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Monday, 11 August 2014


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This happens a lot for my colleagues who left academia. Many of them omit that they have a PhD from their resume, because it makes many employers think that they will request higher starting salaries than people with "just" masters. It's a weird world.

I suppose the lack of job or the anxiety for some work that can help pay bills is the omnipresent worry of a photographer's life. At less for those that don't do advertisement or celebrities portraits.

I like the "Morning Coffee" feature, even if it is just one day old. I'm a creature of habit, and TOP is part of it. You challenge me to think.

Okay, speaking of morning coffee (mine was Phil Rosenberg's Kona ...), here's a topic suggestion: how did the famous coffee grower and photographer survive the hurricane? I guess I could e-mail him and ask that same question, but this might be of broader interest to TOP's audience.

Even though your morning coffee coincides with my afternoon tea, it's still an interesting read and a good time for me to take a break from the other widows open on my desktop.

The same phenomenon Haas mentions also affects my line of work. If your technical CV reads too well, you end up being a threat to the very people who are looking to hire you.

There is also considerable bias amongst younger management (whether art-editors or IT directors) against hiring anyone older than them.

I'm sure the set publication time complicates the workflow on your end, but I have to say that I really like the idea from my end. Predictability is a virtue! (The right kinds, anyway; being able to predict exactly what the post would say would not be a virtue.)

I look forward to these "morning coffee" posts over my morning coffee. Here are a couple topic suggestions. I was reading Kirk Tuck's blog yesterday and in it he mentioned that he was re-reading "Letting Go of the Camera" which is a series of essays by Brooks Jensen. So I downloaded it on my Kindle app. I am 100% sure you are familiar with this book. I am about halfway through it. His thoughts on the value of projects is fascinating, so was his essay on his 100 prints project and his essay on art, subject matter and photography, knocked me out of my chair, punched me in the eye and seriously woke me up. Might be a topic for discussion. During my Google search for Letting Go of the Camera, I also pulled up an excellent blog post by Olivier Duong and his struggle with Gear Addiction Syndrome (GAS) and how he overcame it.

...now that I'm a manager and get involved in hiring decisions, I have to say this isn't an easy topic. In these days of lean organizations, making the wrong hiring decision can be a big problem. It takes a significant amount of time to get people trained, acquainted with your business and to get them to build the intracompany relationships to be successful. If you hire someone who leaves relatively soon after you've gotten them up to speed, the cost in terms of money, time and stress/frustration (for the other team members who have to pick up the work) is considerable.

And while people lament the well-qualified PHD who didn't get a job, they forget that someone else who (on paper at least) is less qualified DID get a job. As long as that person performs their job competently, who are we to say that jobs should go to PHDs instead of others? I'm not picking on PHDs here (nor am I picking on anyone with any sort of academic qualifications or job history), my point is just that every time you give a job to X, that means you aren't able to give it to Y.

And the concern that people are only interested in a job as a stopgap measure until they find something better is very real. We in the U.S. live in a country where employment-at-will is the rule. I wish it were otherwise, but it is what it is. Employment at will is usually portrayed (quite rightly) as employer-friendly, because it makes it possible to fire people at any time for any reason (with certain very limited exceptions) or no reason, an arrangement I generally view as needlessly cruel. Other countries have statutory notice periods that grow with years of service and require employers and employees to give each other a certain amount of lead time before quitting or terminating employment. If employees had to give employers more notice, maybe employers wouldn't be so worried about the prospect of someone leaving them in the lurch when a better offer comes along, making it easier to gamble on the applicant who used to earn twice as much.

In any case, to give my subjective experience, I am only worried about someone who previously earned a higher salary if they earned that salary recently. If they have been looking for a new job for a while, or are re-entering the workforce after a while doing something else, then their old salary rapidly declines in relevance.

Lastly, I should point out that people always seems to discuss employment decisions in terms of a hypothetical fact pattern that literally never arises in real life -- the myth of the two candidates who are identical except for one difference: one candidate is black, one is white; one has a PHD, one only has a masters; one is male, one is female; etc. In real life, job applicants are...well, people, with all of the complexities and life experiences and individual traits that entails. Decisions (at least in my experience) rarely seem to come down to educational qualifications alone (except maybe in entry-level positions). You usually have several candidates who have their own strengths and weaknesses, their own areas of relevant skills and potential risks. To think that a PHD or any other qualification should trump all others is to underestimate the nuanced analysis that employers (at least the good ones) perform. And I am consistently amazed by how many talented people there are out there who probably don't sound impressive on paper and/or sell themselves short, yet are really able to blossom in unexpected ways when given the opportunity. If an employer decides not to hire a candidate with a PHD (or whatever other qualification), it may not be as a result of an anti-PHD bias, but because another candidate, although lacking an equivalent academic (or similar) qualification, had something else that the employer thought was more relevant or which was more highly valued.

Hiring people is simultaneously very rewarding and very depressing. It is rewarding because you can offer someone a job and that person has the potential to really contribute to your organization and make a difference. But it is also depressing, because there are so many qualified candidates out there, many with compelling personal situations, and it breaks my heart to not be able to give everyone the same opportunity.

There is wisdom in your words, for after 30 years I now find my own career on the 'flip side'. The small bread 'n butters are no longer, and I lurch from large-to-large job, each farther apart as time winds on. Being fair to fewer clients who continue paying 'good' fees means not dropping my price to try and gather lesser-paying work. 'Tis a conundrum, to be sure.

No matter how much money I make this month I am scared to death that I'll never work again after we complete the job at hand. I've been doing this since 1988 and even though I've always (sometimes by a wing and a prayer) managed to make enough to pay the mortgage and bills I live in constant anxiety that it will all come to a screeching halt. My memories of dipping into savings in the 2008-2009 economic disaster remain fresher in my mind than I care to think about. I wonder if the anxiety is part of the core motivation for most artists.

I think people with steady, well paid jobs will never truly understand this (sometimes irrational) fear...

What's a vacation? Is that where you are away from your phone and clients can't reach you? No Thanks!

Just dropping in to say I appreciate these morning coffee's, and particularly this story, very much.

Mike, this is such an axiomatic post from you totally embroidered into the industry trend of our current time.


"...Wish I'd realized; I would have relaxed more."

And that could be the mantra for the whole of life.

Hi, Mike!

I had to start looking for alternative employment because of severe hearing loss resulting communication issues (now completely deaf), but still put my photography/graphic ar experience on resume's.

Used to frustrate me when I was turned away with the excuse that I would be "under employed".

Two questions (since you asked):

1. Roughly speaking, how many e-mails do you get a day that are related to T.O.P.?

2. Any plans to hire an intern to handle comment review and approval?

Best regards,

On what one will work for we see a major erosion of rates companies will pay for excellent work.
Editorial rates in particular stink now. In the 1970's many of us got more per day for shooting than is offered today.
Every cost is more than it was then but we are offered less. Part of is is 'every camera owner is a photographer' which is way different from 'every piano owner owns a piano'.

"Content providor" is 'good enough' for many who would otherwise pay a decent amount for excellent work.

I read this post actually with my morning coffee cup: very welcome! Just the stuff I come here for. Really, no other website (that I know of) offers anything like your blog, Mike. Thanks!

Looking back over these posts, I hope my story of winning ridiculously high bids didn't sound arrogant. I should add that those high bids were the rare exceptions. I've also lost jobs by asking for normal raises over normal pay, and I've seen work dry up quite a bit over the past few years. But the extreme cases stick out as some sort of strange lesson.

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