job search

Extra Extra work

Since organizing writers’ conferences and writing a novel don’t pay the bills (yet), I’ve taken on work as a background artist for television. Artist is a strong word in this context. I get hired to be one of those people who walk behind the main actors to make the scene look more realistic, or I sit at a table and quietly repeat, “watermelon cantaloupe,” so a scene looks vibrant with happy cafe-patrons. I’m basically a human prop.

Me as a guest at an Indian baby naming party for Royal Pains.

Me as a guest at an Indian baby naming party for Royal Pains.

So far I’ve been an onlooker at a murder scene for Unforgettable, a reporter for Person of Interest, a scared pedestrian for a new pilot with Debra Messing, a party guest for Royal Pains, an audience member for a test show for Suze Ormand, and a few other nondescript pedestrian roles. I’ve never actually seen any of these shows, which keeps me from getting too star-struck; however, I did get to charge my phone next to one of my favorite actors from The Wire, so that was pretty fun.

The best part of the job is when they do your hair and make up. For a few minutes I feel like a pampered celebrity…until the director calls out, “Where’s goblet girl?” Yes, that was my name for 6 hours because my job was to hold a goblet of champagne which the cameraman used as a marker for the far left side of the scene.

The other perk is seeing some beautiful parts of New York I’ve never seen before. I got to film in a stunning old bank in Wall Street, a stunning old castle on the water, and at a stunning view of the Brooklyn Bridge (where Mike proposed to me). My main goal was to get away from my computer and meet some interesting people while making some money, so I’ve definitely accomplished that. The pay is pitiful, but then again I am getting paid to stand around. When I’m done with my work, I’m able to come back to my writing with absolutely no stress from the work day. It’s working out pretty nicely for now.

Here are two side notes I’ve picked up from doing this work. If you’re a single woman, I have never met so many great single guys as the crew on a film set. Overall they’re hard-working, down to earth, good-humored people. They have crazy hours because a film shoot can run for 18 hours straight, which might explain why so many of them are single. Also, I have so much more appreciation for actors. To shoot one minute of television it takes almost ten hours of filming. The actors have to say the same lines a hundred times and sound fresh and energized each time.

The worst job interview

A few weeks ago, I got an email inviting me to apply for an open job position. Writing a novel is all well and good, but until that sells I need a job to pay my bills. I was more than qualified for the position and I figured I would apply as a safety net. I bought a new interview outfit, updated my resume, practiced my talking points, and then showed up. You know what they say about  99% of success is just showing up? That’s b.s.

Over 200 people showed up for this “job interview,” which was more like a cattle call. It took place in a school auditorium with terrible acoustics so everyone was yelling to be heard. The heat was turned up, so the room stank of sweaty wool suits. I waited  in line for a half hour to talk to H.R. and when I finally got to the front, I was sat with 9 other people at a round table. We all had to go in a circle pitching our qualifications. One after one, I listened to the other candidates amazing backgrounds. Even though I knew I would be amazing at the job, I couldn’t compete with the 9 other people at my table let alone the 190 other people in the room. Nor did I want to.

I was herded to the next H.R. table where the person took one look at my resume, with two years of experience in a director position and three years of experience as the vice president of a company, and all she said was, “Wow, you’re really unfocused.” At which point I collected my things and left.

This terrible experience was exactly what I needed to get the ball rolling on my website for Brutal First Impressions. I am far too creative, curious, and, yes, unfocused, to mold myself into some boring job. I can’t and don’t want to compete in this kind of demeaning job market so the only solution is to create my own job market.

I’m really hoping Brutal First Impressions will be successful and I can look back on this terrible job interview as a catalyst for a great career, but for the meantime, I’m still pretty bitter.

Mini Memoir Monday: Three Rivers Make a Why

This week’s mini memoir was written by my friend, Matthais Sundberg. Enjoy!

matthaisI had been fired from a job I loved.

I got to watch cartoons for a living, worked with a man who built Wolverine claws and tommy guns and actually shot me in the head once. We made videos for the Internet and my company recently decided that my department was redundant and could be liquidated. So long, cartoons. So long, special effects guys. So long, free Coke in the fridge every day.

