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The chairman learns about the five stages of a financial journalist’s career on the dinner invitation list.

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“Where were you hiding at the IMA Dinner last night?” asked the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we enjoyed a pint or two of Shock Horror at The Investment Industry Finally Working Out Best Freelancer Is Not A One-Person Category . “I couldn’t find you anywhere.” “Skyfall,” I replied.

“New after-party destination, eh?” said the chairman disapprovingly. “Little Italy not your thing any more?” “If I’m honest, I’m not sure Little Italy has ever been my thing,” I said. “Then there have been occasions where you have done a pretty good impression,” the chairman shrugged. “Still, where were you during the actual dinner?”

“I didn’t go to the actual dinner,” I explained. “I went to the cinema instead.” “Oh, I see,” said the chairman. “Sort of like how Woody Allen chooses to shun the showbiz glamour of Oscar night and go and play jazz in a pub instead?” “More like how someone who hasn’t been invited to an industry dinner chooses to go and see the new James Bond film instead,” I said.

“Oh,” said the chairman. “That’s not good.” “I wouldn’t say that,” I replied. “It’s no Live And Let Die but it certainly had its moments. “ “No,” said the chairman. “I mean it’s not good you not being invited to the IMA Dinner. I mean, that must be the first time in what – 17 years?” “I hadn’t been counting,” I lied. “It’s not that big a deal.”

“Really?” said the chairman, looking doubtful. “For a journalist, it all sounds like the start of a slippery slope to me.” “I suppose it could be seen that way,” I conceded. “However – and I would hate you to conclude I had been thinking about this overly hard – I believe in cases such as mine it is more of a journalistic life cycle of some five stages and I am only at Stage Two.”

“Your thesis intrigues me,” said the chairman. “Pray, tell me more.” “Stage One is fairly obvious,” I obliged. “A journalist joins a publication and is invited out to dinners and other events as various players within Her Majesty’s financial services industry seek to ascertain whether they might be worth dealing with on any sort of regular basis.

“If the journalist can hold a fork or a conversation – or ideally both – they will usually receive repeat invitations.” “Regular bathing can also help,” added the chairman helpfully. “So I believe,” I nodded. “Well, if a journalist enjoys any sort of longevity, they will eventually graduate to Stage Two, which can see the invitations gently drying up.

“That’s partly because journalists move up the career ladder – getting the word ‘editor’ somewhere in your job title tends to be the only way to up your salary to any meaningful degree in most news organisations – but the people who do the inviting get promoted too and those who replace them will inevitably be inviting a newer generation of hack.

“The obvious exceptions will be those who remain firmly in the public eye but those with a lower profile – and I, with my preference for assorted Hubbery and certain other unbylined nonsense, clearly fit that description – end up having to buy their own drinks more. This, as your hinted earlier, is very much the natural order of things.

“Importantly, however, if it should ever turn out I am gently sobbing myself to sleep about the situation, there is something I can do about it. This is Stage Three and, quite simply, it involves putting yourself about, re-raising your profile and getting back in the game. One course of action is to return to the sort of work and/or job level that attracted all your invitations in the first place.

“Alternatively, you shamelessly lobby the people who do the inviting.” “A bit like you are now?” asked the chairman. “This is not lobbying,” I protested – and not in any way too much. “This is merely telling you how it is and it is a cast-iron way of reaching Stage Four – I have seen it done.” “I believe you,” said the chairman. “So what’s Stage Five then?” “We don’t talk about Stage Five,” I said. “Stage Five is bad.”