As I stood in line to check into my hotel room at the start of the UNITY 2012 journalism convention, a fellow attendee asked what my expectations were. I replied that I wanted to network.
A couple hours later, the first recruiter I sat down with asked a series of questions about my proficiency in various softwares and then hit me with, “What’s your purpose?” “What’s going to be your legacy?”
He encouraged me to think about what my passions were and how I could explore them to earn a living on my terms instead of fitting into someone’s cookie-cutter job description. He said he didn’t want me to be discouraged because I would likely run into recruiters who were only interested in filling those cookie-cutter roles (the cookie-cutter metaphor is mine, not his). How right he was, I found, as I went over to the very next booth to discuss the status of two job applications I’d filled out online in anticipation of coming to the conference. I’d filled out these applications namely because they fit my skill set pretty well. But they were online positions for a network, and my focus has been newspaper journalism, an option I’ve pretty much taken off the table. Well this recruiter went over my resume offering a very constructive critique, before pretty much dismissing me with a smile.
I then told her that I was interested in learning more about a couple of positions I had applied for online. She asked whether I knew the job ID number or some other such identifier for the positions, and I did not. But I told her one was definitely a copy editor position, and I know I can edit the hell out of some copy. (OK, I didn’t curse). I then whipped out my iPad and found one of the job descriptions I had saved (sans the job ID number, the recruiter helpfully pointed out). I had highlighted in yellow every skill that matched what I can do. The page was practically drenched in yellow. The recruiter perused my page for all of five seconds before mentioning some software not highlighted in yellow. Another dismissive smile. And so it went.
I made stops at a few more booths and had some pretty good conversations at some before the lack of sleep the night before my flight began to take its toll, and I made my way back to my room. I was so exhausted I never had a meal that day. I woke up famished the next morning, hungry not just for food, but for the answers to that first recruiter’s questions.
This post is titled “Leaving Las Vegas,” and in the days ahead I’ll share some of the soul food I left with.