Unemployment Diaries: California Edition Part VII

After one week I landed my first interview. I was excited to have at least one hit on an application and spoke with HR to set up a time and date to interview.

Before I responded to the offer, I looked them up online and did some research. I suggest all future applicants of any kind check out the magic world of Google and Glassdoor. I inspected its website and social media pages as well. It seemed legit. I even dug further to make sure I wasn’t pulling just the top posts that made them look reputable.

All good.

The only issue I found was nowhere did it explain exactly what the company’s function was and what brands it collaborated with. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least go through the interview process to see what came out of it, plus, there’s no harm in practicing your interview skills.

I booked the interview.

A few hours later the pit of my stomach told me to continue searching, because there wouldn’t be any harm in being more informed. And I’m glad I did.

The company has affiliates all over the country, so the reviews I had read and dug through weren’t for the specific location I had landed. When I noticed my error I Glassdoor-ed its specific location in Orange County and realized far more negative reviews than positive.

“They promise you a chance to move up in position, but instead keep you in a low hourly wage position. They have a high turnover rate.”

“I was hired as the marketing coordinator under the impression I would be working on campaigns, but I ended up selling products in Costco at a booth.”

“It’s all a lie.”

“If you want to work in grocery stores at a booth all over Orange County and never get reimbursed for gas, this is the job for you.”

Needless to say my heart sank well into my stomach.

I had already agreed to come in for an interview and kept in mind, if anything this would be for practice.

I spoke to family, explained the situation and how it angered me a company thought it was ethical to imply it was a marketing job, when actually it seemed like a sales position. I went over questions I would ask to see if the reviews had been true, and told the Hubs numerous times I wouldn’t be suckered in, I wouldn’t take another waitressing job with a different title.

My mother-in-law scouted the Internet for additional job listings and emailed links to apply. I spent the next two-isn hours applying to as many jobs my fingers would allow before cramping. I will find an honest job.

***

I got to the offices an hour early. I wasn’t too nervous, but more anxious to see what would be said about the company. When I walked into the lobby it was filled with older men wearing suits, all filling out an application on a standard clipboard. This could be a good sign, right? 

I figured I would be waiting for quite some time because of the number of people ahead of me in the waiting area, and was surprised to hear my name called 10 minutes later.

A lady escorted me to her office and closed the door, and with any conversation it started out with regular chitchat. I explained what type of position I was looking for, why I was interested in communication and how I ended up in California. I mentioned I wasn’t too sure what the company provided for its clients and if she could elaborate both the position I was interviewing for, and the company’s mission.

This is where it went wonky.

She explained because of weird California laws she wasn’t permitted to discuss the business aspect of the company on its website. I think because she knew I was new to the area, this would make sense to me, because what would I know about California? 

They worked for small brands trying to make an impact in the consumer world and promoted products at different events. She continued the conversation about what her job description was and her daily roles. That she needed help managing the 40+ events she manages daily.

I was taught to listen and observe while attending journalism school, and I noticed she never actually answered my question. So I asked again, using different terminology. And again, she circled back to what is expected of her in the business, this time including “big marketing words” to sell the company’s mission. She was trying to sell me the job. 

After she finished, I asked again what exactly my daily function would be in this office. And again, she circled back to her job description and the company’s mission.

By this point I was almost certain I would end up at a booth in Costco selling vegan corn chips to busy shoppers who didn’t want to be bothered.*

 I finally asked, “Would you be putting me in a Costco to sell these products on a regular basis. I have read some reviews about this company and would like to know if these are true, because that isn’t something I would be interested in.”

She didn’t appreciate my question.

“Well, I can’t just hire you into an executive role without proper training. We can discuss your role further at another time.”

And with that she stood up, extended her hand, thanked me for coming in and showed me the door. I held in my fits of giggle until I had left the lobby doors. I wasn’t even upset; I was liberated.

I almost wet myself replaying the interview in my head and especially enjoyed the executive position remark. I mean, when did I imply I wanted to be hired as a top dog? I asked multiple times what my daily duties were, and she couldn’t give me an answer without patting herself on the back, or speaking about how wonderful of a service they do for their brands and business partners.

I was polite, I let her finish her rambles, I smiled and asked questions (which heads-up, you’re allowed to do!). She realized she wasn’t the smartest person in the room, and I wasn’t falling for her sale’s pitch, so she dismissed me. I cried laughing the entire drive home.

***

After I got home, I called immediate family and relived the bazaar interview over and over again. I was pleased I hadn’t allowed her to distract or circle talk me away from my original, perfectly understandable, questions. And I felt validated everyone agreed.

I didn’t barge in to the interview demanding high wages. I didn’t feel I acted like I was above any job because I had my bachelors. And most importantly, I didn’t imply I was desperate for employment. Plus, I learned a little something to watch out for in future interviews.

It took about two hours to inform my family before I sat down at the computer to check out more job listings. I wanted to check my emails first, not that I was expecting a second interview. Sitting at the top of my inbox was an offer from a nonprofit to schedule an interview.

