You Will Be Fired
And if you havenâ€™t been yet, don't worry, you will be.
I admit that itâ€™s a pretty bleak headline, but itâ€™s the cold, hard truth. Quite the prophet of doom, arenâ€™t I?
â€śYou will be fired.â€ť
Thatâ€™s the first thing I said to a class of eager magazine writing students at the University of Alabama. I happened to be in Tuscaloosa recruiting a new associate editor for the magazine I was editor-in-chief of at the time, but I added the qualifier: â€śIf you have a typical career in magazine publishing.â€ť
Granted, I was speaking from my own experience (and I had only been fired once at that point) but everyone Iâ€™ve known in the industry has been fired, let go, laid off, phased out ... however you want to put it. Itâ€™s not pretty but itâ€™s a reality. And trust me, itâ€™s a hard scenario to prepare for, especially when it happens a week and a half before Christmas! Yes Virginia, there is a cold-hearted corporate entity.
The best defense is a good offense. This is where having a varied experience comes in handy, as mentioned in my previous post about the benefits of being a generalist. Also, it helps if your clip file is as varied as possible. This will not only come in handy for an interview within a specific niche market but it will showcase your ability to write and understand a plethora of topics. If the editor interviewing you is savvy, he understands that you can adapt to anything and thatâ€™s a good position to be in, but be prepared to prove yourself time and time again.
There is job security to be had in publishing for us editorial types. I found that association/non-profit was the most stable. More than likely, the association has been around for generations, so itâ€™s not going anywhere. The least stable? Pretty much everything else, as the daily news blasts and headlines relentlessly inform us.
However, in my experience the b-to-b/trade realm was especially harsh. At one of the â€śbig housesâ€ť I worked for, after seeing magazine after magazine sold off or closed altogether, my publication was folded and out we went. And winning a prestigious journalism award didnâ€™t make a whit of difference either! Another case found me downsized out of a position with two monthly trade pubs where I was the managing editor when they became a single trade magazine. Although I queried as soon as the merger was announced as to whether I should update my resume, I was assured that there would still be plenty to do, what with a trade show and a larger online presence. Remember, the job I lost a week and a half before Christmas? Nice!
But in all that time I was only out of work for a total of two months since 2001, not a bad record if I do say so myself.
My best advice to any up-and-comers (and down-and-outers) is to â€śdiversify your portfolio.â€ť Garner clips on as many topics as you can. Also, it never hurts to network. Donâ€™t be afraid to call on former colleagues. Iâ€™m proud to say I still have friends from everywhere Iâ€™ve ever worked in my career (except for the eight days I spent in academic book publishing! Sheesh, I wouldâ€™ve rather temped than dealt with that drama!). I would feel comfortable calling on them or asking their advice if I ever needed to, and I have done so on more than one occasion. Being a member of professional associations, alumni associations, and other trade associations is a good idea too.
Also, donâ€™t get too comfortable where youâ€™re at right this minute as you read the words coming off of my fingers. You may have a great corner office with awesome views, but you better have a versatile and freshly updated awesome resume to match!
NOTE: If anybody else has some â€śfiredâ€ť stories, please share in the comments section below!
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