Posts tagged with: recession

Your office is not a home. Keep the personal stuff away

Last year, I brought my two sons to the publishing office where I work a full-time/part-time job. It was the first time either of them had been there, and upon seeing my rather spartan desk, my older son — he was 9 at the time — asked me why I didn’t have any pictures of him or his brother at my desk.

At the time, I told him that I’m not here all that much — I only go to the office one day a week, and work from home the others — so I didn’t need to fill my space with photos.

But there’s another reason: No office is home. And I don’t want to treat it like it  is.

I was reminded of this yesterday. Like all publishers, the company where I work is struggling these days. To make ends meet, the company fired several employees. That’s always painful. It’s even more awkward when the fired employees are back at their desks, packing up their personal items.

If I ever get fired? I’ll walk out the door without hesitation. I don’t have any personal items at my desk.

The ax fell at work today

I just got off a conference call this morning with the powers-that-be at the publishing company where I work on a full-time/part-time basis. Like all publishers, this company, which covers real estate news, is struggling. So this morning, the company had its first round of firings.

I survived the cut. That’s the good news. The bad news, of course, is that some very talented people are out on the streets now. And finding a job at magazines or newspapers is not exactly an easy task these days.

At the same time, our now reduced editorial staff will be working harder for no extra money. I hate doing extra work with no corresponding extra pay. However, I feel that complaining about that now would seem insensitive since I’m still employed and so many others are not.

The bosses handling the firings, of course, did their usual stumblebum act. At one point, one of the bosses mentioned that these moves might increase camaraderie at our company. Yes, there’s no better way to increase camaraderie than by firing a boatload of employees.

Many of our sale staff survived the cut. I suspect that’s because most of them operate 100 percent on commission. Yes, they’re doing a horrible job and not bringing in any ads — that’s why we’re in this mess right now — but they’re not costing the company any money. In fact, the one salesperson that was let go was making half commission/half salary. What a surprise.

As usual, I’m not exactly happy with the vision of my bosses. I am happy to still have this job. But I will certainly be looking for a replacement full-time/part-time gig, to supplement my other freelance writing, just in case.

I advise everyone in every industry to be on the lookout for possible opportunities, too. I wouldn’t trust that your job is any safer than mine.

Some days you’re just worn out

Maybe it’s our 16-month-old son, who’s developed a new habit of waking every morning before 5 a.m. Or maybe it’s the constant drumbeat of bad economic news. It might even be the fact that everyone in my household is suffering from some rough head colds. But for whatever reason, I’m worn down these days.

I suspect I’m not alone. We’re all working harder and, seemingly, we’re doing it with less financial rewards to show for it.

As a freelance writer, my days are up and down even during the best of times. It’s an unstable business, so you have to expect that. But in bad economic times? There are way too many downs and few too little ups.

Last night, for instance, one of my blogging clients sent an e-mail to me and everyone else who writes for his site, telling us that he’d like us to post fewer times a week. He needs to cut back on his spending. Then this morning, one of my favorite editors wrote me with the news that she’s leaving the trade magazine she’s editing.

Bad news in both cases.

But, that’s why they call it “work,” right? It’s not supposed to be a joy all the time.

I’m working through this mess of an economy. I’m doing it by trying my hand at certain content sites that I had long ago promised myself I’d never write. The pay just isn’t high enough. However, times have changed, so I broke that promise last week. We’ll see how long I keep at it.

Today, though, we all have to take risks. We all have to try things that we never though we’d do. I’m not an artist. I’m just a working freelance writer. Nothing, really, is beneath me, at least not when the economy stinks like a dead fish.

How little are you willing to work for?

I know people are desperate in this dismal economy. But are they desperate enough to work for next to nothing?

I wondered about this yesterday. I make much of my annual income from freelance writing. This means that I constantly search for new work. You never know, especially today, when a client is going to go out of business or slash its freelance-writing budget.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail message from a potential client. The client was setting up a series of blogs focused on different topics. I’d applied to write for a blog focusing on mansions in the city in which I live. The client was excited enough by my application to send me an e-mail message asking if I was still interested in the position. I was.

Here’s what the job entailed: Writers would travel to mansions around the city, take photos of it, make short videos of the homes’ insides and then post these images, along with a short story detailing the mansions’ histories and amenities, to a blog.

