Thank You for Your Interest in Our Company…

…unfortunately, we have chosen another candidate at this time but we will keep your resume on file for future positions that are more in line with your qualifications (the biggest lie next to “I have read the terms and conditions”). How many of you have received hundreds of those emails? I certainly have. So many, in fact, I could usually determine which recruitment automation software the company used. Occasionally, my name wouldn’t even be in the “to whom” area; it would simply read “dear candidate” or worse “dear NAME.” Hashtag, mail merge fail. When you constantly receive rejection emails from potential employers and collectively fewer than 15 interviews over more than two years, you breakdown emotionally and psychologically. How could it be? I did everything society says you’re supposed to do in order to make-it in this life. I had many years of valuable work and volunteer experience, bachelors and masters degrees, 12 indie films, and hundreds of peer-reviewed articles and a book. Still. I was unsuccessful in landing any position directly or even indirectly related to my professional and academic experience. After 956 unique resumes and cover letters and searching for over 26-months, I finally landed a position after graduate school AND it’s in my field; but, there were plenty of times along these more than two years that I was simply ready to give up. After a while of searching without even an interview, depression set in and it became physically sickening to continue to search for a job.

Although I was confident that I was doing everything I could in order to catch the attention of a company, I knew that I could not expect different results if I kept doing the same thing the same way (or some variation of it). I reached out to career services at USF and began working with the VP of career services. Having hope that he would be able to look over my resume and cover letter and be able to determine why I wasn’t receiving interviews, I was disappointed when he said that my resume, cover letter, and portfolio looked fine. He did mention that my cover letter was too long and I needed to edit the length, add more “you” and less “I,” and an active close; however, all that said, he was puzzled why I wasn’t landing interviews. Taking his advice, I edited my cover letter and highlighted how my skills would be valuable to a position instead of a longform version of what was already on my resume. So, I suppose looking back, my cover letter did need help. Fortunately, he said that my resume was an excellent one and even used it as an example for other students and recent under/graduates. After meeting with him a few times, I did get a few interviews coming in (collectively, over two years I had less than 15. I think the number is closer to 10 out of nearly 1K resumes/applications). Eventually, I stopped hearing from him. Even after I had an interview with a company that worked with career services–when I didn’t get the job–he reached out to them and asked why. He sad he was going to meet with me to discuss an area of improvement in my interview technique (that wasn’t terribly major), but he never got with me. And I emailed him a few times to set something up.

So, I was back to being on my own again. Even though searching for a job was beginning to really drain my confidence and energy levels, I was fortunate to have a job at USF, MOSI at the time, and a gig I still have editing an NPR show. So, I am not trying to paint a picture of sheer destitution because that would be unfair to those who are unemployed. But all my jobs together still came to less than $24K a year. Hardly enough to live on, independently (with a roommate). Although there was certainly financial struggles, I think the urge to give up was from exhaustion of having done everything right and still failing. There were also plenty of times that I wondered if I was going to have to move back home AGAIN, because I couldn’t seem to hack it. Little more than a year into my job search, I landed an additional part-time job at USF, which combined with my then-current one, gave me 40hrs at $15/hr. Other than not getting paid for holidays, no sick time, no vacation time, and losing a week of pay between Christmas and News Years (and yeah I know, that’s a lot of “not”), I was nearly able to be stable. Last fall, I was hired on at the University of Tampa as a part-time faculty member in the communications department teaching film and writing. Finally. I finally landed something that I could not have without my graduate degree. Of course, I am still juggling multiple part-time jobs at this point. Despite not getting paid between semesters, the job at UT worked wonders to assist me during my larger job search.