During my time at the company, I had been working for a man whom I look to as a mentor. He taught me the valuable lesson of ‘Why.’ He asked why, for every piece I was editing and assembling, I was putting our red robot on a blue background. I said, “I don’t know. I just did.”

He said, “Find out why and tell me. Don’t change it yet, but until you can give me a reason, maybe we should think of a new background for him.” From that moment on, I never did anything without having a defendable reason for doing it.

I learned later that the company I used to work for was to be sold to Google’s YouTube. I could have been a Googler, but I was redundant.

I worked for a while performing odd jobs. I work in the entertainment industry, so that means, mostly, being a production assistant on movies and television. It paid piss-poor, but it was something to pay the bills.

I ended up getting a job as a freelance editor for one of the first-ever video podcasts.  It was a job that made my editing better, because it taught me to look for the important things before making a project. Details are important.

I learned these lessons because the person I was working for did not know why he was doing things or what his details meant. He always gave the impression that he knew, but there was never a clear reason behind anything. Subsequently, it was not a successful company.

I worked at that job for a couple years, slowly becoming more integral and more important and less likely to be “redundant.” I found the more that I could inject myself into the anatomy of the company (and I use the term only in its most technical sense), he couldn’t fire me.

That also meant, I had nowhere else to go. I was stuck with this plan of action, even when he mysteriously ran out of money and couldn’t pay the five people that worked for him.

I slogged on. I worked on projects for the company that became increasingly fraught with politics. He was trying to create a deal with PBS, and even had a short-lived web-show with a very famous children’s TV creator. Meanwhile, I started to budget out and develop a refresh of the podcast brand. My version was more dynamic and fun and youth oriented, not talking-head-in-a-studio. Walter Cronkite was dead; his format should be, too.

One of the people that worked on the parenting show (with the very famous children’s TV creator or VFCTC) asked how I was doing. I said fine, that my wife and I were thinking about leaving New York City. It is a wonderful, terrible place, meant for the very young or the very rich; we were getting to be neither. I said that we were weighing escape options. Our list consisted of Portland, ME; Pittsburgh, PA; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL and a couple of other places that we had idly thought we might like to move to.

She perked up. “Pittsburgh?”

“Yeah, my wife’s family is from around there.”

“You want a job?”


It turns out that the VFCTC had created another program and it needed an editor for some live-action segments in the middle. The only hitch was that the editor needed to be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

My wife and I talked it over and I went to Pittsburgh to see if they might give me the job. The VFCTC was working in partnership with another company, so she wouldn’t be in Pittsburgh. I met with the partner company head, who informed me that he only wanted to look at my resume “because I’m curious.” He offered me the job right there. “Can you be here on December 5th?” It was the end of a snowy October. Without hesitating or consulting anyone, I said the only thing I could.


A month later, my wife and I tearfully left our friends in New York, moved into a house we hadn’t seen, in a city we were unfamiliar with for a job I only knew about two months earlier. I quit from the podcast program in a grand way, still being owed roughly $1500, even telling the new host she should run away (which she did in the end; she runs a start-up with her husband now).

My mentor would have asked me why? Why do all of those things?

I’m an editor on the award-winning children’s program, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and we’re about to finish our debut season. My wife and I have a dog and a yard and a house. We have a garden.

Though we miss our friends terribly, we are happy.


How to accept your inner idiot

Recently, a dear friend confided in me that he feels stupid and way over his head whenever he talks to people who are in the field he wants to switch into. This is mostly because he doesn’t know all the jargon or references yet. Here are two tips I gave him:

1. Write down the words and references you don’t know.The first time I told someone I wanted to be a writer, she started listing all of her favorite authors and asking me what I thought of them. I didn’t know a single one of them, and I felt like a fraud who had just been caught. Since that day, I always carry around a notebook (now I use the Keep It app on my phone), and when someone mentions an author I don’t know, I simply write it down and tell them that I will check it out. Instead of getting wrapped up in self-doubt, I take a pro-active step towards building my knowledge, plus it gives the other person an ego boost. Making it clear that you’re eager to learn something new is the difference between curiosity and ignorance.

