Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to Keep Your Job During the Recession (Or Maybe Not)

I had lunch today with a friend from my old job in magazine publishing. She is now editor-in-chief of her own magazine, a sister publication to the one we used to work on.

Like most other businesses, the parent company of these publications is reeling from the recession and putting pressure on the editors to slash costs as much as possible. But my friend isn't toeing the line.

She compared her own approach to dealing with management to that of Vinnie, our former boss, who's still editing the magazine we both worked on. "Vinnie's attitude is, 'I'll do anything to keep my job,'" she said. "Mine is, 'I'll do whatever I want,' because ultimately it doesn't matter." (Case in point: She was forced to fire her art director recently, even though her magazine saw a 20 percent increase in ad page sales last year.)

So, if you still have a job, here are two ways to keep it:

1) Be like Vinnie. Do whatever management asks.

Results thus far: Vinnie is now editing two other magazines besides the one he officially edits -- for no additional money. He also had to fire his longtime art director. His freelancer budget was recently slashed to zero, so he now has to rely solely on his in-house staff of three people to produce all content, which isn't possible. (I used to work there; I know.) On the other hand, Vinnie is a master of office politics and has kept his job through thick and thin over the past 15 years.

2) Be like Terri. To hell with what management wants.

Results thus far: Terri is still the editor of just one magazine, not three. (In fact, it was after she turned down the "offer" of editing the other two magazines that Vinnie ended up doing it.) However, she does write about a third of it herself, which -- if you know anything about how magazines work -- is not a good use of resources. And again, despite a banner year in ad sales, she had to fire her art director, as I mentioned above. But her freelancer budget, oddly enough, hasn't been eliminated. (I should also mention that while Terri is not as Machiavellian as Vinnie, she also knows how to play the corporate game when she has to.)

It's too soon to tell how well these two strategies will play out. Terri seems to think she'll get canned, which would be a victory for Vinnie's strategy -- albeit a Pyrrhic one, since Vinnie would just end up editing her magazine in addition to the other three. For no raise.

Stay tuned...

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