For the first time since arriving back from my trip, I took an itty-bitty baby step--more of a crawl, if you will--in my quest for a real, honest-to-goodness job. I attended a job fair today put on by ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors) and the San Jose Mercury News. The all-day affair drew about 15 recruiters--mostly from California-based dailies--and many jobless applicants and fresh-faced college grads. Although I feel more simpatico with magazines, I am open to possibly being a features reporter at a big or small newspaper. And as you all know, I need to chuck the internship shackles. Obviously, I'm not quite ready to jump in as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times or the San Francisco Chronicle. Overall, the "diversity" job fair was encouraging and discouraging.
In my naivete, for about a minute I thought a real job lead might come out of it. Then I started hearing the same old song: we're not hiring right now, but here's what the candidate-mold--which you don't quite fit. Basically, I'm quite ripe for a position on a community newspaper or if a tiny town is in need of a town crier. The recruiter from the Oakland Tribune complimented me on my writing style (which I liked) and said what I needed to do was get the heck out of the Bay Area for at least a year and live in a small town like Tracy (which I didn't like). If I have to move, I will move. But can't I be picky about it?
Joe Grimm, the recruiter for the Detroit Free Press, was the keynote speaker at lunch. I had never heard of him before though he's quite the known figure in journalism job circles. He's quite a funny guy. He gave a "speech that wasn't really a speech" by telling us different recruiting anecdotes and asking us to say if what the applicant did "works or doesn't work." The last story he told really has you questioning how much of the brain a human neglects to use. A long time ago, a young woman who was the movie reviewer for the Free Press, was driving when a branch fell onto her windshield, resulting in her death. Just one of those unfortunate freak accidents. Shortly after, as the staff began mourning together, Joe received a call that started something like this: "So, I hear you need a new movie reviewer..." Though Joe said it was a little premature, the guy wouldn't quit pestering him so Joe said he could send in his clips of past movie reviews. The very next day, the clips arrived. Aside from not being very well-written, they came in a messy fashion--as though someone had spilled coffee on them. The guy called back and asked Joe to pass them onto the arts editor. Joe said no because frankly, they weren't good and they were stained. This is how the rest of the conversation went:
Applicant: "Oh, THAT. My cat got sick."
Joe: "You turned in clips that your cat got sick on?!"
Applicant: "Don't worry. He died."
After lunch, I caught the end of a panel--"How to get your first job." The Mercury News had rounded up four of their younger employees. By coincidence, they were mostly Asian American women--one of them was my editor for a year at the Daily Bruin(!)--and two of them write for the A&E section. I couldn't help but be a little envious. What can I say except I'm human. I felt like I was watching a special club in which I still haven't been able to gain membership. I haven't gotten out from under the shadow of internships (not that I'm not grateful for all the opportunities I have) but here are these girls who are of similar age and ethnic background and they somehow made shorter paths to very cool career destinations. Yeah, I know a lot of it is timing and luck. But, there's only so many times I can tell myself that without going too nutty. Oh well, if I feel blue, I'll just look at my baby elephant picture (See above).