Coronavirus: How two former Bauer employees turned their COVID-19 redundancy nightmare into a new career

Kelly Bertrand and Mike Sanders didn't see their redundancies coming.
Kelly Bertrand and Mike Sanders didn't see their redundancies coming. Photo credit: Supplied

Former Bauer employees Kelly Bertrand and Mike Sanders didn't see it coming. 

Bertrand spent most of her adult life at New Zealand Woman's Weekly, working her way up to deputy editor, while Sanders was just seven months into a role as media sales manager.  

Both believed Bauer was stable - and even though the world was closing down, they thought the company's magazines would remain open for business. 

"We had a meeting the week before with the CEO in Germany, and they were saying how strong the position was with Bauer, and how everything was going well," Sanders told Newshub podcast The Pivot.

"I was actually thinking this COVID thing would be great, because we would be in lockdown and people would be forced to sit down and read magazines."

But just days into New Zealand's alert level 4 lockdown on April 2, 2020, everything changed. The entire company was invited to an early morning Zoom call, and they were faced with devastating news. 

"Ah yes, the Zoom of doom," remembers Bertrand. "As I was waiting, I saw there was an exec from Germany on the other end, and I knew then 'I'm pretty sure we're done for'."

Bertrand's suspicions were correct, and it was announced Bauer would abruptly close its doors, taking around 300 jobs and some of the country's most well-known magazine titles with it.

"I didn't see it coming at all, so I was really shocked. It felt like I'd just gotten that role at Bauer. I'd only been there seven months," says Sanders. 

Bertrand was also left shocked and upset. 

"I naively thought 'they're not going to let the Woman's Weekly go under, there's just no way - it's taonga, it's a magazine that has such a place in New Zealand's fabric."

"The only time that we never printed a magazine weekly until COVID-19 was during World War II, where we did it fortnightly because of rations."

Other titles that went under were The Listener, Metro and Woman's Day. Some of them have since been reborn, but Bertrand and Sanders chose to move on to other things. 

"I've never really had a formal job interview before, so I wasn't really sure what that was like, and the prospect of having to look for a job was quite daunting," says Bertrand.

"No media company at that point was stable." 

So instead of working for someone else, she chose to work for herself, and launched lifestyle website Capsule with three of her former Bauer colleagues. 

"I had to start from the beginning, literally Googling things like 'how to make a website'." 

For Sanders, things were tough. 

"First off I went on and applied for 50-plus jobs. A lot of those didn't reply, and just took the listing down." 

He also struggled as most of those close to him managed to hold on to their jobs. 

"It was more the online presence and people saying how busy and how well they were doing - that was the more difficult thing." 

He was eventually offered a role as a commercial real estate agent, and after retraining was able to hit the ground running. 

But it wasn't easy. 

Find out how both Kelly and Mike's career pivot turned out by listening to the full episode of The Pivot, hosted by Newshub's Wilhelmina Shrimpton.