Corporate Snakes and Ladders

There really aren’t that many opportunities in life where I’m offered the high road and I take it. There. I said it. I can be vindictive and calculating, and I know how to make it look like I did the work when I didn’t, and more importantly, I know how to make it look like I did the work when you did. If given the opportunity to turn the other cheek, to turn down praise, to step back and let somebody else shine, I’ll generally slap you, bask in the glow of praise then make sure you’re wearing sunglasses when I step up to do my thing. Yeah. I’m that girl. And truth be told, it has gotten me a lot of really great jobs and some fantastic reference letters. I’m a ruthlessly self-promoting yes woman with the skills to back up what I say I can do.

Sometimes, if I’m doing something I really love (as opposed to something I can generally see a benefit arising from) I’ll bust my ass. Which is exactly what I’d been doing for MagazineX on their fashion issues. I was an organized, co-ordinated, co-ordinating, annotated, dedicated stylist. I put together really good collections of clothing under limited direction, limited time and not going to lie, a little bit of pressure. I got to be the calm in the hurricane and the one who shone.. because I really loved what I was doing. Is playing grown up barbies what I really want to do with my life? Probably not. Can I help that I have some weird inane talent for making other people look really good in incredibly curated outfits and yet still loath Stacy and Clinton ? Absolutely not. But truth be told, it was a lot of fun – and I don’t know if we get to have a lot of fun and get paid anymore. You know, outside of maybe being rock stars and ice cream testers. And Gina Clover.

Which brings me to my current dilemma. A close friend was my editor. Is still my friend. Is no longer my editor. As in, there was a.. “conflict of vision”…and a “new direction” taken by the head of the magazine that my friend is now no longer a part of. (A termination which I will add for clarity had absolutely nothing to do with the above mentioned fact that I am sometimes prone to being a money hungry job stealing wench. This was completely out of left field for everyone concerned. Just so your opinion of me doesn’t plummet too far.) What may be worse, or better, depending on your opinion of me – is that I had absolutely no idea of this when I received an e-mail from the art director this week asking if I would like to be involved in the Spring Fashion issue, and to please contact him at my earliest convenience. Very strange, considering all previous communication had previously been done via my editor in gmail chat, basically comprising of : “Winter fashion. You. Yes?”

“Maybe she’s on hiatus,” J gamely offered, “You know F, she’s so… busy. Maybe Mr. M is just taking care of the preliminaries this time. It’s another great opportunity, you should do it again.”

So, I e-mailed back my usual chipper response with no mention of F, that I would be happy to lend my eye. It’s only a few days of my time split into 5 hour chunks, plus one day of shooting, I can handle that, and I enjoy doing it, and the money I make is pure unadulterated, unmitigated, hookers and blow SHOE MONEY. It’s not much, but it keeps me well heeled and I get to pretend that I’m somebody. Everyone is happy. Everyone, until I get the e-mail back that says “I will have the new CityLife Editor contact you about further details. As you are aware, F. is no longer with us.” Um.. no. I wasn’t aware. I thought she was.. sleeping. Busy.

In a strange stupor where I’m thinking “She finally ran away to Russia and is waiting there in the steppes for me like we planned!” I agree to a meeting with the new Editor on Saturday morning. (You can tell what kind of shock I was in by this small fact: I was so sick had not left the house since Tuesday night.) A meeting that goes like this:

New Editor: As you can see, I have no interest in fashion. F’s job has been divided in two – I was previously the News Editor, I will now be the CityLife editor and take on the responsibility for the fashion issues with Mr. M, who will continue in his regular capacity. Music will now be handled by Mr. Blank.

Me: Oh! That’s ok, not everyone…

New Editor: (interrupting) So you have come highly recommended from a number of sources, and I’m aware that you also write. I would like you to assume responsibility for the Fashion dimension of the magazine. Implying you will be responsible for blank, blank and blank, as well as blank.

Me: Oh! Well, that’s very flattering…

New Editor:…INCLUDING chosing models, make-up, hair, locations etc for Shoots. I can give you contact information. Would you feel comfortable naming a price?

Me: For..

New Editor: Your services.

