The date: October 26, 2015. I had just spent 4 years building my career as a religion reporter for a highly trafficked Christian website and this was the day that I would be released from what myself and my co-workers believed was a living hell of a workplace. There were rumors of layoffs and our health benefits had been cut for no particular reason months prior, but I was ignorantly hopeful for a promotion, not being fired.
My co-workers and I were called into a meeting in the middle of the newsroom by management who had just flown in from D.C. We were told that the NYC office would be closing and that most of us would be let-go. Our fears had come true. After the initial announcement, we had separate meetings where we were given severance checks, vacation pay and a final goodbye from our superiors. A few of us stayed on as work from home reporters, but myself and most of the other top earners were cut loose. I was happy and relieved that I would no longer have to deal with the poorly run establishment and I seemingly felt that the possibilities for new work would be endless. But boy was I wrong.
Fast forward to two years later and I’m still without a consistent job. The Good Lord did bless me with a side gig writing for a prominent hip-hop blog, but full-time work is scarce and the interview process is extremely competitive. After that layoff, I realized I missed going somewhere every day and communing with people. I also traveled to and from work with a friend who I had built a good relationship with over the years. Aside from that, I didn’t miss the company, but I did resent the fact that I lost everything in terms of being a religion reporter. During my time at the company, I had my own online video show, wrote long feature stories, and led a team of 4 reporters as an editor. What other company would let me do that? You guessed it. None. Not to mention I had been applying for other jobs during my time there and was never able to land anything. I knew going into a season of unemployment would be tough, but I just didn’t know that it would be almost impossible and immensely stressful.
By January, through connections and series of around seven interviews, I had almost secured a slot with the WWE as an assistant writer. Now, this was not going to be a glamorous job as the interviewer told me that I had better get good at taking lunch orders, but I didn’t mind working my way up from the bottom at a company I had admired since I was a kid. I was told I had a final meeting in the middle of January after starting the process in November, just before Thanksgiving. I thought this meeting would basically be me signing paperwork to start my new position. But instead, it was another interview with someone I had already interviewed with over the phone. We had a good meeting but I left feeling down. I knew I had been railroaded. Two days later I found out I didn’t get the job. I was livid at this point. The typical journalism jobs I was interviewing for wanted to pay me less than I made at my previous employer so I wasn’t taking them seriously. Not to mention all of them gave me writing tests that were a difficult obstacle for me since I hate being under the gun. I had proven myself for 4 years. I don’t need a damn writing or editing test. Google my name for heaven’s sake!
So, it was nearing March of 2016 and I still had no real prospects. I knew I had to venture into something else at this point. I still loved writing, but I knew it might not be my best choice for a 9-5. The salaries being offered to me were embarrassing and I had to make a move that would allow me to support a family in the future. I had heard about a Quality Assurance/Software Testing school that helps you with job placement when you finish and thought it might be a good idea to check it out. Tech is a booming industry so I figured it’d be a great place to make my money. I started the 4-month program in March and during the process, I had landed my part-time writing gig for the hip-hop blog which kept me afloat after unemployment ran out. The school gassed us with the promise of six-figure salaries and dream jobs, but all of that seemed too good to be true.
After the four months ended, it was time to get into the market. I felt quite optimistic, but it was back to constant interviewing in a field that I really had no work experience in. This made it extremely difficult to speak from an educated perspective. The school basically trained us to be senior testers and used a few tricks that I won’t reveal here to get recruiters to reach out to us. My phone was blowing up and I was excited. The salaries dwarfed what I was being offered in media and I knew it was only a matter of time before I got my “dream job.” Many of my classmates who opted for relocation landed jobs in a matter of weeks. For those of us who chose to stay in NY, it was a much more grueling process. After tons of rejections and learning the ropes in the interview process, I was able to sway one interviewer into thinking I was the right person for the job. He initially turned me down because he only needed one person. But just a few months later the recruiter called me and told me I was chosen for the team. The role was at a very prominent bank in downtown Manhattan. The commute was perfect and almost identical to my previous job at the Christian media outlet. I would start just before Christmas and the pay was amazing. There was only one problem. This was an 8-month contract.
