Wednesday, June 6, 2007

An introduction (and an overview)

Over the past couple of years, many (many many) people have told me that I need my own column (or, of course, my own reality show...but since I am a writer far more than I am an actress, I would rather have a column), on what it is like to be a young woman looking for a job, while attempting to stay creative and true to herself, in this very crazy world (and, in specifically, a very crazy city called New York.) It is a great deal easier than it sounds! And not just looking for a job...being an artist...being slightly insane...being single...being real...

I graduated in 2004, with a resume that I thought was pretty darned good. I had been nationally published, graduated with honors, and I had done a few internships, including one of which I had to make 9,000 calls to bakeries to find out who had the best brownies to lure a certain actress to come to a party the firm I was working with was throwing. I then had to deliver the brownies to her doorman and had a glimpse of how the other half lived. That internship treated me like a little slave, and didn't pay me, but I didn't care! I got to have my name published in a real Broadway Playbill as "Press Intern" because of it! That made up for all of the agony. A real Playbill! I later realized that you cannot pay rent and buy food with a Playbill with "Press Intern" listed before your name. However, I handed out copies to all of my friends and relatives and still stare at that page at least once a day.

When I was a teenager, I started a correspondence with Frank Sinatra's daughter, Tina. She used to read my letters to him as he sat up in bed in his striped-blue pajamas. (Him...being HIM! FRANK SINATRA! The Voice! The Chairman of the Board!) This eventually led to me being a lead story on Access Hollywood as "The Teen Who Touched Frank Sinatra's Heart." I somehow managed to include this on my resume as well. If Frank Sinatra can't get you a job...well, who can, really. (I later discovered that even Ol' Blue Eyes isn't that powerful.)

The years I had spent working part-time at my local Barnes and Noble even seemed to be a lovely thing to have on my resume. I had read many books, planned dozens of events, and dressed as Hermione for several Harry Potter parties. (As the only staff member who was a young girl with crazy curly hair, I really had no choice in the matter.) I even cleaned up after Jon Bon Jovi's children!

I graduated full of promise and ambition! I was going to make! "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" played in my head as I bounced down the street going on my first real job interviews in my first grown-up suit, with nothing but my portfolio and my dreams!

However, I didn't get the first job I interviewed for. Or any of the others. In fact, it took me almost two years and 7,436 interviews until I finally landed my first full-time office job.

After a while, I just began applying to things left and right without even reading the job descriptions most of the time. I became depressed and hopeless, wondering when things were going to fall into place. I even confided my troubles to Maria Shriver at a book signing. I told her I had recently graduated college, wasn't sure what I was doing, and was freaking-out.
Maria smiled at me and said, "Oh, don't freak out! What you are feeling is perfectly normal! Everything is going to be okay!"

I believed her. Maria Shriver would never lie to me! (I then told her how much I loved how her hair looked. It was curly that day.)

My own mother tried to convince me that my own curly hair was the bane of my existence. I would never land a job as long as I had curly hair. Only girls with straight, short bobs got jobs, claimed my mother.

I did have some sitcom-worthy experiences at my interviews, though.

Among them:

-one with a very creepy lawyer who asked me, "So, are you a good liar? This isn't about managing my office; it is about managing my personal life. I live a very interesting personal life. You need to learn to lie." I glanced at a picture of his cherubic children on his desk and wondered how much I would have to lie to their mother about their father's affairs. I decided I just couldn't do it. He told me he smoked heavily in the office, so I told him I had asthma (I don't. But I guess I WAS a good liar after all)

-a place where the HR director warned me that my potential boss would make my life miserable. He'd treat me like dirt, but the end of each day, I'd feel a victory that I survived yet another 9 hours with him. I wouldn't be allowed to talk to him in the elevator, and she guaranteed that he would make me cry

-with a place that does award shows for advertising (I know..."huh"?) where they shook my hand and said, "Welcome aboard!" and then I never heard from them. Ever. Again.

When I finally DID find a job (with a powerful theatre company) it was one of the happiest days of my life. I skipped down the street, calling everybody I knew and telling them my good news. I was now officially a member of the Broadway industry!

For the next year, I was the best office assistant (did you know that there was a difference between "office assistant" and "administrative assistant"?) I was on time every day, picked out just the right cakes and cards for my colleagues' birthdays and I gave that job everything I had.

I got free tickets to every show playing, and even got to attend the Tony Awards. Relatives came out of the woodwork to ask me if I could get them Jersey Boys tickets. I wore my title with pride. I deserved this.

Until that day (only a week before my birthday, so after all of that, I didn't even get a cake or a card) when my boss told me, "Everybody loves you. You've done a wonderful job. Now, pack up your desk and never return."

In shock, I cleaned off my desk, ripped off the pictures of Harry Connick, Jr. and my niece off of my bulletin board and went trudging down 42nd Street. Of course, it was raining. Worse yet, I had tickets to see Les Miserables that night, which isn't the best show to see when you are depressed. I sobbed throughout the show and although I was grateful I wasn't dying in the French Revolution, I was frustrated and depressed and wondering what would become of me.

I began applying like crazy once again, trying to block out my experience from three years ago out of my mind.

I've already had some amusing experiences!

-I applied to work for a theatre company. I later learned it was to be the assistant to a puppeteer. One of the tasks was "dog-walking". Now, I wonder, was that for a puppet dog or a real dog?

-One in which I accidentally referred to the HR fellow guy Jeff Meade as Daniel Meade to the hiring manager. Daniel Meade is the boss of Ugly Betty. ("Shoot! His name isn't Daniel! That's Betty's boss!" Then I thought, "You know what...if you can't laugh with this guy, then you don't want to work with him!")Me: You know why I called him Daniel by mistake...because Ugly Betty's boss is named Daniel Meade!Potential Boss: I LOVE THAT SHOW!
We chatted about Ugly Betty for a bit, and on my way out, he said, "See you later!" I wanted to say, "Oh...but will you...will you?"

-right after that one, I went to another interview, at a place the packages horror films.(Cuz...you know...I just love horror movies...yup...I'm glancing at my DVD shelf now...there's Audrey Hepburn movies and Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musicals and TONS of bloody horror movies.) Utter randomness! I really just wanted to get out of there. I was in there for all of 90 seconds, and had to sit in a chair which majorly sunk in so I was pretty much sitting on the floor!The dude begins our interview with, "So, ask me questions." Then tells me, "This office is very slow. Not much happens, and I'm not here most of the time." He asked me if I knew Quicken. I told him no, in hopes that he'd dismiss me. He didn't. I finally get to leave, called out a hearty, "CONGRATULATIONS!" to the very pregnant receptionist and then went skipping down the street, shaking my head in amusement and looking forward to watching my beloved Apolo Anton Ohno dance his little heart out on my television set that night.

Believe me, there is a lot more where that came from.

I send updates to my friends, and they have told me that they believe my lay-off happened for a reason. They believe that this means that I should just take my time to do what they think I do best...write! There are many young women out there in my position who would be amused and uplifted by my experiences.

I will be frequently posting my past, present and future adventures right here. Stay tuned!

Diana Rissetto

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