Last Sunday morning we were awoken by Christmas carols. The choir was singing “The First Noel” at the Presbyterian Church next door. The church’s steeple reached the 12th floor, and we could see it out the bedroom window. The rich tones of the choir wafted up and gently woke Lisa and I.
I knew it was going to be a good week.
I have been pretty focused on the job search the past week and haven’t been in the mood for frivolity, so my effort toward blog writing has been lackadaisical.
But now I have a job, so the blogs can commence.
Before I tell you about my new job, let me first tell you about the job I didn’t take.
The significance is, this was the first job offer I have ever turned down in my entire life. It was really liberating.
Since the age of 16, I have worked one crappy job after another, just because I took the first offer that crossed my plate. For instance, my first job was at Hardee’s. Which to this day, is the only job I ever walked out on.
I then spent two years more than I should have at Ember’s, first as a dishwasher then as a waiter. Another crap job. My girlfriend at the time said she thought I was better than that job, and she was right, I just didn’t realize it.
There were a few cool jobs I stumbled into here and there, such as canoe guide and mountain ranger, but then there was the summer I spent as a weed whacker and the month and a half I spent trying to sell magazines door to door.
For the last five years I was the editor for a weekly newspaper in Marengo. Which I look at with mixed feelings. Whenever I told people what I did, I tried to talk it up, like I wasn’t ashamed about my lot in life. Instead of telling people I worked for Marengo Publishing Corporation, I would tell people I worked for the Des Moines Register.
I loved my time in Marengo, and it was a truly challenging position with many rewards, but I always knew I wanted to move up. And I often wondered, “What the hell am I doing here?”
So the move to Philadelphia was a chance to break the chain of unfulfilling jobs. It was a chance to start over with something new, fresh and exciting.
There were a few bites when I first got here – working for a green newsletter, writing for a start-up web site fighting for the plight of the disenfranchised and doing freelance for the Hammonton News. Unfortunately, the first two offers were non-paying jobs, with the hope of making some money down the road. The Hammonton News paid me just enough where I could buy a beer every now and then.
Then came the Bridgeton offer. This was a position I chased down. The Gloucester County Times (N.J.) had an opening for a reporter. I called up, and they said the position was filled, but the Bridgeton News had an opening. So I called up the editor in Bridgeton, and he invited me in for an interview.
But he told me up front, based on my resume, I was probably over qualified – and the pay might be lower than what I was used to. And it was. The salary was barely more than what I made as a weed whacker.
Since I was starting to become desperate for a job, I went ahead with the interview. As I wrote in my last posting, Bridgeton is a shithole. The editor was very nice, but the office was a little depressing. The job would have required up to 50 hours a week, covering city councils and school boards, doing run of the mill small town journalism stories.
I knew I could do the job. Hell, after 5 1/2 years in Marengo, I could do the Bridgeton job in my sleep.
After the interview, I called up Dad for some fatherly advice. And as usual, he came through. He told me to turn down the job. Dad said that when he got his masters in journalism from Iowa State, he was barraged with job offers from small town newspapers wanting him to be their editor, even though he had no newspaper experience. Dad spoke with his professor, and asked what’s the deal? He said the people who work at these newspapers are either fresh out of college or old lifers who can’t get a job anywhere else.
“Look for something better,” said dear ol’ dad.
I went back for the second interview at Bridgeton anyway, mainly for the experience. I wrote a story while I was there, and just as I finished writing the article, I noticed I missed a call on my cell phone (which had the sound turned off).
It was a number I didn’t recognize. I checked my voice mail. It was a message from heaven.
Okay, maybe not heaven, but close. It was a phone call from Atlantic City.
The Press of Atlantic City was hiring a special sections coordinator, and they liked my resume. They wanted me to come in for an interview.
Now, I’m pretty sure this isn’t kosher, but in the middle of my second interview with Bridgeton, I walked into their foyer to call the Atlantic City Press to set up an interview with them.
I didn’t really care, it was like getting a reprieve from prison. When I returned to the office, the Bridgeton editor offered me the full-time position. If I hadn’t received that message from Atlantic City, I just might have said yes. But instead, I asked if he could give me a few days to think about it.
I met with David at the Press two days later. He still had some interviews to do, but we had a good bond, and he was impressed with my credentials. I was feeling good enough about the prospects that I called up Bridgeton last Friday and declined their offer.
David said he would call me Monday or Tuesday to let me know if they needed me to come in for a final interview. I was nervous and jittery over the weekend. It felt like I had a baby hippopotamus sitting on my chest.
Monday came, and I got the call from David. They wanted me to come in for the second interview. They had narrowed down their choices to me and one other candidate.
As I said before, David and I had gotten along. He had even told me that I was their first and second choice. But just to ensure there was no doubt in their mind, I spent Monday night designing three mock-up specials sections, with each one including 5-6 story ideas.
The next day, I met with the advertising director Carrie. Halfway through our interview she said, “Well, I’m sold.”
She brought David in and they offered my the job. David told me they didn’t even bother to bring in the other candidate because they didn’t want to waste their time.
Before I left Tuesday, I had signed an offer sheet to be the new special sections coordinator for the Atlantic City Press. The offer is still pending the results of the background check and the drug test, but that won’t be an issue unless they switch my cup of pee with Tim Lincecum’s.
Otherwise, I start Jan. 5.
I truly am excited about this position. The Press does various special issues that are supplements to the daily paper for Atlantic City. The topics range from bridal, to home improvement, to food, to health care. It is up to me to determine what the theme of each issue will be, and what stories will be included. I will also write 1-2 stories per issue. I am in charge of hiring freelance writers and photographers, and help with the design. I also get to hire models and set up photo shoots. I am more excited about that aspect of the job than I should be.
In fact, that will be my first assignment, finding the modeling agency and doing a photo shoot of wedding dresses. To save money, I joked that Lisa could find some of her friends at Wharton to do it for free.
To tell you the truth, I feel like I have landed my dream job. And I really owe it to the experience I had in Marengo. They prepared me to do just about anything in this journalism business.