by Erin Jansen, author of NetLingo, The Internet Dictionary
Having lived in places like New York & Paris, L.A. & London, Munich & San Francisco, I’ve built up a reputation for wanderlust. It makes for some very nice conversation, especially when you’re in the throngs of adapting to a new place. You see, my dream is to experience my version of something called “quality of life.” To me this is doing what you want to do in a place you want to do it, sharing it with those you love, and being happy and healthy along the way. It only stands to reason that if one can wrap one’s profession along in the mix, then personal success is an everyday reality.
Recently it came time to pinpoint a place where I actually might try and settle down. Perhaps it’s because I’m 36 going on 37 that I’m starting to think this way, perhaps it’s because I like the idea of laying down some roots.
I began my research several months ago and realized I had several very picky criteria: it had to be a new place where I hadn’t yet lived (that ruled out NY and SF); it had to be a cosmopolitan place with a variety of things to do (that ruled out Dallas and San Diego); it had to be a beautiful place with natural scenic beauty (that ruled out Austin and Atlanta and most places in between); it had to be a healthy place with little smog and traffic congestion (that ruled out LA and Denver); and it had to have a collection of notable companies with a thriving Internet scene (that ruled out Baltimore and Phoenix)…where was I at? I realized I was a west coast woman at heart (so that ruled out Chicago and Boston) and I’ve always been fascinated with Miami (but who wants to live there, that’s a place you’re better off visiting), ah-ha, there’s the Pacific Northwest! I hadn’t even really thought about it before.
By the next day my car was packed and I was on the road to check out Portland and Seattle firsthand. All I had heard about these places, for the most part, was the natural beauty, and of course, the weather. “Well” I thought to myself, “I’ve gotten some of my best work done in inclement weather – I mean who knew that for five days every single week it was grey skies in Paris?” I reasoned. Personally I love blustery type weather, the kind that moves things around a bit. If you put me on a ranch with sunny skies all day, I dare think I shan’t get a thing done. No, it’s the city buzz I’m after again, along with the intellectually stimulating people and weekend nature outings.
Well, was I amazed. Seattle. It attracted me immediately (I felt as if I’d outgrow Portland in a few months time). But this place known as The Emerald City, this relatively large city with so many restaurants and music venues, this relatively clean city right on the waterfront with so many cutesy neighborhoods and beautiful views, this totally cool-looking city with so many cool-looking people and places to go and things to do, this totally diverse state with kayaking and skiing, I felt like I discovered one of the last great outposts!
Now I’m here and I’m going through the challenging process of adapting to a new place where you don’t know a single soul. My friends always think I land right on my feet but the truth is that it takes awhile to feel a part of new community. Fortunately up here I feel like I’m part of this big secret that I want to keep along with the rest of us. I mean if I moved here, that means many more are sure to follow and that means real estate prices go up, population increases, and all the rest of it. I have hope, however, because I’m reading all I can get my hands on with regard to Seattle and it seems that your progressive nature, your civic organizations, your scores of activists and responsible citizens, your zoning laws, and that bevy of other factors that can either foster or stifle a city’s success, well it seems Seattle may be able to handle the growth, in style. Like it or not, you’re on the map as one of the most livable places in the U.S. Anyway, as a marketer, by nature, it’s hard to keep anything a secret, so I’m wandering around my new neighborhood in Belltown telling my story to anyone who wants to hear it, and that inevitably leads to “what I do.”
Next Stop: Internet Industry Employment
Ah yes, the Internet industry. The list of companies here reads like a Who’s Who in my little world, a smorgasbord of career opportunities just waiting to be explored during that exciting initial interview. You’d think they’d be chomping at the bit to get someone with my experience and expertise, but alas, my job search has been going on for weeks and no call backs? What’s going on here? Here’s the scenario: I know ten companies that I would give my eye teeth to work for in their marketing or online division; I go to their Web site and click on their jobs link; I see they have the perfect position posted that matches my skills and experience; I submit my condensed 2-page resume via whichever vehicle they request; and click, it’s gone. Long gone. Gone into some black cyber hole as in never to be heard from again? But wait I’m perfect for that position, don’t they even want to interview me?
As I look closer, all I see in the fine print are “no calls please.” Or “submit your resume using plain text” (gee that’s attractive). Or “we get thousands of resumes daily, obviously we cannot respond to each one.” Or my new favorite “We’re always looking for bright ambitious people so even though we’re not posting any information, give us your information for future consideration.” OK? Confused and a bit concerned I call my executive recruiter friend in SF, “don’t worry darling, it just takes a little bit of time,” she says. OK. So I make an appointment to meet with a local headhunter, “don’t worry Erin, with all of your experience some company is really going to be lucky to have you, it just comes down to who you know.” OK, who I know, well I just moved here so obviously I know no one! I want to scream but instead I calmly ask “Isn’t there another way?” Plainly it seems, there is not.
Ever since the advent of the most fabulous invention of my time, these companies (especially the Internet companies) are getting bombarded with resume submissions, from people all over the world. I had started submitting applications before my actual move here and thought “it will be much easier once I’m there when I can pound the pavement myself.” Pound the pavement? Am I naïve? After three weeks of taking matters into my own hands and showing up at the reception desk of the top ten companies I want to work for with resume in hand, all I got was a gatekeeper telling me “Oh silly, you shouldn’t have bothered coming in here, we only accept resume submissions online.” That and a bunch of blisters.
As a kid I always wanted to be a successful career woman and it is interesting to see how that definition has evolved over the years. What is of value now varies to such a degree that I believe it comes down to the individual story of the person that really matters. I carefully crafted my resume to represent how my varied experiences have contributed to me and my unique talents and successes, and added cover letters to illustrate how I meet all of the posted qualifications along with explanations of how I admire and want to contribute to the growth of their company (which is all true and authentic, it’s not some crafted BS, I’m genuinely interested in contributing to their success and growth). But how am I ever going to get to express that if no HR person will even review my resume amidst the thousands of others, let alone meet with me so I can present myself in person!? Convinced there must be some kind of conspiracy going on, I call my attorney and ask “Is there a law against a company posting a job opening if there really isn’t an opening for that job at the company?” No, he tells me, so I release any notion of beginning a new activist campaign.
Being a published author with a book currently selling in more than 950 Barnes & Noble Bookstores, and having a Masters degree with more than 10 years of online marketing experience, you’d think the Internet companies here would be interested in meeting with me (or at least have the technology to identify these kinds of keywords cross-matched with a local address so it can flash “call this one, call this one”). I just wonder if the Marketing Director or the Online Director is at the mercy of HR just like I am, and if so, how did that happen? Have we really put ourselves at the mercy of the machines and is all this convenience of technology distancing ourselves from each other as people, as my gay neo-luddite friend believes? And do they really blackball you if you try and call the person you’d be reporting to? I don’t know, what I do know is that it’s an exercise in patience. At least I have the entrepreneurial side of my profession to support me during my work-related career hunt; that and this new quality of life to experience during the gorgeous months in Seattle. I think I’ll start with my new investigation as to why there are so many happy hours around town (perhaps I’ll haunt the ones across the street from my top ten list, that seems like a fine enough place to network). In the meantime, I’ll do what most international sojourners do when they’re currently out of work, go to Paris. When I come back, I hope to be gainfully employed as I continue to make the transition to this lovely place. And I hope the Mariners will have picked it up by then (I sure am looking forward to being a Seahawks fan)! [24×7]
New Seattlite Erin Jansen is the author of “NetLingo The Internet Dictionary” and NetLingo.com. She is online at erinjansen.com.