Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mail | 'Hiring managers are in the catbird seat'

Anonymous@8:54 p.m. writes:

I continue to be amazed at the number of posters over 50 or 55 years old who say they'd take a buyout in a heartbeat.

Friends, it is brutal out there if you're trying to find any kind of media job, be it in journalism or PR or with government. There simply are way too many qualified people applying for all the same jobs.

Unless you have a spouse or partner who makes a boatload of cash, don't give up your job unless forced.

I've been a finalist many times -- sometimes out of 400 applicants -- but still haven't gotten the job. The simple fact is, hiring managers are in the catbird seat. The last job I didn't get, I came in second and the top communications manager even called me to tell me the news and tell me how much he and the interview panel liked me, etc., etc., etc.

But he also said he had at least five people (out of the hundreds) who had applied for the job that he would have loved to have hired. That is how many qualified people are seeking comms jobs.

So, my advice -- and I have said it before -- don't quit or take a buyout unless you have another job lined up. Yes, I think there is some age discrimination. But the larger truth is, there are just too few jobs to go around to the many qualified and overqualified communications professionals who are out there.

Related: the U.S. unemployment rate was 8.5% last month. Table shows monthly rates 2001-2011.

As always, other views are welcome. Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Imagine you're offered a buyout under the following terms, with the threat you might be laid off if you don't accept it:

    * two weeks for every year of service, capped at a maximum of 52 weeks
    * medical coverage at low, company rates for the length of your severance

    Question: Would you take the buyout? Why or why not?

    With your response, please include your age; years of service; and the type of job (ad sales, reporter, marketing, etc.) you hold.

  2. However, no one will be offered a buyout under threat of being laid off if they don't. Or should be.

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  4. The economy is very uneven across the country right now. Some areas there are no jobs at all, others have strong job markets and cannot find people to fill jobs.

    I would take the buyout without thinking twice. I have been proactive and starting career retraining in late 2010, with my certification exam coming in May 2012. I have offers based on the passing of my exam. A buyout now would allow me to get full income while completing my studies. If the rumor is true, I am too young to be eligible for the buyout.

    This is coming from someone 40ish with 18 years experience circulating newspapers.

  5. Wow Jim it hasnt even been announced and you've found a negative angle. Congratulations, even for you that's fast. You've been whining about how horrible lay offs and TPP are for years. If true Gannett's gone back to a deal similar to the one YOU accepted and it's suddenly a plan with a gun to someone's head. Hypocrite

  6. Jim asks a really good qustion and it is one that I'm struggling with right now. Without giving away too much that would identify me I'm over 55, don't work in editorial and have been with my property for over 20 years. Based on a variety of factors I think that I could have two years before being laid, off at best.

    At this point in time I don't have enough resources to retire and do nothing so another job of some sort will be necessary.

    Taking this offer, if structured as Jim has described, would give me about a years worth of income plus lower cost medical than I would probably pay under COBRA or on my own.

    Under a typical layoff I'd get about six months TPP at either one week or two weeks for every year of service capped at six months and with higher medical costs.

    Since I'm not interested in continuing in my same career field this offer would give me a couple of weeks to decompress, perhaps get some training and have a year to find a job before having to dip into my regular savings. And if I am fortunate enough to quickly land a job, the pay would continue unlike the TPP that ends once employed again. That could put that much more in my pocket.

    I'm going to take the time now and work out the numbers under these different scenarios so that I'm prepared in the event this is offered. It may be good to pass up.

    One question is will those that take the offer also be eligible for unemployment at the end of the severence period?

  7. I meant to say "It may be too good to pass up."

  8. this is not a buyout, it is early retirement, that is why is is pegged to 55 and over. those 60 and over - all those who did take last incentive - will take it.

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  10. 7:28 I'm not complaining about Gannett's possibly offering buyouts. To be sure, they would be better than traditional layoffs.

    But this post about the risks for older workers taking buyouts presents an important perspective. No matter how good the terms of any buyout, older workers must approach a decision very, very cautiously.

    What's more, the deal offered to me was not the deal that may be offered today. Yes, I got two weeks for every year of service, with no cap, and medical for the length of severance.

    But in November 2007, when USAT offered me that buyout, the seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate was just 4.7%. It's now 8.5%, and that's down from a 10% high.

    For people wanting to continue work, buyouts are only as good as job market conditions.