Despite the short-term nature of the job, I was still glad to have my foot in the door in QA and thought this would make it easier for me to land the next position. The employers also alluded to there being more work at the end of the term. This is common practice for companies offering contracts since they need something to lure you in with. So I worked only 7 months and was finished there in June. Just before I was set to wrap things up, I actually thought I landed another QA role at Sirius XM. I had interviewed twice for the position and had been offered the role. I filled out and submitted all of the paperwork for the new job and even gave my boss two weeks notice only to find out that it had been a scam. One of the recruiters was setting up fake interviews and offering fake jobs in order to boost his numbers and I had got caught in the middle of it. I was devastated and had to go back to my boss and let him know. It was one of the most embarrassing things I ever had to endure. I had a few other interviews before my time ended at the bank, but nothing seemed to pan out. So the job ended and summer had arrived. I figured I’d enjoy a month off, work on my music and hit the market hard in a few weeks. I really thought I’d land something in no time. But again, boy was I wrong.
The market had changed and things were slow. I had barely gotten any calls in comparison to the previous summer. The salaries I was being offered were lower, and the barriers to entry were much higher this time around. I wasn’t able to land a solid interview in QA until September. That already had me discouraged. Not to mention I had applied to a prominent news organization to make a return to media through a friends recommendation and was given a writing test that I failed because of my “style” and “tone.” I was livid and felt like I was back in the same place I was in in 2016. Little by little I began to beat myself up and blame my incompetence for the reason why I didn’t have a job. But truthfully, I did a decent job in all of my interviews. There’s always somebody better than you so it never should come as a surprise when you don’t get something, but sometimes rejection just gets out of hand.
I was back interviewing and this time would be a lot harder than the last. I ended up traveling to New Jersey after labor day to interview for a position to sell some type of QA app that rid companies of the need for an engineer. The interviewer was a real jerk who asked me just about every QA question he could think of in order to stump me. I really wanted to yell at him during the interview, but I just left with my head down and knew it was a no-go. Another company called and told me that I would be a great fit for a role of theirs. The boss interviewed me and never gave me a yes or a no. That was around the beginning of September and I still haven’t heard back from them. Also, another prominent recruiter who I’ve had only good experiences with called me about a role a few weeks back and had me come in for an interview. I actually had to interview for the interview! They asked me one question and said I did well with my answer. The next day I received an email that they were moving forward with other candidates. When I asked for feedback, the recruiter told me that my answer was right but that I didn’t provide enough detail. I thought, doesn’t the recruiter prepare you for the real interview? That issue could have been fixed very easily, but unfortunately, I was barely given a chance.
At this point, I really was discouraged with the whole QA thing and was looking into media jobs again. A writing job I had applied for sent me a 3-hour assessment that I had to answer 20 aptitude questions, write 3 headlines and ledes, and complete a 1000 word article for. I finished all of that work in the allotted time. On Monday, I found out they were not going to consider me for the position, again, with no feedback at all.
It’s early-December and I still have no full-time employment or any real prospects in QA or media. At my age, it’s a really stressful place to be in. I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes in both QA and media only to get a two percent response. The recruiters seem to be more cutthroat than ever and the calls have really stopped coming in. I am not sure why it has become so hard to secure employment with all of the experience I possess. There should be some company willing to hire me for what I’ve done and what I’m capable of and not base my skills on a bullshit test that I need to complete in 30 minutes. I have over 30,000,000 views on my work and have interviewed a plethora of celebrities, politicians and religious leaders. I also helped build one of the most important applications in the world right now. I’m an extremely intelligent and knowledgeable worker who can adapt to any environment. While my peers decided to tough it out with media, I switched fields and learned a new craft. Getting work with all this education and experience really shouldn’t be this hard.
Finding a job is the worst job in the world that I never want to have again. If I was a lazy person who did the bare minimum, I would understand why it’s just not happening for me. But I have so many skills that could be used in the marketplace. I can write articles and code. I can flesh out business requirements and create headlines from interviewing prominent people. Shit, I can even help build the damn app that I am using to publish my articles on. Oh, and by the way, I also wrote a song about all of this. Thanks for listening to my story. I hope it helps people going through a similar situation.