Here’s the catch, though: The company was willing to pay a maximum of $30 a post for this work.

I almost choked. $30! Really? That’s how much the company was willing to pay to have a writer spend most of a day traveling, videotaping and taking pictures? The offer was so low, it was insulting.

Thing is, some dumb writer will take this job. Heck, I even briefly considered it. It’s the economy. It’s causing people to consider jobs they’d never even think about taking on. This holds true for most professions, not just for us poor writers.

My advice? Think long and hard before taking on a job that pays little and asks for much. I know it’s hard to turn down any work today — I hate doing it, too — but sometimes it’s for the best.

Is it a crime to not really like to work?

I have a relative who loves working. Sure, she complains for as long as you’ll listen about her bosses, her long hours, all the business trips she has to take, etc.., But you can tell, even with all these complaints, that she really, truly loves working.

I, on the other hand, would be quite happy if I never had to work another day in my life. I’d love to read more books, watch more movies, hang out more with my wife and kids … all the good stuff in life.

For a while, it seemed that having a wonderful, brilliant career was the most important thing in a growing number of people’s lives. I constantly ran into people like my relative, people who care more about more their work than they did anything else in their lives. Their careers were who they were.

I wonder if this is changed for many people? After all, companies are firing dedicated, hard-working employees every day in this awful economy. It shows that even the best workers should expect zero loyalty from their employers. It also shows that it’s a bit of a waste to care so much about a career that can ripped away whenever the economy goes sour.

“We need someone to say things are better!” Is that all it takes?

Yesterday, I was interviewing a commercial developer for one of the real estate trade magazines that I write for. When discussing the terrible economy and the negative impact it has had on the commercial real estate industry, this developer sighed, hesitated and then said this: “All it’s going to take to turn this around is one economist to go on TV and say that things are getting better. That happens, and you’ll see the economy turn around.”

Really? Is that all it takes, for someone to go on TV and lie?

Let’s face it, things aren’t getting better. They’re getting worse. Just look at the sky-high unemployment numbers. Just look at the number of people who are losing their homes to foreclosure.

I run into people like the overly optimistic developer all the time, though. They tell me that much of the blame for the housing crisis or the recession rests with the media. Newspapers and TV news shows focused too unrelentingtly on the bad news surrounding the economy, these folks say. If only the members of the media would focus on the good things about the economy, the nation wouldn’t be in such a funk.

To me, this is nonsense. People know it’s tough. They know it when they see that they haven’t gotten a raise in years. They certainly know it when they wake up and don’t even have a low-paying job to go to. So don’t tell me that all we need is some positive spin from the news. Our nation is facing a real economic problem here. It will take real solutions to make things better.

A raise in today’s economy? Maybe …

Most people who read this blog are probably either looking for a job or busy holding onto their current job with all their might. In today’s economy, no one has job security.

But there are some folks out there who would still like a raise, right, even as the recession rages on? After all, there are a lot of workers who are pulling extra duty these days to make up for all their fellow co-workers who have been let go as companies strive to cut costs.

The writers at the Wall Street Journal recently covered this topic, quite well, too. The bottom line? You can get a raise, you just have to work harder than ever to justify it.

For some of you, getting a raise today may still be next to impossible, no matter how much more work you’re doing and how hard you justify it. This is a drag, yes. But it’s better than looking for another job, right?

Keep working hard — But not too hard. Don’t sacrifice your personal life for an employer who’ll drop you in a second if it’ll save them much-needed dollars — and wait out the recession. If your supervisor is a good one, he or she will remember your contributions and reward you when the time is right? And if that doesn’t happen? Well, once the economy recovers, then you can go find that job of your dreams.

Not every company is shedding jobs

When you read the papers or listen to the radio, it sounds like every company in the country is shedding jobs. Well, there are some companies that are bucking the trend. Not only are they not losing any jobs, they’re actually adding them.

For instance, according to an Associated Press story, IBM is actually opening a new center in Dubuque, Iowa, that will create 1,300 new jobs. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver was thrilled. And why not? Not many governors can tout the creation of new jobs right now.

Of course, while stumbling across the good news in Iowa, I skipped past many more stories talking about companies slashing their workforce. Still, you have to take your good news where you can find it in such tough times, right?