  11. But close to 65 and Medicare its a good offer, no?

  12. 10:32 Probably, yes. But every situation isn't the same. I can't think of many people who can live on Sicial Security and Medicare alone.

    More than a few Gannettoids will need to work past 65 to supplement inadequate retirement savings.

    Best to consult an independent, fee-based financial planner to ease any doubts.

  13. We aren't all journalists, the job market varies by state, and my needs are fairly modest. I would take that deal and not look back.

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  15. The posts at 9:21 and 11:10 should be deleted. Seriously, those are the standard of quality here?

  16. Speaking of hiring, how is usatoday's search for a new leader going? Now that heather is editor at weekend, does that mean she is not in the running?

  17. why was my correction to 9:21 deleted?

  18. To all considering early retirement: Find out exactly what your health insurance cost will be now and in the future. I took early retirement about 10 years ago and my retiree health insurance was less than $100/month. The cost has increased annually, and it's now about $650/month.

  19. 2:05 My medical, with a $1,500 annual deductible, is $900 a month -- double what it was under COBRA three years ago. This is for me alone. And I'm pretty healthy.

  20. Yikes, Jim! Is that Gannett retiree insurance?

  21. 9:09 asks a good question: "...Will those that take the offer also be eligible for unemployment at the end of the severance period?"

    At least in my state, no.

    Accepting a buyout offer (if in fact it comes to pass) means that the employee is voluntarily ending one's employment. Only involuntary "no fault" circumstances (e.g., layoffs) qualify for unemployment

    At least that was the case earlier. Maybe it's changed, but I doubt it. But if it has changed since I last looked into it, and I'm mistaken, someone please post a correction.

    1. Gannett treats it as a termination/layoff. So you should to. Never use the word buyout

  22. 11:39 No. And I'm only 55. It's a "Cadillac" plan bought on non-group rates.

  23. Just wondering, Jim: since you live in San Fran, a pretty progressive place, why can't you get onto the policy of your life partner (assuming he has one thru work)? Even non-progressive GCI allows that.

  24. 2:05 is that insurance for you alone?

  25. 3:16 Ordinarily, that would be an option. But there are legal complications for us.

  26. Many of us have spouses that carry insurance also. When Gannett started penalizing me for being married, we switched to my wife's plan. After crunching numbers, it's much better anyway, so that is not an issue here.

    I am hoping the door is open for everyone, as I would sign the paper without thinking twice. My family deserves better than Gannett. It's a shame really.

  27. 3:36: Yes, that's for me alone. However, I exaggerated. Actual cost for 2012 is $626/month.

  28. It speaks volumes about what a lousy workplace Gannett has become. People in their mid 50's and younger with many years left in their work life are willing to leave Gannett knowing just how bad the market is right now.

    I've been with Gannett for 23 years, I'm 55 and I would take the "retirement" package, buyout, call it what you will, in a heartbeat. I wouldn't discuss it with my partner or call anyone. I would accept it before they have a chance to rescind it.

  29. I wish had the guys to take the buyout. But i don't think I can find another job with comparable pay. I'll stick out the insanity, but with Hunke and Ellwood in charge, I figure I have three years max at this asylum.

    They will destroy this place, rest assured.

  30. 3 years? This pair is running the brand into the ground far more quickly. Not that it matters to either one of them. Thevye been around the Gannett feed trough long enough to be taken care of well into early retirement.

  31. Furloughed Fury1/22/2012 9:28 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  32. 9:28 I remove comments with name-calling, including "troll."

  33. The original poster offered very solid advice. I have friends who were laid off in the last year and are going through the same experience. It can take a long, long time to find a job and the COBRA payments alone are far beyond monthly unemployment checks.

    I'm looking like crazy while I still have a job.

    Good luck to us all and remember that you/your family/your career are the priority - not this lousy company.

  34. If you need to work to get by, be cautious.

    I was laid off in June and found a new job just as my 26 weeks of traditional unemployment ended. Had I taken a buyout under these terms, I would have had 16 weeks of severance pay, leaving me with a 10-week gap with no income.

    I was rather lucky, too. The average duration of the unemployed is currently about 40 weeks, the last time I checked.

    Proceed with caution.

  35. Don't listen to most people here. They just want to convince people to leave the company, even if that is not in your best interest.

    I'd bet that 40-week unemployment average is way higher for some of the people who live on this site.

  36. Good original post. It's tough out there.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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