Friday, January 30, 2009
Had a very pleasant evening last night at the launch of the final print version of Masthead. Caught up with some old friends, made some new. And of course a common topic of conversation was the state of the world and the state of the magazine industry. Everyone seems a little nervous – it's tough. And I just wanted to ask you how you're doing? How are you holding up? Whether you've lost work, have seen cutbacks or have managed to hold on, it's all a little scary. Even those who feel secure in their jobs can't help but feel that maybe they should be worried, even just a little, because hey, you never know.
So how are you? What's on your mind? What are you thinking? Leave your comments or just send me an email (vangerwen at gmail dot com). I'd love to hear from you.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
With layoffs galore and companies asking staff to take unpaid vacations or cut down to four-day workweeks, a lot of editors are likely wondering how to get everything done with fewer people in less time. (Maybe next week I'll blog about how to go about doing that...)
So it struck me as a little funny to be reading an article in the New York Times about occupying yourself with busywork in the hope you won't get sacked.
"[W]hen business is verrry slow and the possibility of layoffs icily real, looking busy is no joke. In retail and real estate, restaurants and law offices, many workers are working hard to look necessary — even when they don’t have all that much to do."
It makes sense that this habit would evolve in industries where business has slowed down – where customers and clients are quickly becoming scarce – but in magazines, even when ad pages are down, you still have to put out the issue. I would think the challenge for us is how to manage an increasing workload; am I wrong? Is anyone out there mastering the art of killing time?
Regardless, everyone is working harder to keep their jobs. Just try not to be obvious about it.
"Experts on workplace behavior say that mustering a token show for the boss can backfire. If a worker isn’t already regarded as diligent, 'This is a bad time to manage the impression that you’re a hard worker,' said Robert Giacalone, a business school professor at Temple University. 'There’s fear out there, and that fear generates suspicion among people in power that workers are trying to manipulate their images because they’re afraid.'"
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I'm not sure if it's absolutely necessary to set out to fail, but at the very least, you need to be willing to land in the mud every once in awhile.
As Seth Godin points out, "Think about how often your goal at a conference or a meeting or in a project is, 'don't screw up!' or 'don't make a fool of yourself and say the wrong thing.' These are very easy goals to achieve, of course. Just do as little as possible. The problem is that they sabotage your real goals, the achievement ones."
If you're satisfied with mediocrity, then do just that: set yourself to achieve safe goals like avoiding embarrassment. But if you want for yourself even something slightly better, don't be afraid to stick your neck out, doing whatever it is. This advice isn't anything new. You may have heard...
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll lad among the stars."
"Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail."
"Success comes to those who are neither afraid to fail nor discouraged by failures."
Monday, January 26, 2009
If you've been looking for work and feel like you've been getting nowhere, you might want to reevaluate your approach. The Guardian has done some research and discovered there are some key differences between "aces" – those who find work within four months of beginning their search – and the rest of us, "chasers". To ensure you're in the first category, the newspaper recommends adopting these seven strategies for finding work more quickly:
1. Think more positively. Your attitude – whether you're optimistic and can visualize yourself in a job, or negative and desperate – will likely come across in your cover letters and interviews. Make sure you're broadcasting the right message.
2. Be more proactive. Research your prospective employer thoroughly and ask questions – it will show you have a genuine interest in the position.
3. Milk your friends and family for contacts. Network, network, network. You don't know when, where or from whom you'll hear about your dream job.
4. Speculate.Look for jobs beyond the employment listings and send applications to companies, even when they aren't advertising positions.
5. Be decisive. Know who you want to work for.
6. Do more. It comes down to odds: apply for more jobs and you have a higher chance of finding work.
7. Embrace the digital age. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and blogs to research prospects and to advertise your goals and talents.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
When I was cleaning out my desk and trashing files from my computer as I prepared to leave Style at Home, I was faced with the decision of what to keep. Perhaps because I have aspirations to teach a magazine course or two one day, I like to keep copies of some of my better assignment and fix letters – they might come in handy as examples in the future. Or perhaps, after I become a world-famous ;) editor, they'll be published in a biography of me a la Harold Ross (read an excerpt of Letters From the Editor). (Grand aspirations, eh?)
There's another reason to keep a selection of your editing correspondence, though. On her blog, one-time Chatelaine editor Rona Maynard writes of how she's grateful to have had the chance to read an assignment letter she wrote to Antonia Zerbisias back in 1979.
I had taken great pride in the letters I composed back then. I used to see myself as the Max Perkins of fashion magazines for the under-35 set. Yet I hadn't thought to save even one of those letters. That Antonia had (along with the entire dossier) seemed almost too good to be true. And so, within hours, I was face-to-face again with my young self, and hers.
