Escaping Prepress Hell: Ten Steps to a Better Job

by admin on January 7, 2008

This post was originally inspired by a posting in a prepress forum where somebody complained about the low pay at their job. I was tapping out a quick reply when I realized that for about 10 years, I have been reading about prepress operators complaining about their lousy jobs and how can they get a better. So I wrote an essay outlining ten steps that you can take.

And whenever I see a posting in a forum about somebody complaining about their lousy job, I'm going to send them this article, whether they like it or not.

1. If you have worked at current position for 2 or more years, and you haven't gotten a raise or a promotion, then the problem is you. You did not set proper expectations with your employer vis-a-vis your career path. You were too meek, not assertive enough, whatever. Set your mind on moving on. Do not attempt to read this post for tips on getting a salary increase or a promotion or whatever. There is too much wee-wee in the well, put there by your inability to promote yourself. Any job is better than the one you have now.

2. Take some assertive training or some courses on self-confidence. Perhaps you think you are unattractive or overweight and that makes you not very desirable to other employers. I have met many people in the world of prepress who have low self-confidence because of  looks/weight issues. Believe me when I say that the prepress industry is not filled with people who just missed the cut for the Calvin Klein underwear gig, if you get my drift. Personally speaking, if you squint, I do bear a passing resemblance to Richard Gere. If you take off 60 pounds and find a really good plastic surgeon. But back to you. Your new employer will not care what you look like or how much you weigh, only if you can do the job and fit it (not be a jerk). So stop looking in the mirror (and learn to hide your jerkiness, if you are a jerk).

3. Lose your snobbishness over taking a "bridge" job. Many people who have intellectually challenging/difficult jobs will not consider taking a job that is less intellectually challenging because it is a blow to their ego and/or they fear a loss in social status. Many people in prepress enjoy a sense of intellectual satisfaction in doing their job because they truly know how difficult it is, even if they get paid the same amount as the guy who comes in and clean toilets at night. Well your pride in your intellect is your stumbling block, get over it. I will give you a personal example: In the summer of 2004 I was a project manager at Creo. A half-dozen people took my orders, the CEO of the company knew my first name and I was involved in decision-making processes where ten of thousands, if not hundred of thousands of dollars, were on the line.

In the autumn of 2004, I had left Creo, not entirely voluntarily, and I was working downtown... painting the side of a building. The supervisor (MY supervisor) basically had no healthy teeth and the guy painting next to me had been recruited off the street (he had his shopping cart parked next to the job site). Why did I take the job? My severance package was still being negotiated by the lawyers and the job paid cash. Any job is a good job that pays you cash.

4. Don't let the apps narrow your search. Again this is another trap that people who have technical jobs fall into. They are expert in Preps and maybe Rampage or Apogee and they search on the jobs boards for those keywords. And then they want to commit suicide when no jobs for Apogee or Prinergy operators show up on Monster dot com. My advice is to think of applications like shoes: They get released, they are hot for a season or two, and then they fall out of fashion. Over the course of my 17-year career, I have learned at least 50 applications, of which maybe 45 are now obsolete and I don't bother putting on my resume. If you think of yourself as a "Preps expert" or a "Photoshop expert" and build your resume around that, then you are selling yourself short and probably suffer from low-self esteem. See point #2.

5. Build a really long resume about 4 pages at least, and ten pages is fine. Nobody reads resumes anymore, they just put in through the keyword scanning software. If they want a resume that is to be read by An Actual Human Being, they will tell you.

6. If you are being interviewed by a HR person, do not get into the technical nature of your job. They are just there to make sure you are not a psycho and to ensure you are not too expensive for their employer. Make small talk, show a genuine interest in the company (if you are not genuinely interested in working for them, why are you there) and you will do fine.

7. If the interviewer is an a-------e and the interview is a disaster, then you didn't want to work there anyways. Yes, I have been interviewed by those types of people, and the only reason I didn't bite their heads off because of their ignorant, boorish behaviour was so that the recruiter didn't lose face.

8. If you find another job, and your current employer offers the same amount of money, do NOT stay with your current employer. Financially speaking, you will NEVER make a penny more at your current employer than what they are offering (reluctantly) at present. Meanwhile, at your new employer,  the salary that was offered to you, that was your STARTING salary.

Under NO circumstances whatsoever, do not feel ANY guilt in leaving your old employer, not matter how times they yank you into the office to tell you how irreplaceable you are. To be quite frank, there is a direct correlation between the dysfunctionality of a workplace and the guilt that they try inflict upon people trying to leave the sickhole.

9. Stay with one recruiter, or if that recruiter is not helping you, leave to go to another. Keeping looking for recruiters until you find one that has good chemistry with you. A good recruiter is  defined as one that returns your phone calls and has a good chat with you now and again. Some recruiters are great human beings, I know, I have one. Some recruiters are jerks, and I choose not to work with them. Be like me.

10. Network on the internet, it's easy. Google "social media" sites and sign up and join groups that interest you (like DesignFloat or Blinkster or whatever). Network through these groups and you will find work eventually. Don't know where to start? Okay, network with me: Sign up at Once you have an account, look for prepresspilgrim.stumbleupon. That's me. Become my friend or become a fan. Give a thumbs up to my blog. For the first twenty people that will do that, I will post your resume on my blog (up to 200 words). There you go.

One last thing, disconnect cable from your house until you have landed that bright new shiny job. If you can stay away from TV and put that time into job-hunting, you will definitely get a better job in less than six months.

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Posting Round Up… | Prepress Pilgrim
August 11, 2008 at 12:45 pm

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Lauren R January 8, 2008 at 12:16 am

Thanks for the friendly advice! But if you’d read my post on Print Planet a little harder, you might have read these words: “I love my job…”, posted by me, plategirl.

I’d not have spent so many years in the field had I hated the job–and as for any perception
of snobbishness towards working a “bridge job”, I’m already working one, too, making $5.85 an hour. And I don’t have cable. I live in a homeless shelter in one of the poorest towns you’ll ever see in Appalachia, having been put there by an abuser. I survived that day because I’dthe COURAGE and intelligence to drive 400 miles wearing only the clothes on my back. (Take your pity and stuff it.) My days are spent mostly surviving, that’s not about self-pity but rather the hard truth of where/who I am and what its gonna take to get me where I need to be.

For sanity’s sake I am starting to network. Now, on THAT you were, and remain, dead-on. I’ve already gotten nibbles from a shop in northern Georgia, via the posting you referred to on Print Planet. So, thank God I posted!!! Be a treat if I still had a car, or could afford to buy one on my current pay, causeI’d be there as of yesterday. As it stands, I’ll be getting another car soon. I’d keep my fingers crossed, but they’re too busy WORKING.

I see your point in so many ways, and feel your frustration towards ungrateful pre-press workers. I see people using their “lousy pay” to smoke pot ouside the building. If I keep my nose down, it’s not becasue my esteem is lacking, but rather the need to keep my nose to the grindstone.

I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. When I started working for my current employer, I was making $5.15 an hour in the mailroom. Every break I got, I’d go and harp on the pressroom supervisor to see if they had a pre-press opening coming up. Then one day, it did.

I believe in education and that’s why I am taking Photoshop courses at a local college this spring. There’s also Pre Press training solutions…which, if I can’t get my employer to go for, will be utilized using the same computer on which I am now writing on (a friend’s). My resume might not be ten pages, but i’ll get there, watch and see (or don’t, and go watch some cable for a while.)

Please don’t judge a book by the gutter.


Lauren R.
plategirl @
Print Planet.

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