Unless you’re the type of person who strives to obtain a straightforward blue/white collar career – say, a lawyer, doctor, police officer, accountant, or banker – and has stuck to your life rubric strictly, the process of job applications can be quite frustrating. It’s a tough world out there for people who are young, and creatively-inclined, to find work.
Take myself, for example. I was an A-student in highschool, published a poetry collection, my own album, made short films, played live music, got accepted into a private university, had 2+ years of retail experience, and own my own small business. Great right? Then why was I also rejected for entry-level jobs at Fred Meyers, Cinemark Movie Theaters, Rite-Aid, and Goodwill? The reason they provided was that I “did not meet the qualifications”, and of course, this was simply not true. It got me thinking; what ulterior reasoning did they have to deny me work? What could I do differently in the future to make myself appealing to ‘normal’ types of businesses?
For many of us, life is first and foremost about happiness and creativity. This is not in ignorance of the financial realities we all face, but in honor of how precious being alive truly is. Many of us, wether successful or not, will make the attempt to marry our passions and careers. That’s the dream, is it not? To make a good income doing something you love? Wether it’s starting a small business in your field, or publishing your artwork, taking this leap is an admirable and valiant stride. A stride that might not be profitable right away.
No matter how incredible your talent, it’s a simple fact: the majority of creatives will need a dreaded regular job.
But relax! That’s why this article is here. To take away some of the anxiety around job hunting, and to help you avoid a wave of the same rejection letters I received.
Step 1: Your Resume
Your resume is the cornerstone of your job hunt, and different businesses look for different things in a prospective employee.
This is why, for creatives, I like to propose:
The Jekyll and Hyde Solution to Resume Dropping.
It goes like this. Some businesses – like Fred Meyers, Rite-Aid, Cinemark, or Goodwill, just want to hire regular-to-do folks who don’t have any particular ambitions and won’t want to leave the company, ask for too many raises, or cause too much of a fuss. They want you to be dependable, honest, and ultimately normal.
Then there’s other businesses, who I have had experiences with too. Places like The Body Shop, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Pressed Juicery, and local small establishments, that focus on things you may be interested in. These businesses may actually value having an innovative and creative mind on their team.
Two different types of jobs? You’re going to need a resume for each one.
Building Your Jekyll Resume
- Google some Resume tips, and follow the ones that speak to you. Most resume advice articles are aimed at people seeking white-collar office work, so only use what is applicable to you and your job hunt. After all, you’re a broke millennial, not the Wolf of Wall Street. Google docs also has some excellent resume templates that can make your resume look beautiful, and even make it easier to build.
- Buff up your work experience with volunteer work, odd jobs, and seasonal activities. Did you mow your neighbors lawn a few times? You were previously an independently contracted gardener. Did you have a school mentorship program with a woodworker? You were an apprentice and learned valuable skills. That time you were a camp counselor over the summer? You are a team-builder with leadership skills. Ect, ect, ect. Embellishments, as long as they can’t disprove them, are always welcome.
- Put in as few clues about your age as possible. Age discrimination is rampant amongst hiring departments, so give them no indications to work with. And remember: it’s illegal for someone to ask for your birth date during the hiring process.
- Don’t list your creative accomplishments. I know! I know. Save it for your second resume. Keep your skills and experience related directly to typical work.
Building Your Hyde Resume
- Duplicate your Jekyll resume into a new document, and build upon it. You’re still going out for a job, and you still want to appear professional. Keep your work experience the same, keep your references and skills the same. It’s important to have your ‘regular’ resume be a base for the second.
- This time around, go for it! You want to add that you own a small business? Sure! And remember to make it sound appealing to your potential boss. Did you do freelance art? Web design (for yourself)? Run someone’s professional social media account? List it! Embellish it! Make it sound extremely fancy and intriguing.
And of course, second opinions are always good when it comes to professional documents. If you’re unsure, ask a parent, friend, or mentor.
Step 2: Finding a Job That Doesn’t Make You Want to Die
What good is a job if it ruins your life? It’s always been my philosophy that, unless you’re on the verge of extreme poverty, no job is worth your health or sanity. There are a few types of companies that can be specific circles of hell, especially for out-of-the-box thinkers. Here are some red flags that can help you avoid grueling work early on:
Companies with credit card programs will drive you insane. Many of these companies have “credit goals”, meaning you have to make a certain number of customers sign up for credit cards each month, or else they’ll cut your hours, or even fire you. This kind of pressure is nonsensical at best, and we really don’t need to be contributing to the credit problem in America, so avoid it! Macy’s, JCP, Victoria’s Secret, and similar outlets, all have pretty intense credit programs.
Companies with sales goals will also drive you insane. Okay, maybe not all companies with sales goals. But companies that emphasize sales goals? Steer clear. Here’s why. I used to work as a minimum-wage sales associate for a small local business. They would be upset with me, or my coworkers, for not selling “an average of 30 dollars per hour” when we would only have about 10 people walk into the store on any given day. This is why sales goals drive me up the wall! If you’re saying hello to everyone who walks through the door, being friendly, demonstrating good product knowledge, and doing your best – that’s it. If the customer doesn’t make a purchase, it’s not your fault, you tried everything short of manipulation and force. Sales goals exist to create competition and pressure, yet don’t necessarily increase revenue.
Sometimes, a crappy job can be fun. When you’re creative, the ideal job is one that gives you part-time hours, a living wage, and leaves your mind completely when you’re not on-duty. You want somewhere you can show up, do a good job, and leave. Places that might seem low-scale, disorganized, or outdated, can actually end up being a lot of fun. Waitressing at a medium-paced diner, working in a thrift store, doing concessions at a bowling alley, can give you the feeling of almost having an alter-ego.
Keep good company. Getting a job somewhere that only has one or two employees is exhausting. Much of the time, you’ll be the only one in the store, and therefore bored out of your mind. Seek jobs where you’ll have lots of coworkers to chat with, and share solidarity with if your manager makes a weird decision.
Step 3: Presenting Yourself To Employers
We’re going to return to that Jekyll and Hyde concept.
If you’re going out for a normal job, with a normal resume, make sure you too are fairly normal. If your usual getup is – and I’m talking about myself here – heels and a statement swing dress with a wide-brim vintage hat, it might be time to dig up a pair of jeans and a blouse. Similarly, consider removing some piercings, pulling your hair back, or borrowing your mom’s work blazer.
When I was interviewing to work at Shari’s (a family-oriented diner chain), I made a specific effort to present myself as a little dim-witted. Not brainless, just friendly and simple. I told them I played music with my dad, I liked clothing and jewelry, and I’ve eaten at Shari’s for years! After the interview, I received a great response, and was told then all loved me.
I had picked up on the fact that my “impressive businesswoman” tactic might not have been effective in this specific instance, and changed my approach accordingly.
Similarly, when I went into The Body Shop to drop off my resume, I let myself be a little more ‘me’. I wore my usual dress and heels getup, told them about my vintage clothing business, complimented the ladies on how they were all great saleswomen. I was charming, witty, and motivated. I was the kind of person they were looking for.
The point is – pick a persona that works for the job you’re applying for, and stick to it thoroughly. Outfit and all.
Try not to worry too much! Everyone who wants a job gets a job eventually. If you don’t like it, you can leave and find another one, and one after that, and one after that.
Just remember to continue thinking outside of the box, and moving towards your own goals: the important ones. Not if you’re able to sell 10 credit cards per month, but if you’re able to sit down at the end of the day and be proud of the life you’re living, and the path you’re on. Figure it out, slow down, take it easy.
This isn’t a fast lane, but it’s a lane worth being in.