The Jobs I Almost Had
by Spenser Davis
August 2011: After graduating college and blowing my savings on a (relatively short) backpacking trip through the U.K., I flew out to help my girlfriend (now wife) move to California for graduate school. Most of my job hunting at this point had been firing out resumes to positions in the Los Angeles area, and I had expected it to be easy for a bachelor’s degree-toting lad like myself. I received zero responses except for an interview at a Christian bank in Orange County that a family friend had recommended me for. I thought that I was quite qualified, but I think that my lack of enthusiasm for working on spreadsheets for 40 hours per week was my undoing. Lesson learned, but in some ways, I felt relieved.
September 2011: I quickly realized that the number of jobs that A) I was interested in, and B) were available in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were pretty small. After some hounding by my parents, I hit the bottom of the barrel of the job search: Craigslist. Being a job search virgin, I didn’t already have a mental filter for the codes used by businesses trying to scam you. I e-mailed for a listing at a “marketing firm” that supposedly worked with the Dallas Stars and other high-profile clients. They called me in for an interview, which lasted approximately thirty seconds and must have been to confirm that I wasn’t a blatant psychopath. I left feeling confused, only to get a call minutes later telling me that my second “interview” was the next day, where I would shadow one of their “associates.” This “shadowing” turned out to be me following a scrawny man in a shabby suit in my car to a run-down shopping center in a bad part of town. As soon as we walked into the first business, everything clicked. These guys were selling coupon books for go cart rides, chain restaurants, and so on, to immigrant-owned businesses that must have barely made enough money to break even. My bullshit shield went up and I left at the earliest opportunity; I never answered or returned another call from them.
April 2012: From October of 2011 to this point, I had worked as a tutor at an SAT Prep center and as a bookseller at a large bookstore chain. I was okay with it, living rent-free with my mom and having a few of my closest friends from college still living down the street from work. But I was still dating my girlfriend and the long distance was taking its toll. So I started trying my hand at applying to more jobs in Los Angeles. After probably hundreds of unanswered e-mails and signups on career webpages, I tried a different approach for my application for a social media manager at a small Santa Monica startup that sold overpriced baby supplies to hipsters. I used a Prezi presentation and felt extremely confident about it. I received an e-mail a week or so later telling me that I had made it to the “second round” and included a set of instructions to make up a sample schedule and detailed marketing campaign. Not having a degree in business or marketing, I spent hours upon hours researching and detailing my plan. Again, I was proud of myself and the work I had done. A couple weeks later, another e-mail popped into my inbox to tell me they had selected another candidate. I tried not to let it bother me, but the work I put into it forced about a week’s worth of sulking out of me.
August 2013: Fast-forward past a year-and-a-half’s worth of retail and video production jobs in L.A., tutoring and video editing gigs in the Inland Empire, a round of failed MFA applications, a marriage to the girlfriend I had followed halfway across the country, and I’m back on the serious job hunt. My wife received a great job just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, so we packed up and moved here in late July. I’ve been applying to jobs like crazy, and not getting even close to the majority of them. Even the family and friends connections I’ve utilized haven’t resulted in anything, and those were my biggest hopes! First, I interviewed for a teller position at a national bank branch near our home in west Seattle. It was a group interview full of career retail workers and college grads with accounting degrees, but not the smarts or grades to get actual accounting jobs. This liberal arts major with a year’s worth of retail experience wasn’t what they were looking for, apparently. My latest disappointment was for a job that sounded interesting to me, and would have provided the all-necessary entry-level experience I had been seeking for two years. I sent a very witty (I think) and carefully worded e-mail for an opening for a “Pinterest Marketer” at a well-funded fledgling startup. I received an e-mail quickly from the head of marketing, a tech industry veteran who told me he and his coworkers were very impressed by my e-mail and wanted to have a chat. So I spent the next few days wracking my brain for ideas, spending hours online and at the bookstore looking for ideas as to how I would run this company’s Pinterest account. I am a big social media user and fan, and have operated them as part of an internship as well as helping out friends with small businesses get their accounts up and running. So I chat with one of the startup executives, who again tells me how much my e-mail impressed him. After going through my myriad ideas and plans for this job, he tells me he’ll get back to me. A few days later, I get an e-mail telling me that I don’t have enough actual “Pinterest experience,” even though it’s only really been utilized by businesses in the last 12–18 months. I tried to sway them; I really wanted to work with this startup and get the “experience” that all entry-level jobs seem to require.
September 2013: Nothing yet. I expect a few more disappointments in the coming months. Maybe I’ll shoot for grad school again.
Spenser Davis is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Rumpus, Structo Magazine, and World Soccer Talk. He can be found writing and tweeting about books, technology, and other unmarketable things in Seattle on Twitter. Photo: Kathryn Decker