Most of my downtime at work and at home was spent on Indeed and on any company I could find through a Google search to find a job. Learned quickly that the LinkedIn jobs feature is completely useless, and even when positions were being posted but already taken. Just have to be posted because of EEO laws. Boy, did I learn a thing or two about EEO. There were a few occasions that I interviewed with mostly female companies. I would interview very well, meet all minimum qualifications plus the preferred, and still not land the job. Would find out later that it went to a female candidate. Although I may be over analyzing that, there were a few instances in which the recruitment process was incredibly fishy and left with the notion that they simply wanted to work with another female. Another time I had an awful interview experience was with a company that conducted the phone interview and decided to bring me in for the in-person one. The whole time during the in-person interview, I was questioned as to why I even bothered applying for the job because they feel that I didn’t have sufficient experience. Why did you even bother to bring me in to begin with??? Interviewed for a city government job, and one of the members on the panel was on his phone the whole time. Made eye contact only when he had to. And I was well-prepared. Had an interview setup at a company where I had two friends; it went poorly too. The interview itself went well, but they never got back with me and even asked my friends if I was applying for an entry level job that was compensated much less than I even made at USF. Long story short, I don’t think he paid attention to anything I said.

Financially things have progressively gotten tighter over the months. Sometimes there was relief when a little extra money would come in from a side gig but ultimately, it was getting harder and harder to continue to live sufficiently. Saved a lot of money by biking to work (after I got one for Christmas), and that proved to be excellent not only for my wallet but my health too. I began getting creative with food over the last couple years. I often cooked at home to begin with, but now I was breaking out all my mom’s old recipes and making them. Most of the recipes were casseroles, chicken/beef and rice, and others that could be stretched over a few days. My roommate grew a fondness for my mom’s recipes too. Now I know how my mom kept the family fed when my dad was in graduate school. One day, I was on the phone with my sister and she asked me if I ever seriously prayed about my situation. I responded, “well sure, I have.” She then asked if I was fervent or even offered up something of mine as an offering. Now that, I had not done. She reminded me of the Old Testament story of Hannah, who wanted a child so desperately. She made God a promise that she would dedicate him to God if He were to bless her with a son. Long story, short. He did, and she did. Now I did not have much to offer. I already gave as much as I could to others and would offer a helping hand whenever it was needed. But, I did have an income. And although I would tithe from my income, I was not regular. I made God the promise that if He were to open the door to a job that I would commit my first 10+% no matter how tough times got.

Around that time, I had a series of interviews with HSN (Home Shopping Network), Feld Entertainment (Disney on Ice, Disney Live, Marvel Universe Live, Monster Jam, etc), and contacted about an upcoming position at the University of Tampa as a supervisor in Media Services. All these came around the same time. Now, I am not saying that because I made a promise that I got the leads, but it is definitely something to ponder. After several interviews with HSN and having known the recruiter for 5 years over the course of interviews in the past, the position went to a friend of mine who was also a candidate. I literally got the news of my rejection (for the 4th time from that company) on my way to my in-person interview at Feld. As you can imagine, I was incredibly disappointed and even hurt once again. But, I could choose to dwell on the negative and allow that to affect my approaching interview or take it as a message that I have to absolutely kill this next one and leave a strong impact. I chose the latter. The following weekend after that interview was payday. And, with not teaching at UT over the summer and with having found out the previous week that I was losing that second job at USF (that added the 10 hours to the 30 I had in Mass Comm), I was facing dire straights once again. I seriously thought of not offering God the top 10+% because I could easily rationalize it as a need to keep due to my income essentially getting cut in half until UT started back up. But, I made a promise “no matter how tough times got.” So, I put money in my savings account and set aside my tithe+ and prayed that it would all work out. That following Tuesday, even after being told by Feld that the recruitment process would take weeks from the in-person interview, I received a phone call. I was pretty well sure that the recruiter was calling to tell me that I didn’t get the job, but to my amazement, I heard wonderful news. God sent me a miracle–little ol’ me.

