Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cliché or no? 'You get what you pay for'

For the second time in my will-it-never-end job search, I've lost out to a 20-something candidate.

The first time, I really didn't mind: It was an editor's job at a new online-only news site focused on aggressively covering a single federal agency in Washington, D.C. The staff was very small and very green --newly graduated from college or still a college intern. The woman picked for the job was aged 24 and pretty green herself. And, as far as I was concerned, she was welcome to that headache.

The second time, though, I did mind -- alot. It, too, was an editor's job, at a niche newspaper covering politics with a 24/7 online news site. The guy selected was aged 28 and had a few years' experience under his belt as a writer and editor. (Note that I'm a journo to the core and will Google-stalk any candidate I've lost a job to.)

After wallowing a few days in disappointment, I came to a conclusion: the paper cheaped out and chose someone it can pay less to while he grows into the job. Carry that formula over to any news organization doing any hiring, though, and I could be out of luck in the field in which I've worked my whole career.

I've been fighting a couple of negatives already in my job search:
  1. I targeted a metro area where journalism jobs seem plentiful, but where I don't currently reside;
  2. I've spent the bulk of my career in business journalism, which seems to make me unsuitable for covering politics or education or anything else in the narrow eyes of some prospective employers.
But while I can easily counter those concerns -- I don't expect a relocation allowance, for instance -- I can't argue away my experience. Nor should I have to.

It has come with bruises that often were hard-earned: how to avoid lawsuits (contact a lawyer early and often); how to psych-up an overworked staff (put your face on a punching bag); how not to antagonize a supervisor (don't surprise him/her needlessly) or a prized advertiser (don't misidentify the CEO's spouse in a story) or an angry reader (always return the voicemail).

So Mr./Ms. Employer, an experienced worker may cost you a bit more, but believe me when I say we're worth it.

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