Rona also mentions how assignment letter writing has changed:
These days few editors bother with detailed assignment letters. Instead they send contracts designed by corporate masters to head off expensive copyright disputes. When I sit down to write a magazine piece and review the marching orders, they're just that: length, deadline, a few terse lines of summary. I rarely feel that I'm engaging with a sympathetic reader who understands the power of the word. We've entered an era in which many young writers have never experienced the surge of motivation that an editor's letter can unleash.
And I wonder, has it changed so much? I certainly have seen and even written these short, perfunctory assignment notes, but only when working with writers who I've worked with before, and on stories of the type they've written before, when writing it all out really just seems redundant. But in general, have we become lazy – do we dash off assignment letters with little care?
Monday, January 19, 2009
If you use Twitter, you might want to consider it as part of your networking strategy. On his blog Scobleizer, Robert Scoble offers some tips on how to utilize Twitter, Facebook and blogs in your job hunt. Here's a taste:
• Your blog is your resume. You need one and it needs to have 100 posts on it about what you want to be known for.
• Remove all friends from your facebook and twitter accounts that will embarrass you.
• Demonstrate you have kids and hobbies, but they should be 1% of your public persona, not 99%.
• Post something that teaches me something about what you want to do every day. If you want to drive a cab, you better go out and take pictures of cabs. Think about cabs. Put suggestions for cabbies up. Interview cabbies. You better have a blog that is nothing but cabs. Cabs. Cabs. Cabs all the time.
• On Twitter you can tell me what you had for lunch, but only after you posted 20 great items about what you want to do.
Hat tip to David Hayes.
Friday, January 16, 2009
I'm not sure if I've said this before, but you should always have business cards, even if you don't currently have a job. Trying to network without one is unprofessional (scribbling your number on a piece of paper – yuck), so I recommend getting a small batch of personal ones printed up, which doesn't have to be very expensive.
When you design yours, consider leaving off your "job title." I was handed a business card the other day that had just the fellow's name and contact info on it, like an old-style calling card. (No, the one shown here is not the one I was given.) I appreciated that there was no clunky description like writer/editor. This solution is particularly useful for those who wear many hats, like maybe you moonlight as a DJ.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
To escape the cold, I'd give up magazines for a job like this:
Tourism Queensland is seeking applicants for the best job in the world! The role of Island Caretaker is a six-month contract, based on luxurious Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a live-in position with flexible working hours and key responsibilities include exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef to discover what the area has to offer. You’ll be required to report back on your adventures to Tourism Queensland headquarters in Brisbane (and the rest of the world) via weekly blogs, photo diary, video updates and ongoing media interviews.
Other job duties include feeding the fish, cleaning the pool and collecting the mail. Salary is AUD $150,000 (approximately $124,200 CAD) for the six-month contract, plus return airfares, accommodation and transport on Hamilton Island, plus travel to other Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.
Competition is fierce, though. Reuters reported
that there's been so much interest in the position worldwide, the site advertising the job couldn't handle the traffic and crashed.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
A reader on PoyterOnline's Ask the Recruiter wondering about the pros and cons of specializing in one area got me thinking about developing your niche.
Eventually, most editors and writers develop their own specialty, whether it be a preferred topic or format (say service or profile pieces). On one hand, it's terribly important to be adaptable, especially at times like these when jobs seem more scarce – the more you can do, the more options you have. But the flip side is that becoming an expert at something can make you extremely desirable for jobs requiring those skills and knowledge, which could give you the edge over any competition.
The solution is to find a balance: develop a niche that you're passionate about. You'll become a sought-after expert while doing something that stokes your fire. Meanwhile, make sure that the skills you acquire while building your knowledge are ones that are transferable. For example, fashion may be your love, but mastering the art of writing those short, snappy pieces of copy describing product (how many ways are there to say stylish?) will serve you in most women's and service mags.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
People love behind-the-scenes exposés, so why not give your readers the inside track on how your magazine gets put together. Have the editor-in-chief or even an editorial assistant or intern reveal some of the ins and outs of daily life at a magazine through a blog. It's a good way to build your brand and the personality of the staff, and connect directly with readers. Here are some magazine blogs (some good, some not-so-good) that at least in part actually talk about putting out the magazine, and not just about products related to their content:
• Shape-ing Up With Jenna
• The Fashionable Life
• Real Living
• Eye blog
), see posts here
• The Flare Intern Blog
; not recently updated)
Suggest your faves in the comments.