How to get a job in New york
Ironically, now that I finally have a job in the city, you might not hear much about it. This NYTimes story (about bloggers getting hired and fired due to their online disclosures) might as well be about me (the hiring part, not the firing part). In light of these issues, I’ve already erred on the side of using a promo-only voice when writing about URGE (which is an MTV property–whose parent company is Viacom–whose employee-confidentially agreement–the very same one I signed my first day–is quoted in the above story). After all, it’d be ironic to get fired because of blogging–after I got hired because of blogging.
Yes, this site was instrumental in not only getting job leads that didn’t go anywhere, but also in getting job leads that actually did. And one led to the other. What?
After quitting my corporate video gig in North Carolina a year ago, I started this website, which, let’s face it, is a blog–even though I never refer to it as such. After four months of writing about film (and music), I got a surprise email from Joshua Newman, the almost-my-age head of Cyan Pictures. I’d linked to his personal blog, Self-aggrandizement, and apparently he’d track-backed my site and liked what I had to say. Long story short, we met over coffee in New York about a producer position at the company, and after it went well, I thought I was in like flynn.
Murphy’s law applies to few things better than job searches, so while I was excited about the position (and about moving to New York), I knew that nothing was set in stone. Few things are certain in life, except death, taxes, and my posts being too long (in my defense, I recently saw a quote proclaiming that “art is excess,” which I will now use to justify every overlong post here. It’s art). Knowing the job wasn’t a lock, in my follow-up email to Josh, I wrote:
I almost didn’t tell anyone about this company and position, for fear of jinxing it. You know how the story goes–I tell someone I’ve found this great job, which I’m absolutely perfect for, and then Deep Impact happens, centered on your offices.
New York managed to stay asteroid-free, but I managed to stay job-free as well. After a few months of hearing nothing from Cyan, I had nothing to lose, so I decided to write about my situation on this site (given that it was fairly central to the storyline of avoiding film school). My very long (it’s art!) telling of the story ended like this:
Josh did eventually email me back, to say that the Cyan’s funding had fallen through for the time being and that all hiring would have to wait until replacement cash had been raised, but by then I’d already begun pursuing other, much less-appealing, positions–and I never expected to hear anything related to Cyan ever again.
Out of the blue, an email that would eventually put an end to my job search and finally move me to New York showed up in my inbox.
Erik, the sender, had stumbled upon my post while googling “Long Tail Releasing.” He’d had a similar experience with Josh a year or so ago, in that he’d also tried to hook up with Cyan/Long Tail, only to have it ultimately fall through. Since then, he’d been periodically checking up on the company. Besides being amazed at Google’s search prowess, as well as the internet’s ability to connect perfect strangers, I was also, of course, thankful that Erik decided to relay me his tale. But then I got to his email signature: “Senior Producer / Production Manager, MTV Networks.”
Innnnteresting. I stroked my chin.
Nine months earlier (before I started this site), I’d actually applied for a position at MTV, through their Jobhunt website. When I initially applied, I didn’t expect to hear back from the company, for a number of reasons: one, their site only allows you to fill out small dialogue boxes rather than submit a complete, formatted resume, which isn’t particularly conducive to younger applicants who have a lot of experience outside the confines of a day job. Two, it’s an online application, which means everyone and their mother can apply without hesitating, so there’s bound to be a deluge of unqualified riff-raff. Three, it’s MTV, so that deluge grows by a factor of ten because it’s “cool” to work here, or at any entertainment company, for that matter. Four, at the time the position had been up for almost a year–so it was doubtful that they were actively seeking to fill it, if it was still up at all. Not surprisingly, I never heard back from anyone, despite the fact that the job seemed tailor-made for me. I even called and pestered HR a few times, to no avail.
But now I had an “in.”
The whole idea behind starting No Film School was to tell the story of what happens when you try to pursue a film career, not only without going to film school, but also without having any connections. This site wouldn’t be interesting (or, it’d be even less interesting) if I already had connections in the industry, which I could just use to network my way into a position at Paramount. But being from North Carolina and having gone to college in Vermont, I didn’t know anyone, anywhere. Thus, by starting this site, I could narrate the quintessentially American story of pulling myself up by my own booststraps, and… who am I kidding? I got a lucky email. Two, in fact–first from Josh, and then from Erik. Regardless, this makes for a much more interesting story than the typical story of “my uncle’s brother was a producer at Dreamworks and got me in as an assistant to Mr. So-and-so.” And I never would have heard from anyone if I hadn’t put myself out there in the first place.
As it turned out, Erik was working on launching MTV’s digital music service, URGE. When I relayed my tale of having previously applied for a job at MTV, and asked him if he had any openings in his department, he replied that they were looking for designers. That was enough for me. I was finishing up physical therapy on my shoulder in NC at the time, so I showed up to the last appointment with my car packed and ready to go, and hit the road to New York, straight from the PT office. I arrived at my friend’s place in Connecticut on a Sunday evening, went into the city for an interview with Erik on Monday, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ultimately, writing a lot about film on your personal site without advertising any of it, having the head of a company read it and invite you in for an interview, going public about your (lack of) experiences with that company, hearing from someone else who happened upon what you’d written, getting an interview with that person, and eventually getting hired to work at the same company you’d applied to work for almost a year earlier, is not the most direct way of getting a job and moving to New York. That’s a bit of an understatement–this was one of the most circuitous routes imaginable. But looking back on it, would I rather have just gotten a job at MTV with my initial online application? Absolutely not.
Here’s where I’m supposed to say “I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” except I think people really only say that about things they have no control over. Essentially, if you substituted “couldn’t” for “wouldn’t” in that phrase, you’d have a much more accurate statement. “I couldn’t have done it any other way.”
Which is true. So I’ll just say this: one aspect of our lives that we do have control over is how interesting of a life we live. And I’ll take the more interesting route every time, even if it’s a more circuitous–and difficult–one. This is the reasoning behind this whole site: sure, I could go to film school, but won’t it be so much more interesting if I don’t?
Along those lines, I’m headed to Germany for the World Cup tomorrow. Our Munich-Vienna-Berlin-Hamburg-Brussels-Hannover-Amsterdam itinerary may be circuitous, but you can be damn sure that it’ll also be… interesting.