Thursday, August 28, 2008
Ok, forget what I said. If you want to give someone a laugh, don't bother proofreading your résumé or cover letter. You may just end up with one of these gems from Resumania.
[Posted by James Doyle on the Toronto Freelance Editors and Writers listserve.]
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Last night a telemarketer called and asked for a Mr. vanGerwen. My husband and I don't share the same last name, so I answered the question truthfully and said that the was no Mr vanGerwen at this number. He apologized and hung up. I still get giggles thinking about it.
The next obvious question, which I was expecting him to ask, was if Miss or Ms. vanGerwen was around. But he didn't ask; he just hung up! Whether you're doing research, interviewing someone or seeking info from a PR rep, always ask the next question. People can't read minds and aren't always forthcoming with all they know, so be sure you've asked from every angle.
Monday, August 25, 2008
I've been watching Quaterlife, an online tv series about the usual angsty 20-somethings trying to find themselves, love and the meaning of life. The lead character, Dylan, is an associate editor at a women's magazine and has moral objection to the consumerism-based content. When she proposes an alternative good-cause activist section, her boss first rejects it (part 1, at the 4:30 min mark) then steals Dylan's idea, presenting it as her own (part 2, at the 2:40 min mark). This vicious, back-stabbing strategy seems to be a staple of hollywood, but I'm curious as to how many of you have experienced something similar yourselves? (Please leave names and identifying specifics out of your accounts.)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Editor and writer Kim Pittaway was kind enough to email me her thoughts on salary after a discussion she had with a young colleague. Since I can't say it any better myself, here's what she had to say in full:
There are some basic realities that many junior employees don't really understand.
Most large corporations have a cap on the percentage increase a manager can recommend annually for an employee. My recollection is that an increase of about three to five percent max annually is permitted for someone whose job title hasn't changed.
To confirm this, I've put in calls to various HR departments and will let you know what they say should they get back to me. Kim continues
In exceptional circumstances, a manager could make the argument for a bigger increase, but it would be tough, especially in a year when the ad market is soft or the magazine isn't meeting its budget goals. Even when there is a job title change, the salary jump generally isn't going to be huge – 10 percent would be considered a big jump.
So, the problem is that if you start at a low salary, you're going to have a heck of a time moving up salary-wise within the same magazine: start at $30,000 and even if you get the super-big five percent increase every year, you'd be making about $36,500 after five years.
So how do you move up the salary ladder? You have to move out to move up. Consider this example of two young colleagues with basically the same level of experience (yes, it's based on a true story!). Both start at a magazine at around $30K. One toils away at that magazine for six years. The other makes a jump at about the four year mark. The one who stuck it out loves her job – and makes about $40K. The one who made the jump is in a job she's less enthusiastic about – she finds it a bit boring –but is making $70K, which frankly makes up for the boredom factor since when she's bored she can spend time thinking about the condo she's saving for (something her $40K colleague can't afford). That example is one of the most dramatic I've seen (and it involved a jump from print to online) but even a more "normal" jump from one magazine to another can result in a salary increase of $5-10K or more.
All of which points out the need to negotiate to maximize your starting salary!! I can't tell you how many times I had prospective employees just say "okay" when offered a starting salary. That honeymoon period – when as an employer I've decided I love you and want to have you on my team – is the best chance you're going to get to maximize your salary. And most people (and the studies bear out that this is particularly true of women) leave money on the table, as they say in sales. If I offer you $35K, I can probably afford $36.5K and I might even give it to you – if you ask for it!
Some basic research can help you figure out what's reasonable to ask for. I did a piece for More Magazine about getting what you're worth, and Melanie Hazell of Hazell & Associates had this advice:
• Know what's realistic for the position and the company. Where do you find that out? For those of us in the magazine industry, check out the Masthead salary survey (available in the resource library for paid subscribers). Ask others who work in that company – do they typically pay more or less than the rest of the industry? You need to figure out what this position is worth to this company.
• Negotiate with your whole package in mind. For editorial types, that's usually base salary and vacation time, but in some cases (depending on seniority usually) also involves bonuses. It could also involve additional pay for articles written above and beyond your job duties.
• Get it in writing. The person who agreed to your salary might not be in that job forever. If the contract you sign doesn't capture all of the details of your agreement, write a letter outlining your understanding of what you've agreed to so you have a record of the discussion.
The other lesson in this: stay with the same magazine forever and you're likely trading security (of a sort) for income. I'm not saying you should never have a long-term relationship with a magazine, but if you do, you'll likely pay for it with a lower salary over the long-term. The other disadvantage of sticking with the same shop is that your experience won't be as broad – and when you do eventually go looking for a new job (as pretty well everyone does – by choice or by circumstance – eventually) your resume likely won't be as rounded as someone who has made more moves. (Which is why it's especially important, if you're in a long-term relationship with a magazine, to bolster your resume with industry volunteerism, professional development and anything else to expand your skills and experience.)
