Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What am I doing wrong?

Yesterday, I was passed over for a position that I strongly believe I was absolutely, 100% right for.

This isn't the first time this has happened to me, not even the first time this year, in fact.  But it still perplexes me a little bit.

Since graduating from New York University, I have to be honest... It's been an immense struggle finding appropriate work of any kind. A great deal of this problem has been purely an issue of dumb luck and an accident of timing. I graduated with my Masters in May of 2007, right at the tipping point of the economic bubble.  Just a few months later, and the recession had officially started.

There had been ruminations earlier in the year, even by the very architects of our economic destruction such as "The Maestro" himself, Alan Greenspan, who said in February of 2007:

"When you get this far away from a recession, invariably forces build up for the next recession, and indeed we are beginning to see that sign..."

Greenspan's commentary, while at least miles ahead of the idiotic schlock being pedaled by his replacement, was still shockingly vague and obviously lacked much in the way of any robust explanation or evidence.  For Greenspan, it was just a hunch - possibly left over from the days where he actually had any valuable understanding of economics.

For the fine economists of the Austrian School however, the predictions were already piling up... They had been warning of the coming catastrophe since Greenspan started rapidly expanding the money supply in 2002 causing the initial boom and subsequent period of malinvestment.

After warning of the unsustainable boom in housing in 2004, by April of 2007, Swedish economist Stefan Karlsson wrote:

"However, barring such an unexpected positive shock, it seems increasingly clear that we will see a US recession this year. The main reason for this is that the housing bubble that fueled the recovery of the last few years has essentially burst."

And by October of 2007 - when Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was still busy telling everyone that the economy was just super-peachy and there was nothing to worry about - one of my favorite economists, Robert P. Murphy was busy warning that we were on the precipice of what he believed would be a tremendously severe recession.  He wrote:

"For those versed in the Austrian theory of the business cycle, as developed by Ludwig von Mises and elaborated by Friedrich Hayek, the aggressive Fed "stimulus" is ominous indeed. Not only will it pave the way for much higher price inflation than Americans have seen in decades, but it will also exacerbate what could be the worst recession in twenty-five years.
From 2001–2004, the Fed kept (real) rates at the lowest they've been since the late 1970s. One of the consequences that has already manifested itself is the housing bubble. But a more severe liquidation seems unavoidable. The recent Fed cut may postpone the day of reckoning, but it will only make the adjustment that much harsher."

It's now quite clear who was correct.  Yet the Austrian School is still ignored, in favor of the vagueries of Monetarists like Greenspan and the complete, and utter failures that are the Keynesians...

All the more annoying to see Bernanke get reconfirmed and praised for all of his "excellent" work, isn't it?

All that said, I actually didn't set out here to write a blog about economics today (for once!).  I am just supporting the point that by graduating with my Masters in mid-2007, I entered the job market at the absolute worst possible time in a generation... Debatably in the worst possible time for 80 years, in fact.  So, yeah... That's the definition of horrendous luck, as far as I'm concerned.

So it hasn't been very fun...  Jobs have been few & far between, and the ones that have come with much difficulty have disappeared in an instant.  It took me 4 months to land my first job in Los Angeles overseeing the live instrumental music productions on four of Holland America's cruise ships...  That job lasted only 8 months before the whole program was basically dismantled.  Then it took me another five months or so before I finally started working as a music editor for a music software company.

While I'm actually still great friends with some of the people from that company, the job itself was in a constant state of deterioration from the moment I did my first interview.  What started out as a full time job paid at $60k a year dropped down to a 30 hour a week job at $40k a year, and within 6 months, it was downgraded again to a "less than 30 hour a week" job paying $35k a year...  Eventually, the predictable trajectory of that position played itself out and I found myself out of work yet again.

For the record, there was nothing to be done about that - it was just a consequence of a declining economy - and I walked away on really good terms with everyone and with one of the best letters of recommendation I've ever gotten.

Now... Fortunately, I seem to be good enough at what I do that I am still employable in a freelance capacity - but with a sizable graduate school debt, car loans and other payments, freelancing isn't really an awesome long-term solution unless the projects coming in were consistently high-budget.  Of course, anyone who's ever worked freelance should know how much of a fantasy it is to expect consistency of any kind - much less to expect to be consistently paid well for your work.  Hell, it's often too much to expect that you would even get paid on time!

