Principal & Founder
Zoom City Advertising, North Carolina
Agency Job-hunting Lesson #102:
The door isn't necessarily open just because your foot is
My first job interview at a large agency in
New York was a dream. I'd met someone at a dinner party who
was willing to help me past the secretary wall and deliver
my resume to the Creative Manager in charge of hiring.
She called me right away. I was ecstatic.
I bought the most inspired interview outfit--something that
showed I had style and creativity, but understood the corporate
image. The day of the interview I made sure to be only a few
minutes early (don't want to look too eager), but, by no means
late (don't want to be a slacker). During the interview I
was positively bubbly. No art director in the building would
be as enthusiastic about their job as I would. My portfolio
was thin, but well done, and I showed how genuinely passionate
I was about working for this company. The Manager was thrilled
and she hired me on the spot. She asked that I wait a week
for her to call me about where she wanted to place me in the
company. I left the building on a cloud.
That was February.
Two weeks passed and I still couldn't get
her on the phone. The secretary wouldn't let me through. "She's
in a meeting." "She's at lunch." "I'll
take a message and she'll call you right back."
Sometime during the middle of March, I did
hear from her. She told me there was a position in the company
she wanted me to fill and it would not be a junior art director
job, but a full art director position on a high-profile account.
Could I come back in to meet the Creative Directors? (Is five
minutes fast enough?)
Once again, I had the perfect interview. And
it was my dream job. I'd be working on a beauty account, shooting
with top fashion photographers--my eyes were filled with stars.
I floated home. I sang while I washed the dishes. I talked
to my baby about all the glamorous things Mommy was going
to be doing.
And then I waited. I called. I gave up.
By June I had begrudgingly taken another job
in publishing as a full time freelancer. I just didn't want
to commit to something because I wanted the agency job so
badly. If they ever called, I wanted to be ready to dash out
the door. I routinely called the Creative Manager's secretary
every 2 1/2 weeks to leave a message. By the end of the summer,
non-stop whining had set in and my girlfriends had had enough.
From across the swingset, as we pushed our kids, one of them
said: "If you're so creative, and so right for the job,
then get off your buns and show it. Do something to get this
My friend had been a highly successful salesperson
for many years before she had children. She told me about
a time when she had hit a particularly thick wall with a customer
and decided the way to their heart was through the stomach
of the staff. She sent them a 20" sheet cake with her
pitch spelled out in icing. She got the account. Her inspiration
had come from a junior writer her husband interviewed who
intentionally set up his meeting during lunch. He showed up
with a pizza for everyone, and when the box was opened, his
resume was printed on the inside of the box. A sample of his
writing was under each slice.
My mind began to race. This wasn't an interview,
this was a creative assignment. So I set about it the same
way I would an ad. What did I want the Manager to do the most?
After much soul-searching I realized that what I really needed
was resolution. I'd be disappointed if she said the job was
no longer available, but by this point what mattered was getting
a definitive answer, and getting out of limbo. I wanted the
phone to ring.
So I sent her a phone. A solid chocolate phone.
Five pounds of imported Austrian chocolate in the shape of
an old fashioned circular-dial phone. In icing around the
edge of the dial it said, "Just trying to get a message
through, that I'm really anxious to hear from you." Hey,
I'm an art director, not a writer.
I made the shop call me after it was delivered
so I knew when she had received my gift. Her call came within
15 minutes. That was on a Wednesday and I was at work on Monday.
It was September.
Thanks to that job, and the work I got to
do there, I've had many others since then that weren't so
hard to get. But I still keep a folder to this day of specialty
shops that can customize different kinds of inventive gifts.
The address and phone number of one particular Manhattan chocolate
shop is on top.