In the Key Of Me (Circa 2006): My First Ever Blog Post

I was doing some digging on the Way Back Machine recently and came across this, my first ever corporate blog post, with the depressing dateline of Thursday, December 16, 2006.  That means I’ve actually somehow been doing this closing in on 7 years now, which is simultaneously scary and depressing – much like this post, my first realization that creative writing and corporate America weren’t mutually exclusive concepts.

amgen career fair

Because literally hundreds of posts later, my writing style hasn’t demonstratively improved (even if the content itself has increased in sophistication and relevancy).  In fact, it’s just become sanitized as B2B blogging has moved from bleeding edge to absolutely ubiquitous – a trend I’ve had to follow, by necessity.

But this existential essay I wrote when I was 24  proves the maxim that not only is youth wasted on the young, but tone, voice and style are all wasted on content marketing. Hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane from way back in the day, when I actually used to look like the guy in the picture on the right.

This post originally appeared on the Kenexa blog, but it’s not there anymore, much like my hairline in aforementioned photo.

How Did I Get Here? A Professional Retrospective in the Key of Me

How did I get here?  It’s a question of theological, philosophical and psychological implications.  Of course, I’m not interested in any of that hooey; if I were, I’d come across as pretentious, self-serving and ignorant of the fact that this is going on the web and not, say, in the New Yorker (Yes.  The New Yorker).  Instead, I’ll scale back a little bit and focus this first entry on how I became a recruiter and why I keep at it.  Pretty appropriate for a corporate blog, huh?

David Byrne, lead “singer” of the immortal eighties Brit pop group/performance artists The Talking Heads (you will understand the quotation marks around ‘singer’ if you’ve ever heard him “sing”), addressed the existential nature of my life in the “song” Once In a Lifetime.  In the music video, Byrne wakes up either 1) strung out or 2) in a Faustian IKEA catalog, pontificating:

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
wife
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?

Let me clarify some important issues here.  First, I don’t live in a shotgun shack nor a beautiful house, but a two-bedroom apartment in an area that’s becoming gentrified (you know rent’s going up when the taco stand is replaced by a gelato stand).  Also, my automobile is quite small and fuel efficient (I think ‘sporty’ is the word guys use; women call it ‘cute’, which of course, is quite an ego buster).  As for the beautiful wife, if you’re reading this and available, call me.  Please.

But the last question’s the rub.  How Did I Get Here?

What is a recruiter?  If you can come up with a fairly simple explanation, let me know, so my mom can start bragging about me instead of my brother, the accountant.  To this day, she doesn’t understand what I do, which is hardly unique.  I mean, essentially, an accountant is an accountant.  Or at least we have a template to imagine what an accountant looks like, and what they do (which in my mind involves a room full of oversized abacuses and ink wells and giant, dusty books with numbers scrawled margin to margin).

Recruiters are a little different. We are on the ground floor of Corporate America’s Ivory Tower, essential to every job search, from admins to CEOs.  We do most of our work on the phone, and the candidate has no idea of what we do between when we hang up and when they receive a call from a hiring manager.  They have no picture of us in their head (until they get the jolt of fantasy vs. reality that always strikes during interviews when they assume I’m either an intern or a lovable office hobo).  That’s because we’re as amorphous as U.S. foreign policy or Oprah’s waistline.  But we do have one thing in common, gleaned from everyone I’ve ever worked with, the core ethos of everyone in this business:

No one ever wants to be a recruiter when they grow up.

If you take exception to this theory, please let me know.  I would like to hear the details of your weird childhood.  I mean, it’s not like being a doctor, or a lawyer, or the first baseman for the Mets.  Although I bet if you were to call it “headhunting,” there’d be a steep increase in interest.

There is no “recruiting” major in college.  It’s barely alluded to in the few HR classes I took in school (because they sounded easy).  I remember taking a career profile in one, and using the latest in scientific methodology and pseudo-psychology, it was determined that I was a perfect fit to be a ‘dairy designer.’  To this day, I don’t know what that is (surprising, given I grew up in Kansas) and was vaguely insulted at the time.  I bet some poor kid across the room got “recruiter” and had a similar reaction.

