Aspen’s job market the dating game
January 11, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoChanging jobs in Aspen has to be a bit like dating – options are limited. Sometimes, you take what you can get until something better comes along.Think about those job fairs that take place around here every fall. Talk about the employment equivalent of speed dating: A bunch of applicants move from table to table looking for the employer who will give them a ski pass, an in on housing and Saturdays off, while the employers hope to fill their ranks with polite English-speakers who will work weekends and holidays for little pay and a bus pass. In reality, the broke job seekers are in no position to quibble, and the employers know they’re going to have to settle for somebody. The matches aren’t necessarily made in heaven.The new arrivals come and go, but the ones who come and stay quickly discover career moves aren’t easy, especially for those who want to move up or move on, but not out. Leaving a job might be easy, but leaving Aspen is unthinkable to a lot of locals.Switching allegiances becomes second nature for anyone who wants to change course, but in a small town, quitting a job is a lot like breaking off a relationship. You’re bound to run into former co-workers in the same way you have to face the former lovers you’ve summarily dumped in favor of a fresh face.I once had a co-worker who decided it was time to leave Aspen after she found herself in a local watering hole during the off-season that was occupied by no less than three guys with whom she’d already slept. She made the bold leap out of town and out of state.I’ve known others who finally made their exit after they ran through all of the employment opportunities in their chosen field.For job seekers, it’s not about whom they’ve already slept with, but whom they’ve already worked for. As far as I can tell, local chefs play Aspen’s peculiar game of musical chairs with particular zeal. Some restaurant is always privately fuming about who seduced its executive chef or lured away its pastry genius, the sous chef or sushi master. Eventually, some of these career climbers open their own restaurant and begin wooing their former colleagues from other establishments.The local journalism profession is nearly as inbred. Journalists move from publication to publication in Aspen with the kind of regularity spawned by an all-bran diet.Hence, it came as no particular shock to me to hear the editor of the Aspen Daily News would join our ranks, though I’ve heard a number of local observers express surprise. This town’s two newspapers have been trading staffers for years.Last year, our community editor left the Times to take an editing post at the News. She came to us via a stint as a reporter at the Snowmass Sun, by the way. Our new community editor was once a Daily News reporter, before she left to take a reporting job at the Times. She eventually left, only to return when the community editor’s slot opened up.At least one photographer during my tenure at the Times was lured away from the Daily News, and their staff photographer these days once worked for us.The movement among media outlets up and down the valley is even more pronounced. The news director at KAJX was once a staffer at both Aspen newspapers, albeit not simultaneously. The Daily News’ present publisher was formerly with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and a glance at the News’ staff directory shows the names of no less than three former Times employees, plus a former Carbondale Valley Journal staffer. The Times editorial staff includes two former Daily News staffers these days, and two of our columnists were once with the News.In this town, one has two choices: marry yourself to your job or play the field.For our new editor, who already knows some of his future co-workers and is familiar with all of their work, at least the first day on the job shouldn’t be the blind date from hell. Hopefully it won’t be a 12-hour ordeal, either. He should simply refuse to put out on the first day.Janet Urquhart has been moving up and down the rungs of the same ladder for a decade. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.