I responded quickly and crossed my fingers it wold be better than the last.

My First Agency Tour

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Photo Cred: Awo Eni

Today PRSSA and myself got the unique chance to tour the Weber Shandwick office in downtown Dallas, inside the Comerica Bank Tower. The PR firm represents over 3,000 companies and have multiple offices in 80 countries, including the United States, London and Middle East. In regards to the work they do, they are a little more corporate and little more traditional.

After climbing to the 16th floor, we entered a lobby that had double glass doors on opposite sides, upon entering the bunch of us were shuffled into a magnificent conference room with a gorgeous view of downtown Dallas.

We got a run down of the afternoons schedule from Senior Vice President Tracy Donalson and then dove into specifics about the firm and its daily routines from Neil Nowlin, executive vice president and general manager of Weber and Shandwick. Lesson one, it’s never routine in their offices.

While listening to Mr. Nowlin talk, these are a few of the things we all took away from his speech:

  1. Take the initiative in all aspects of the job.
  2. Alway bring a positive attitude into work, a bad attitude is just as contagious as a good one.
  3. Be willing to do anything, don’t be that guy who walks in to an interview with stipulations and a chip on your shoulder. If they want you in a hotdog suit, waving at potential consumers, JUST DO IT.
  4. If you haven’t had a lot of experience thus far, think about what you can do. For example, can you take on a leader ship role in a club at school? Have you volunteered in your community or tried to work for a nonprofit? Is there a political campaign you can volunteer with?
  5. Practice your writing skills! The PR world needs strong writers, have you mastered the art of writing persuasively?
  6. NO RÉSUMÉ ERRORS!!!
  7. When submitting résumés make yours stand out, one guy sent his on top of a cake!

Then, we got to hear from staff who worked in the technology department, graphic design and videography department and most importantly, from the people who manage the interns they have quarterly each year, about six to seven in each batch. So if you are looking for something in the agency life, check out the opportunities here.

I also hear Senior Art Director Matthew Weir is always looking for a graphic design intern, and he hears The University of North Texas has one of the best programs around, so tell your friends.

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Gazing at the social media hub Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
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The Weber Shandwick break room. What a view! Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
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Another great view from their office windows. Photo Cred: Shannon Randol

My Morning Wearing Red

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Photo Cred: Google

This morning a few PRSSA members and me visited the offices of The American Red Cross North Texas Region in Dallas. Our host Regional Marketing Manager, Amy Yen and Communications Associate, Lisa Morgan, showed us around the impressive and irreplaceable organization. We were also rewarded with a shortened version of the regional communications programs.

Its mission is to, “Empower online social communities to execute our mission.” A lot of its disaster response is done through social media, and on any given day the organization is mentioned around 4,000 times each day, according to Yen.

During Super Storm Sandy, there were an estimated 2.5 million conversations occurring on social media between users, The Red Cross tagged 4,500 tweets to follow up on. Workers and volunteers tracked tweets by keywords, such as: lightening, tornado, ice, and storm. How were they able to do this?

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Photo Cred: Shannon Randol

The DigiDot is a humungous operating system sponsored by Dell and ran on Radian6. “A Hootsuite on steroids,” explained Yen.

The monstrous network is located on the second floor. Upon entering the room, you immediately notice the large projectors hung front and center. To the left there are four plasma screens, each monitor various media aspects around the country. There are only two DigiDots currently operating, one being in Dallas, the other in Washington D.C.

There are two reasons why The American Red Cross North Texas Region acquired the DigiDot, the first being DFW had a huge presence on social media, the second being North Texas is the most disaster prone area in the country, you name it we got it, now even earthquakes!

Though all the technology and high tech equipment is impressive, it’s the people behind the computer screens who are the real life changers. A majority of the workers at The Red Cross are volunteers, 97 percent, actually.

Volunteers are the bread and butter of this organization and The Red Cross is ever so thankful for those people. There are 75 volunteer positions offered and they are always searching to hire a few rad interns throughout the year. If you are interested in becoming a part of this nonprofit organization, check out their website here. You’ll be grateful you did. I could only hope I score its summer internship.

As we toured the rest of the building, we were able to see their emergency storage areas. The first being a medium sized room with black containers, each labeled with its materials. Items like snacks, flip-flops, t-shirts, stuffed animals for children, and their new pet comfort bags – thanks to their new partnership with Don’t Forget to Feed Me.

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Photo Cred: Awo

Up to six or seven times a day, police and firehouses call The Red Cross to notify them about families or people, who are in need of aid, circumstances ranging from house fires or flooding.

The next storage area was in a large warehouse. Where supplies were stored on pallets and carried in bulk sizes.

To conclude my experience, I leave you with a fun fact: President Obama sent his first official tweet from The Red Cross Twitter handle page, as he too was once a volunteer with The Red Cross. What a catch phrase, right?

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