2. Give yourself some time. Vocabulary has nothing to do with intelligence, it has everything to do with exposure. My mom uses the word pulchritude all the time. One day I casually used it in conversation and a friend of mine looked at me like she suddenly realized she had underestimated my intelligence. I didn’t actively build up my vocabulary, I just kept hearing that word. The longer you are in a particular field, the more you’ll know the vocabulary that goes along with it. Don’t think for a minute that you’re not capable of doing the work if you don’t know every term that’s thrown at you – in a few weeks, you’ll be throwing that word around too.

I created my new job!

Fort Collins Chiropractors

(Photo credit: drweisgerber)

A few weeks ago I was telling my awesome chiropractor that I was looking for a job. He told me to come in for an interview, and to be honest I wasn’t that excited. The idea of scheduling appointments didn’t fit in with any of my job ideals I wrote about in the post If I write it, it will come. I went for the interview anyway because you should never turn down an offer.

As soon as he started talking about what he needs, and I started talking about what I’m good at and what I want to do, we came up with a job that’s perfect for me. I am now the Director of Public Relations for his office! Fancy title, but really I’m setting up workshops, creating partnerships with neighboring businesses, networking with current patients, and monitoring our online presence.

After my first week on the new job, I looked back at my If I write it, it will come post, and I realized I’ve met most of my goals. I never thought I would want a job in PR, but it fits exactly what I wrote,

I want a job that intimidates me. Every day there’s something new to learn and there’s room to grow. I work with a team of energetic, passionate people and there’s always a long-term goal in mind. There’s something new to do every day, and I have some flexibility on my responsibilities and my schedule. I’m very good at noticing what needs to be improved so I would like the authority to be able to make changes. I’m great at organizing people and motivating them, so I would like to be managing several people, but I don’t need to do that right away. I actually enjoy giving presentations and public speaking.

Ok, I’m not meeting my salary goal yet, but as long as I can pay my bills I’m fine with making some sacrifices. The best part of this job (and I didn’t even consider this a priority when writing the original job request to the Universe) is that I’m in a healthy environment. There are always fresh fruits and veggies available, I get free adjustments, and exercise and nutrition are always the focus. I can’t even imagine bringing fast food to work.

I would definitely recommend writing a job request to the Universe, and I would definitely recommend my Chiropractor. If you’re looking for a Chiropractor in NYC I’ll hook you up!

If I write it, it will come

I hope everyone’s safe on the east coast. There’s no public transportation in NYC so at least I’m getting a lot of writing done 🙂

Lisa Bourque, the great life coach, recommended that I write about my perfect job. Sometimes just knowing exactly what you want helps you to get it, and sometimes just putting it out into the cosmos helps you get it. So here is my job description:

Dear Universe,

I want a job that intimidates me. Every day there’s something new to learn and there’s room to grow. I work with a team of energetic, passionate people and there’s always a long term goal in mind. There’s something new to do every day, and I have some flexibility on my responsibilities and my schedule. I’m very good at noticing what needs to be improved so I would like the authority to be able to make changes. I’m great at organizing people and motivating them, so I would like to be managing several people, but I don’t need to do that right away. I actually enjoy giving presentations and public speaking.

The actual job title is vague. Sometimes I wish I had a clear career path that would help me focus my job search, but I’m truly open-minded and adaptable. I’m a competent person and I believe I could do most jobs (very well). I don’t mind working with numbers, or in sales, or logistics, but my main goal is working with people, and more specifically people who enjoy themselves at work. I love making friends with my co-workers and when it comes down to it, I would be spending the bulk of my waking hours with them so it’s important that they’re cool.

Salary can be from $50,000-$500,000 (anything above that would just be gratuitous :P) with full health benefits, retirement contributions, and cool benefits like a gym membership, or a self-improvement stipend (I know companies that have this!). Oh, and I want at least 20 vacation days (heck I said it was my dream job).The only way I would accept a lower salary is if I get in early with an exciting start-up, where I can have a lot of influence and there’s a promise of financial reward eventually.