Is it weird to say that I feel a little bit like a … mercenary stylist? I mean, this job entails a lot of what I would want if I wanted a job like this. Hence, my conflict is twofold – a) working for a mag that would do sort of a crap thing to a good friend isn’t the height of any kind of loyalty, to my morals or to a friendship, and b) yes, it’s a cool job, working with cool people, I get to have some creative license, I get to play with clothes and hair and makeup and see my name in print…but in the end it’s just for fun and I don’t know if I have the energy to devote so much time to something that really isn’t my career of choice. It doesn’t even run parallel to my career of choice. There is going to be no academic panel when I attempt to attain tenure somewhere going “Oh, well. You know she worked as a stylist. Here is her portfolio.. stunning work…definitely a tongue in cheek bourgeois commentary on the reliance upon factory labour and the historical inevitability of the resurgence of stripes.”

Which also makes me question two things: 1) if I’m so damn ruthless in regards to getting ahead, and this gets me ahead, why does it all the sudden matter what I’m ahead in? Am I getting old and soft? Or damn it, can you just not be at the top in everything unless you are also a raging alcoholic/ Adderall addict? 2) When did being cool for being cool’s sake stop mattering? Do you think it was this afternoon when I cried in my kitchen reading a text by Shlomo Aveneri on Marx and Hegel because it was just so beautiful? That totally might have been it.

So, despite my initial reaction where in my stuffed up head and runny nose I was jumping up and down going “You picked ME! ME! AND ME gets more SHOES!”… I’m not so sure what to do. I did the professional thing and we’re “touching base” later this week to discuss further. Which means you have a few days to tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do here. xoxo

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Corporate Snakes and Ladders

  1. This was a mouthful. I can understand your dilemma but I think you’re being a bit hard on yourself. It’s not like your well-heeled foot stamped on your friend’s non-suspecting neck in order to get this job. yes, you may be ruthless and all those other things you claim to be (just the fact that you’re feeling so conflicted about this situation illustrates that you’re not as bad as you think-and besides, everyone is just trying to make a life and be good at something) but this is just a simple case of some very hard to please people taking notice of your obvious talent and hard work. So…having said that, I would take the job. No, it may not be your career of choice at the mo but so what? times are tough and there could be worse ways to spend your precious time than having fun (your words and my sentiments exactly) playing with fab clothes, beautiful makeup, meeting interesting people, making a name for yourself and making money (for shoes! hellooo?!). You obviously have it going on if they want to offer you the job. Plus, if you take it, it’s not personal, it’s business. I know that sounds so cliche and it may not be entirely true since it’s always personal when it involves friends…if it were the other way around, and your friend/ex-editor were in your shoes, do you think she would pass it up? It’s a great opportunity…take it! And, in the mean time, don’t be so hard on yourself. When I was working as a lawyer I always had this feeling that women never fostered other womens’ development. I’m sure that the same goes in your industry since it seems like in all professional environments the majority of people are just dogs eating other dogs but you’re not doing anything wrong here by taking a job that was offered to you on merit and not bc you beat someone up or talked shizz or worse to get it.

    Ok…those are my way more than 2 cents. 🙂

  2. Hmm sounds like fun. Go for it!

  3. Tim

    well if you asked me, and you apparently are, I believe you know what I would say, or at least where my priorities would lie.
    I can’t say I understand the extent of the dichotomy in your dilemma – I hope its not as extreme as it could be. Are we talking your long term future here, or just a month or two?
    If I know you at all, you will attempt to juggle both – if you choose this route, let me help you. If you take this route, I’d like to help you; if not for your own sake, then for me. I’d hate to sit and watch you over-burden yourself when all I would have to do would be to spend some time helping you. Believe me, I could handle that.
    In any event, good luck in your decision making.

  4. p.

    You only take the job if it doesn’t fuck up your last year… AND if you get hooker an blow money, for real. *s* But seriously? Don’t pack too much on your plate little lady… even though you sometimes resemble superwoman. Ok?

  5. I think that you’re doing the right thing in touching base with her, and if I was in your position what I would do would depend completely on my other contacts in the industry. If I knew other people who would let me edit, I would think about turning it down. If I didn’t know other people and it would help me built reputation & my portfolio, I probably would do it.

    Even if you are “that girl” I don’t think that this is a callous move that you’re considering. It’s not like you knew she was going to be fired & didn’t tell her, or said you had done part of her work that she should have and that’s why she left. Even if it was out of left field, our employers are able to do that. I’ve had this happen to friends who are journalists who write columns that are randomly done away with, that friends take over. Same thing for editors. I think that if you’re engaged in your work & workplace, whenever this kind of thing happens it’s someone you know stepping in.

    If it’s not a forever job, it sounds like something that could be good for a year or so to take you to another level of position when you’re looking for something else. Or like an interesting trial by fire to see if you even want to continue on in the direction you’re going in.

    Trust your gut. I bet it has some insight =)

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