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Since finishing my master’s degree, I have been on the job hunt. And although my degree has opened a lot of doors, it has done little in the way of getting me an increase in salary over my pre-degree jobs.

In the last couple of months, I have applied for 6 jobs. Out of those six, 4 turned into offers, all of which I turned down.

My first offer was for a full-time job heading the proofreading department of a European publisher. I would oversee the proofreading and copy-editing of not one, not two, but 17 magazines — all on the same production schedule and all with their own style sheets. That adds up to lots of overtime and red eyes. After some negotiating, I finally got them up to $30K (HK) a month. But then I realised I would be getting no more pay than I did as editor of The Parents’ Journal. I promptly turned it down.

Offer 2 and 3 met the same fate. But offer 4 was the most extraordinary. A small, but trendy magazine was looking for a new editor. I called the company, which is a big publisher in HK, and had a chat with the managing editor. We hit it off right away and he made it clear that I was just what he was looking for.

I went down to the office which was full of underpaid 20 year olds working on various magazines published by the same company. He said he was looking for someone with experience to take over this particular magazine. “The editor of this magazine is the hardest working person here,” he said.

He asked me to discuss ways in which I would improve the magazine. But I’ve been in this situation before: I give them all these great ideas, they offer me crap money, I walk away and they find someone else who, then in turn, puts my ideas into action.

So I said: “Look let’s not waste each other’s time here. We can chat for an hour, you love me, I love you, but then we talk about money and it’s all over. So let’s start there. What’s the salary?”

“Fifteen thousand,” he said (and I swear he had a straight face).

I was tempted to say “a week?” but caught myself in time.

Instead I stood up, held out my hand and said “nice meeting you,” and walked out.

Now according to this guy, this company makes money on all of its magazines — a claim few publishers can make. Well, now I know how: they hire kids who are willing to work for experience rather than money, and squeeze the rest of the staff of a decent wage.

That was a month ago, I felt rather smug when I saw the job still being advertised recently. It seems no one else is willing to work like a dog for scraps either.

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