I’ve been waiting more than two years to hear those words–we would like to offer you the position…–and it happened. I was speechless. I even received $2K more than I had on my application. I prayed for a miracle and I’ve no doubt that’s what I experienced. What happened to that possible UT job that I was contacted about even before it was posted??? I never heard back from UT on that one position and received rejection emails from other companies. Fortunately, working at Feld still allows me to continue teaching part-time at UT as a Film & Media Arts instructor and continue to edit the NPR show. Looking back, I feel strongly that I would not have received the interview, much less, an offer from Feld if it had not been for my four years at USF working in video production and the TV studios. My three years at Disney World, my bachelors degree, past films, Masters degree, and time at USF all worked together to open the door that the Lord brought to me. Interestingly, I wasn’t even looking at editing jobs as a rule of thumb because my producing skills were better than my editing skills (albeit, I am a competent editor and learned a lot through my work at USF), but this job popped up in an Indeed search several months ago. Who would’ve known that would be the job that I would land after more than 26mos of searching.

Over the months, I’ve been able to help others who are facing the same grim career landscape. With my vast experience with resume writing, submission, and interviewing, I have been able to coach others along the way. My story is one of many, but I wanted to–as briefly as I could–write it down in hopes that it may inspire you or keep you from falling into a deep depression like I did a few times during this long journey. Bottom line is, don’t give up. Learn all you can where you are in life. Surround yourself with encouragement. And, never underestimate the power of a prayer and promise.

“Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” attraction review

img_9103A cute, fun ride, but ultimately a generic experience. The anticipated new Universal Studios Florida attraction Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon began soft openings this past weekend. If you are unfamiliar with that term, a soft opening is when the attraction is essentially in tech rehearsal operations, meaning that it can start, stop, or turn off certain components at any time. With the successful run of Universal Team Member (staff) previews during the latter part of last week, the attraction went directly into public soft openings. When an attraction goes directly from staff previews to public soft openings, that is usually a good indicator that the ride is in prime operating condition. From the time I entered the queue to the time I exited through the gift shop, it was a flawless experience! Everything from the innovative virtual queue to the ride operation went off without a hitch. Due to the park being in the middle of Mardi Gras and the news of a soft opening of a new attraction, this combination certainly brought in the crowds. With a wait time of a little less than 60mins, it was all-in-all a pleasant experience during the ride’s preview. But, I wouldn’t wait more than 30-45mins for this attraction in the future.

Outstanding queue! Ever since Islands of Adventure opened in 1998 and increasingly so since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010 at Universal Orlando, there has been a demonstrable trend in elaborate queue designs and experiences. Not only are ride designers focussed on the ride itself, but now are nearly equally focussed on creative an immersive experience in the queue. Evidence of this can be found in many of the attractions at Universal, Disney, and Busch Gardens that have opened in the last few years. But I digress. Without question, my favorite part about this new attraction is the queue design and experience. Although I have not been to the Rainbow Room, NBC Studios, or 30 Rock (aside from taking the express elevator to the observation decks), I felt like I had just walked off the streets of New York City and into the studio complex to be part of The Tonight Show‘s live audience. Much like a museum, there are exhibits featuring television production equipment over the decades as well as the evolution of NBC’s iconic peacock logo. Clearly the central figure of the attraction is the current host of The Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon, but there are also exhibits that dedicate a showcase to each of the hosts as well as a mural of all of the hosts together. I spent several minutes just walking around the–what amounts to a–museum.

The reason for the ability to casually stroll through the sequence of showcases: a virtual queue. When you enter the attraction, you are given a colored ticket. Each of the colors for the tickets are taken from the six colors of the NBC peacock. The queue is composed of an entry hallway, NBC/The Tonight Show historic exhibits and showcases, and preshow room. Light fixtures and ambient light, in the various rooms, correspond to the colored tickets that determine what group goes next. When the light changes to the color ticket you hold, then you may proceed to the next waiting area. Making it easy to know where your group is in queue, the order of the colors called are the order of colors on the peacock’s tail. The entry hallway features the evolution of the NBC logo from it’s earliest days to the present. A similar exhibit can be found at the NBC Sports Grill and Brew at CityWalk. Making your way from the entry hallway to the first large waiting space, the next room features tributes to The Tonight Show‘s hosts over the years all around the room in addition to some television production technology over the years. With so much to look at, the time really flies by! This is the first room in which you wait for your color to be called; from this room, you walk upstairs to the next waiting area that truly has the guests in mind in terms of creating a pleasant waiting experience.