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
That penchant for Facebook you have? It might be a good thing to put on your résumé. A piece in U.S. News & World Report features a list of jobs where an in-depth knowledge of Facebook is at least a bonus, if not a necessity. "More and more employers are scouting for social networking skills and trying to fill positions that require daily Facebook diligence," writes Liz Wolgemuth. Included in the list are a few jobs you might find in the publishing sector, either as a position in and of itself or as a duty of a web editor: social media marketing manager, analyst – user operations, tech reporter/blogger, product managers and developers.
[Thanks to Lisa Hannam for the tip]
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday's post seems to have struck a note with some of you, drawing out some lengthy comments (here and here) on the lack of opportunities to develop skills, and on the amount of available salary information there is on the industry (as far as I know, we only have the Masthead Salary Survey and colleagues willing to dish about their own salaries to consult). There's one comment I'd like to pick up on, though. Says one anonymous poster
I've worked at several large monthly consumer mags and in general am shocked at the entitlement complexes, poor attention to detail and lack of enthusiasm amongst the interns I've worked with.
I'd like to suggest that perhaps our quality of interns would go up if we started paying them. I know, I know, tight budgets, can't afford to, yada, yada. Working out budgets isn't my job, but if we don't spend the money on developing good editors, we won't have any good applicants to hire, for both intern positions and entry-level editorial positions down the road. We owe it to the industry to ensure its future success by developing the editors we want to hire.
If more magazines started paying their interns either with a livable wage or with course credit as part of a school program, our pool of potential candidates would expand. We wouldn't be limited to interns who can afford to work unpaid for weeks, months. We would actually have our choice of the best applicants, of anyone who wants to be an editor. The publications that do offer a wage appear to be the most competitive, and I would venture to guess, get some of the best interns because they can pick and choose.
That sense of entitlement Anonymous mentioned? A large part of that comes from having to work for free.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I recently had an editor-in-chief ask about the lack of qualified applicants for positions she's trying to fill, a complaint I've heard a few times over recent months. Her beef: most of those who have applied don't have the qualifications and the ones who do are asking for laughably large salaries. To job seekers she suggests, "Apply for positions for which you are adequately qualified, proof your letters and resumes at least twice, take the time to read several issues of the magazine and make cogent comment on it, understand the role that is offered and the wage levels that go with it, and spell the name of the interviewer correctly. Seems pretty straightforward to me." Yes, pretty common sense, I agree, and would-be-editors should follow it. But there seems to be a disconnect here.
I constantly hear about how impossible it is to find a job, about the lack of opportunities. So if editors can't find the right people and people can't find the jobs, are we not training our people well enough in school and entry level positions? Are we not providing them with enough growth opportunities to learn and develop their skills? Are we not communicating well enough what our expectations and requirements are? Why are both sides of the desk having such a hard time?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Further to my post yesterday about how where you live can affect your career opportunities, are employers less inclined to consider out-of-town applicants?
Unfortunately, if you don't live in the same city as the company, I think you are at a disadvantage. It's only natural for employers to question a few things. What are the logistics of conducting the interview? Will it be done by phone or will you fly in? How committed are you to establishing yourself in a new city, especially since you haven't already made the move? How soon will you be able to start work? Will you decide it's not the place for you shortly after starting and then quit? Perhaps employers use location as an easy filtering system.
For higher-level positions, I don't think it's as much of an issue, but I'm interested to hear what you think. Have you had to consider out-of-towners for a job? What was your reaction?
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
By the time I was finishing up my BFA several years ago, I had already made the decision to pursue a career in magazines. I had been living in Vancouver for six years and had established roots there, but I didn't even think twice about moving across the country to Toronto. In my mind, it's where I had to be to get to where I wanted. Of course, the fact that I love the city, it's where I grew up, I have family and friends here, and my now-husband was willing to come along made the move a whole lot easier.
For some, it's a harder decision to make. Should you move to gain access to better job opportunities? Obviously I can't tell you what to do; it's something you have to figure out on your own. But here are a few things to consider:
• What's most important to you? What gives you the most satisfaction? Is it your career that fulfills you? Your surroundings that make you happy? Being close to your family? This should be your primary determining factor.
• What are you willing to sacrifice for your career? Are you up to making a new network of friends in a city where you know no one?
• Does your prospective new residence actually present the opportunities you think it does? Thoroughly research the market. Visit. Check out job boards. Set up information interviews with prospective employers.
• Does your current locale really have a dearth of opportunities? There may be fewer jobs, but there's also likely to be fewer qualified candidates.
In addition, I'd recommend taking a look at Richard Florida's Who's Your City?
The whole book is about deciding where to live, particularly in relation to your career. The accompanying website has a place finder quiz,
which may help in making a decision.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I can't believe I have to say this, but proofread your cover letters! Over the weekend I had two editors complain to me about the number of cover letters they've received with spelling and grammatical mistakes, and it's not the first time I've heard it. I have to say, I'm flabbergasted. For whatever job you're applying to, but especially for jobs like editing, you have to hand in an application free of mistakes. A big part of an editing job is ensuring an error-free publication; your cover letter and résumé are the first indication of whether you're capable of doing that. Having mistakes shows not only that you can't do that, but also that you don't pay attention to detail, you're sloppy and that you don't have an understanding of the job you are applying to. I thought proofreading was common sense. But, since apparently it's not, I'll say it again: proofread your work!