybe you have to do it in a different way.”
Bruce was an assistant production director and on-air personality for Milwaukee's WKKV V100 (iHeartRadio) station and doing his show one night, unaware that “the next day my whole life would change.”
Bruce honed his radio skills at Carroll's WCCX. Learn more about Carroll's 50+ student organizations.>
“I know people lose jobs and become unemployed all the time. Prior to pandemic, 2020 has been a rough year for a lot of people,” he said. “I just know you have to find light even in the darkness. It wasn’t easy the first couple of weeks. I was distraught. I was lost. I had no idea that I was going to be laid off.”
He added: “Losing my job wasn't just losing my job. I was a public figure. People knew I was laid off before I did. (I thought), ‘This is crazy.’ My phone was blowing up.”
Summer usually becomes a busy season of birthday parties, graduation season, weddings, and festivals, all wanting his DJ talents. Like many artists and performers, though, he’s struggling through cancelled and postponed gigs and reconsidering a digital strategy for his work.
“Before I was against it,” he said. “I don’t really want to have a whole show about quarantine. I might have to think about hosting or doing different things from home and incorporate some digital interaction more now than ever.”
In May, Promise and a friend—DJ Heathen—participated in Carroll’s launch of a series of Friday Night Live performances via Facebook
, pulling in a lively audience that encouraged the duo to push a one-hour DJ set to two hours online.
“I was like, ‘What’s a way that I could bring the radio environment or club or party to people at home to forget about what’s going on for a minute,” he said. “That was the goal and I’m glad we were able to accomplish that. We had a lot of fun.”
Finding promise in a pandemic meant taking his mom’s advice and reassessing not only what he wants to do in life but also how. That included simple changes like buying and supporting local businesses, reaching out to community leaders to encourage positive dialog and potential events following recent civil rights protests, and deepening his passion for empowering youth.
He is presently the secretary of the board for The New State
, an all-ages hub for the future of music and art in the city. The organization held its first events in June
. He is also working to build his own business called “Promise Got Personality,” hiring himself out as an entertainer and radio personality for private events.
“Maybe now there is different way to reach people,” he said.
He said, unlike some people who lose their jobs, he was fortunate to have a contract and severance package. That also meant, though, learning how to get by for the next three to six months and having the time to reassess his future overall.
“I would encourage anybody to sit down and figure out financially what you can do,” he said. “Think about your layoff or unemployment and ask do you want to continue what you have been doing or is this an opportunity to create something else for yourself? I would try to find something positive in this darkness.”