Going around the Gatekeepers

Picture your dream job.

Forget the awards and titles and rubbing elbows with whoever you respect.

What exactly will be doing day to day? And what stops you from doing that today?
A director can go on youtube.
An actor can apply for students films and youtube videos.
A comedian can find open mics (but also look at podcasts, youtube, email threads, blogging, and really any platform really)
Startups you can make an app. I still meet way too many people waiting to get funding or find a technical cofounder before they build their killer app.

One time I was completely unemployed and found a listing for what appeared to be my dream job. It was at a venture firm. The role asked for someone to write and present their ideas and trends on startups. I had several interviews with the company, they must have been really considering me. They eventually passed on me.

I wasn’t crushed though, I realized…I could just do exactly the role was. Without their permission. I can just do it now for free. No one can stop that. That is how this blog came into existence.

It was a good thing too. The job didn’t pay very well, the firm wasn’t very well known, and the hours would have been grueling. I ended up making way more by pursuing what eventually became ZipX.

If you have a dream job, do it as early as possible at the smallest level if that is all you can get.

It’s better to be a reporter for CNN Colorado than a gopher at CNN headquarters in New York. It’s better to be cohost of a YouTube channel than a custodian at Good Morning America.

It is easier to switch down the road to the company you want if you already have the position elsewhere and can prove yourself. The old adage is incorrect, “It IS better to be a big fish in a small pond…for awhile.”

It is a lot harder to work your way up at the same company. People who see you as one role will rarely give the chance after that first impression. There are very, very small companies when this is the exception. Assume you do not have that same opportunity. Paying your dues doesn’t provide dividends like it used to in the stories of old Hollywood.

Maybe it never did.

My friend has won four Emmys as a producer.

He didn’t work his way up from janitor or even a camera operator. He started in a small town in Colorado and worked his way up. This allowed him to show his skill. The important key here is to eventually transfer to the place you want.

Get noticed. Build a portfolio. Move on to a bigger pond.

Most people think careers have a linear progression. You start at entry level then move up to worker, manager, maybe finally get that executive role.

Instead of a line graph, it is more of a scatter graph.

Every dot is nearly completely random and only when you zoom out 10 or 20 years does some crazy kind of career trajectory become clear.

Straight out of college, I went from being paid $40 an hour to no income at all to $2,000 a month to $2 million in funding to no income at all to minimum wage + tips to severely in debt to a 6 figure exit + 6 figure salary.

My companies will be worth $0 one day and have an offer the next.

Don’t think of yourself as a writer or a future pulitzer winner. Instead think of yourself writing a book. That’s what the job is after all. 90% of being a writer is writing, not being a person who has a book or winning awards.

You will find awards are more rigged than you thought anyway.

If you make 100 paintings and tell someone you are an artist, they won’t bat an eye. They’ll look at your art and decide if they want to buy it. We forget that the most famous poets in history had day jobs. Edgar Allen Poe was a grave digger most of the time. He don’t claim he wasn’t a real poet just because he couldn’t make enough off it to live.

Follow your effort not your dreams.