So, unfortunately, really steady work and massive budgets is just not the situation I find myself in most of the time and it's a gigantic struggle to stay afloat in this environment.  Sure, there are rewards in the form of time, personal pride and the freedom to set my own schedule (which seems to strangely involve me working from 10pm - 4am more often than not), but the harsh reality is that I already know that this isn't sustainable.

So every week, some time is devoted to finding a "real" job... By which I mean, a W2 job where I show up and someone else tells me what to do, then I do it, get paid & go home, never to think about that day again.

Over the past 3 years I've seen a steady decline in available jobs for someone with my background & skills. This is somewhat shocking as I have a fairly considerable range of abilities.  Without going into excessive detail, as a media producer my resume is pretty good - even in spite of the rough environment I've been stuck with since college.  And aside from the skills provided by my formal music production education, I've gone out of my way to learn a lot about graphic design, website creation, videography & video editing, and maybe most importantly of all, business management, systems organization and economics.  Of course, I have my weak areas as well - the most glaring being salesmanship (which is admittedly the one thing I probably most need to do better).

But one way or another, I've still forged on and applied for a number of positions that I've been qualified for - all while still trying my best to work in a freelance capacity.  Most of these jobs I really don't care about, and were either marginally qualified for or really not interested in anyway.  As I noted earlier on this blog, my career goals have shifted from working generally in entertainment towards working in media production for educational & liberty-oriented projects.  That is the goal, and one I continue to pursue diligently.

And that's where it gets frustrating for me... There have been a few jobs in the last year or so which I have been perfectly qualified for and which I have been immensely passionate about doing.  Yet, in the last month I was told that I was in the "top 20" candidates for one, and I went through 2 rounds of interviews before being rejected for another.

I'm struggling to figure out why...

Don't misunderstand me either, I'm not whining - and I'm not denying the fact that it is possible that there are 20 people out there who are better, more passionate or who have better resumes than I have with respect to these positions.  I submit, as humbly as possible, that I find that a bit unlikely...  But it is certainly possible.  I won't rule that possibility out, but it seems more likely to me that I'm actually doing something wrong.

I feel like perhaps I've missed a beat somewhere or I've offended someone perhaps - although to be quite honest, the one person who I thought I might have offended recently re-blogged my Profits video with compliments, so I have considered that I may be wrong about that.

So, I'm getting back up again, dusting myself off once more and taking the ego bruising.  But anyone reading this probably knows me at least enough to realize that I'm a pretty decent student of economics and that I recognize that the market provides signals which can only be ignored at one's own peril.

Is the market telling me I'm not good enough, not wanted or not well-suited for the path I have chosen?  In this I mean specifically producing educational & libertarian media.  Am I being rejected because I lack the appropriate connections or friends, or because I tend to be suggesting a somewhat different approach to these things than a lot of the people I'm pitching my ideas to are used to?  Or am I being rejected because I'm not actually the right guy for these jobs and should give up on this career path and start from scratch?

My goal for two years now has been to become a prolific producer of a specific type of media, but for all my efforts, I still feel like I'm spinning my wheels.  The projects that have gotten me the most notoriety have been done painstakingly with no funding what-so-ever and in my spare time.  I can't live like this indefinitely.

As it says in the blurb at the top of this blog, learning when you're wrong is the first step towards being right.  And this is my livelihood.  If I am going about something the wrong way, or if I have chosen poorly - I need to know.  I think that now's the time to look outside myself and ask my friends and readers.  So...

Please... You tell me:  What am I doing wrong?

1 comment:

JLamborn3 said...

Sean ... the hardest thing about the job hunt is selling yourself. I know I can sell exactly one thing: the US Marine Corps. I can't sell myself for nothing, or I'd have had a dream job and a dream lady a few years ago. Knowing the company, knowing their direction and what they need, can really help you mold and scale your pitch -- how is Sean Malone uniquely qualified to meet those needs? I've seen your work. I think it's quite good. Of course, trying to be a libertarian in Los Angeles might be contributing to the difficulty, too ...