A Layoff Story: My Deal with the Devil
As a freelance copy editor, I was always looking to fill my schedule, praying for long-term gigs so that I wouldn't have to constantly search the job boards.
Then one day a close friend of mine called and told me the fashion magazine that she wrote for needed someone during Fashion Week. Taking the job meant that I'd have an entire month booked; plus, I'd be working alongside a bestie. The decision was obvious.
See salary information for copywriters.
I had been working there a full week before meeting the editor-in-chief; but to hear others talk about her in the office, you'd think we were working for some crazy dictator. Everyone was afraid of her.
But this was no Devil Wears Prada situation. No, this devil preferred duds from Banana Republic. And her hair -- well, the color was probably bought from a kit at Duane Reade rather than from any high-end salon.
Just as her looks were a far cry from Anna Wintour's, the magazine's content was anything but Vogue-worthy. But she wanted it that way. And I had to go along with it if I wanted to receive my paycheck -- which, it should be mentioned, was the highest-paying contract job I had ever taken.
For many who worked under "Cruella," this was their first writing/magazine job after college. But there were also a few names on the masthead that would remain there indefinitely, as their reputations wouldn't allow them to pursue a journalism career anywhere else. These were people Cruella wanted under her -- people who would do anything she asked.
If she didn't like you, she waited for you to make a minor slip as cause to let you go (though she would keep you around until the issue had closed). One poor fact checker lost her job over mislabeling a design duo that everyone in the fashion world seemed to confuse, but not before she did Cruella the service of translating a coverline into Russian.
Needless to say she never liked me. She seemed to take it personally whenever I cleaned up her English or grammar in the editor's letter -- even though that was, of course, my job. But I hung in, because the devil paid me well.
I finally felt Cruella's wrath after my second Fashion Week experience, when I was doing the work of three people (copy editor, researcher, designer) and had two days to ship 24 pages, which was roughly half the magazine. In my frustrated state I talked back to two editors who were just as stressed out as I was (Fashion Week does that to people.) It was out of character for me to talk back to my superiors -- but we all have bad days. And I apologized to both the next day for my rude behavior.
After I had finally closed the issue, I was off working on other projects. Cruella's managing editor had given me dates he wanted me to work for the next issue, so as the day drew nearer I emailed him several times to confirm.
Finally – about two weeks after my last email to them -- I got a response. The managing editor emailed that I was being let go because a couple of people had complained that I was difficult to work with.
And I couldn't have been happier. I was laughing hysterically as I read and reread that email, glad to finally be rid of that dump. Later that same day I received confirmation on a new fashion-editing gig, one that was sure to propel me toward bigger and better things once prospective employers saw the name on my résumé
Consider this a lesson learned.
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