Of course, this may have to do with the litany of euphemisms for “recruiter” that abound on every job board and every company I’ve worked for.  For instance, type in “recruiter” on indeed.com and you get: Human Capital Attraction Specialist, Talent Relationship Manager, Search Consultant, Staffing Professional, and even one for a “Corporate Matchmaker,” which was surprisingly descriptive in its simplicity.  A rose is a rose, if you ask me.  But of course, this phenomenon is what got me into this racket in the first place.

::YEARS EARLIER::

I was a college senior, and I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be a screenwriter/producer.  I had a B.F.A. in Writing For Screen and Television from theUniversity of Southern California’s top ranked cinema school (a degree whose value I probably should have gauged earlier by the fact they turned down Spielberg three times but let in the guy who gave the world the O.C.).

I had some great scripts and landed a fairly reputable agent who represented both Batman and James Bond (alright, Adam West and Roger Moore, respectively, but that’s something, right?)  And while I learned more than I ever needed about the mis-en-scene of the films of the French New Wave and giving characters tertiary plot goals (don’t ask, because I don’t remember), they left out one thing: writing doesn’t pay, unless you’re very fortunate or disgustingly talented.  I was neither, and I needed a job, stat, to start working off the 120 k my “golden ticket to stardom” had put me back.

My resume, to quote the Bard, was “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”   I had submitted it to every entry-level position I could find.  They never called.  I was close to going to the mall and filling out applications at the Piercing Pagoda or Sam Goody.  Even worse, I was about to accept the one offer I did get, to be an assistant to Paris Hilton’s publicist (this did not sound like fun for 400 dollars a week).  Then, I got a call.

I had applied for a position called “Talent Scout”; again, a fancy moniker for recruiter, but of course, who really reads job descriptions?   I thought I had applied for something in casting.  They wanted me to interview.  I didn’t ask any questions, put on my cool pseudo-bohemian threads (jeans, t-shirt, blazer) and went in.

They explained the job to me.  I smiled and nodded and thought to myself, “well, at least I’m getting interview experience,” all along thinking that there was no way I was going to sell out to corporate America so soon.  I played along.  And they bought it.  They called with an offer.  It was for 32 k a year, plus benefits, which is below LA County’s poverty line, but a king’s ransom for a kid with rent overdue.  I accepted.

And, to my surprise, I loved it.  There’s something empowering and altruistic about what we do; at its heart, we are matching up people and opportunities and helping improve their quality of life.  It amalgamates sales, HR and life coaching.  Best of all, I was getting paid for talking on the phone and surfing the internet, both of which I had much experience in.

For a writer, there is nothing better than looking at resumes all day.  It’s like reading Cliffs’ Notes on someone’s life.   Where they began, how they got to where they’re at, and my favorite, the objective statement: this is where I want to be.  And then you get to talk to them.  Learn their motivations.  Their frustrations.  The dirty juice on exactly why they were “terminated” that they probably hyperbolized for their spouses but will gladly share with you.

I was talking to 25 characters a day, distinct personalities all, acronyms draped after their name like medals (CPA, MBA, CISA, CPM, not to mention my favorites, black belts and green belts, which bring up unpleasant memories of taking Karate as a fourth grader.  GE’s creativity is clearly why Universal is now releasing such gems asYou, Me and Dupree and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army).

And here I was, with no credentials or experience, deciding whether or not they got a job.  I gotta admit, at 22, that’s one heck of a power trip.  I was just praying they couldn’t see me through the phone and somehow know that I was making it all up as I went along.  Thank goodness for my training in improv.  It was very elaborate scene work; but I was getting paid to act, so that put me ahead of all of my friends waiting for their big break.  Somehow, between now and then, I’ve picked up a few things too.

So here I am, working for two world-class companies that are at the forefront of their respective industries.  I’ve built up an expertise in finance and accounting recruiting (when I hear myself talking in detail about Sarbanes-Oxley implementation or SEC disclosure policies, I know my teenage self, if given a Delorean driven at 88 miles an hour, would set the flex capacitor for 2006 just to kick my own butt).   But best of all, I help good people find good jobs.  Because it’s scary out there.  Trust me, I know.

I left my prairie home and set out for Los Angeles with big dreams, and I feel I’ve achieved them in my own little way.  I’m proud of what I do, even if no one really understands what it is.

I’m not sure how I got here.  But I’m glad I did.

Note: If indeed I had a time traveling Delorean, I’d still go back to 2006 to kick my own butt, but mostly for writing this blog post and not appreciating how good life really was, and how much I still had to learn along the way. That process continues (and I hope it never stops).

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