OK that’s my description of my dream job. Thank you, Universe, for your time. I look forward to meeting you at your convenience.


Tracy Young

p.s. I would really like to get this job by the end of November, if that’s at all possible.

A note on using people

As you might know I’m working my way through Julia Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way. You might not know that one of the things that has helped with this process (tremendously) is meeting with three other women to talk about our journey to discover our hidden or stifled artist.

Two topics that come up quite often is:

  • If you know what you want and ask for it, doors will suddenly open up and if you’re brave enough you’ll accept that gift.
  • The fear of not wanting “to use” people.

I don’t understand the latter hang up. I personally love to open doors for people, and I doubt I’m the only one. As soon as someone mentions something they want to do and I can think of someone who is in that field I get really excited to introduce them. It makes me feel useful and invested in anything good that comes out of the union.

I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine (and I’ll even remove all the fleas).

For example, I’m looking for a job right now which is always an excruciating process. When I finally had a lead, I realized the actual job was not going to be challenging enough and I would quickly grow bored with it. A part of me want to take the job anyway, cause I don’t know when the next offer will come around, but another part of me said that would be a decision made from fear. Someone else would kill for that job, so why should I take it and not appreciate it. Then I remembered an old co-worker who just graduated from college. She was describing the kind of job she wanted and I knew she would be a perfect fit  for the school. To make a long story short, she got the job and is happy, the school’s administration is happy that I helped them get a great employee, and I can only hope that when a higher level position opens up, they will keep me in mind. In this situation everyone is happy (well I’m still out of a job, but at least I feel good about helping others).

It helps me believe that when I know for sure what I want to do there will be an army of friends and acquaintances who will want to open doors for me. Success and happiness are not limited resources; if someone helps you achieve success they are not giving up any of theirs, and it oftentimes helps them feel more successful.  So if you know someone who might be able to help you, by all means ask them for help. And if you can help someone offer to do so. If your friend doesn’t want the best for you, than maybe they are not a real friend.

Stop using the internet.

If you want to find a job, get off the internet. This is strange for a blogger to say, since most bloggers secretly (or not so secretly) hope that one day a publisher will stumble upon their blog, offer them a million dollar book deal, and Jennifer Connolly will play them in the movie version of their blog. No, that has never crossed my mind.

Until that day comes, one must find a job, and if your one like me, you must find a job that is rewarding, challenging, and passion-worthy. It must be HeSo approved.

When applying for jobs online, I can’t help but feel that I’m putting all my hard work and energy into a black hole. It’s easy to get frustrated and take it personally when organizations completely ignore your application, or give you a canned email response. However companies receive hundreds of applications for mid-level jobs, and while it’s a full time job looking for work, it’s also a full time job looking for employees.

I decided to get more proactive with my job search. I asked my professional friends if they could suggest someone they admire in any work field. One interview led to another, and now I have two interviews set up for next week.

This is a great chance to learn about business fields that you might have over-looked. It’s also a great time to develop your interview skills, and really pinpoint what are your strengths and passions.

I would suggest talking to anyone who’s well connected, or in the field that you want to join. They might not have a job for you, but if they like you, they are bound to refer you to someone who will have a job for you.

I must admit it’s scary doing these interviews. While it takes a lot more time to apply for jobs online, there is something safe and anonymous about that process. You’re really not putting yourself on the line or taking any risks. However, in this economy, employers are looking for people who are confident and take risks, so if you are looking for a job as well, I encourage you to get off the internet and start making connections.

I got a promotion

Yay I got a promotion! As you might remember, I was feeling underwhelmed at my job – it wasn’t challenging enough. I didn’t want to quit teaching, but I have good ideas and I didn’t want to confine them to the classroom.

And then I was offered a position as head teacher/ assistant academic director for the summer center! It was like I created the exact job I wanted. I still get to teach, but I also get to mentor new teachers, and help make the school run more efficiently. Talk about visualizing what you want and then actually getting it.

This is going to be a busy summer!