As much as I enjoy a museum-like experience in a queue, the next room is definitely my favorite! Enjoy Ragtime Gals and Hashtag the Panda? Then, you’ll be delighted to know that you get to be entertained by them in the final room before entering the studios for your exclusive taping of The Tonight Show. In addition to the live entertaining–which I’ll get to in a moment–there are several sofa-like chairs along the wall with ample USB ports for charging your personal electronic devices. Definitely a convenience if you’re like me and are catching Pokemon, listening to music, texting, and taking pictures while at the park. IMPORTANT: bring your own sync cable! If you are carrying a portable charger, then you already have your sync cable; but if you just have your phone, remember to bring your USB charging cable with you into the queue. In the area of the charging chairs, there are large flat panel displays that offer a variety of games to pass the time. Even with all the people in the waiting area, if I wanted to play the games, it wouldn’t have taken long for one to open up. This is partly due to the various offerings in the room as well as every 10mins or so (on that day), one of the colors would be called. The most entertaining element in this final room before getting on the ride is the Ragtime Gals! Their combination of traditional Atlantic City a’cappella mixed with covers of pop songs and a little lip sync battle thrown in makes them a show not to be missed! The sheer stamina alone was impressive. There had to have only been a few minutes between each set and the cast did not change (as long as I was in there). Furthermore, the repertoire was vast, considering that I never heard a repeat for the 30mins or so that I was in there. After the sets, Hashtag the Panda came out dancing and entertaining the audience. Honestly, this is probably the best queue experience I’ve ever had.

Up to this point, you may be wondering why my opening line included “but ultimately a generic experience” because everything up to this point makes for an exceptional attraction experience! That’s because the ride itself leaves a lukewarm “meh” in your mind. In terms of the race, the studio audience is pitted against Fallon in a race through New York and ultimately to the moon and back. Along the journey, you get to listen to the house band Roots, run into some familiar characters from Fallon’s show, and get to see some of the most visited sites in New York. Much like a video game race, there are checkpoints along the way and plenty of laughs to accompany your zany race through The Big Apple. Rumor had it that the attraction platform would be similar to Epcot’s Soarin’ Over the World (formerly Soarin’ Over California), but that is unfortunately not the case–at least, for the most part. If I were to compare this new attraction to a similar experience at Universal Studios, it would be closest to Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and at Disney, closest to Star Tours: the Adventure Continues. There are some shared elements with Soarin’ but very few. Essentially, it’s a glorified 3D moving theatre with some water effects to add that 4th dimension to the experience. And that’s just it. What Universal Studios did not need was another 3D theatre attraction; granted, the technology is impressive and the movement of the bleacher style seating is impeccably timed with the movement on the screen. The attraction has some length to it, and it is mildly entertaining; but it simply fails to leave a lasting impact on the park guests. Like I said earlier, the queue is the best part!

What’s missing is more physical movement. With the massive integration of 3D immersive technologies into attractions at most major theme parks, the line between movie and ride is becoming blurred. And that’s not a good thing. Yes, feeling like you are IN the movie instead of learning about the magic of filmmaking (considering there is little magic left in the process) has been the trend for the last decade or so; but, when the experience on the ride feels like just a step above watching a movie, therein lies the problem. The MainStreetMouse on Twitter posted an article recently about how technology is ruining Disney rides, and I think there is a lot to be explored along those lines. Seems like with prolific amounts of mapped projection, elaborate 3D technologies, and synced movement, the unique experience of a “ride” is becoming lost. Physical movement is sacrificed for visual simulation. Not that every ride in a theme park has to be some version of a coaster or dark ride–not the case at all–but when the experience bares little significant difference to watching a movie, the magic of the theme park experience begins to mitigate. Had Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon been closer to Soarin‘ then I would have enjoyed it immensely more, or if it had been closer to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey then the experience would have been memorable, impactful. Since the entire ride experience consists of a moving 3D theatre, it just lacks qualities that make it truly memorable. Theme parks need to lay off the massive integration of 3D and spend more time on how to integrate significant physical movement into future attractions.