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Pouring myself a cup of ambition.

September 2, 2010

I received two email questions:

1) How did you get into freelancing?
2) What is the most unusual way you scored a job?

Oddly enough one story answers both questions!

I started freelancing by accident after about nine months of underemployment and fruitless job searching. Immediately after finishing my MFA I polished my resume and began searching for work in the non profit sector, Fast forward nine months later and the tune I sang was quite different. Filled with despair and discouragement, I penned a fiery essay about my nine months of job searching in VT while black. Somehow someone somewhere found the essay and contacted me about doing some work as a “secret” job seeker. Meaning I would go on interviews, filling out detailed questionnaires assessing the conduct of the hiring staff.

My white cohort (armed with the same resume) did the same and we got together afterwards and discussed our experiences with the folks who hired us. (I’m being purposefully vague due to the nature of the work, which i don’t actually do anymore.) Anyhoo, surprise, surprise, my cohort was offered jobs I didn’t even receive second interviews for – sometimes immediately after the first interview. Moreover, I was coached to do everything by the book, which included wearing a snazzy ‘Nana Republic shift dress/pearls (I loved doing that part), carrying a portfolio (hello, have these folks met me???) and sending hand written thank you notes immediately after the interviews. My white cohort was instructed to pepper their resume with typos, bring no extra copies of the resume and dress very casually for the interviews. I did these interviews for about five months, then my contract was up and I was free to go on more hopeless interviews and spend my last three bucks on stamps for hand written thank you notes that would live out their brief lives in recycle bins.

I didn’t find out what became of my work, but one day I got a call from a friend asking me if I could put together a “diversity” training for an organization. I immediately recognized the name of the org and before I responded, I quickly contacted ALL the places I had been interviewed while playing covert operative and offered my services as a Diversity Training Specialist who tailored presentations based on the needs of client. I also required a paid consultation so I could explain my services, what I expected from the organization and how they were to PREPARE their groups for my arrival. Ooh, I was FIERCE.

Most organizations wanted me to go in, shame folks for a couple of hours and then leave, which is not how I roll. I was almost never interested in what crisis had finally created a situation requiring my services and rarely held my workshops for anyone other than management and HR. Most dramedy originates from the top, so there’s no need to brow beat folks who merely recapitulate the culture endorsed by those doing the hiring and supervising.

What I like about doing these workshops is helping organizations create realistic action steps for fostering a workplace that encourages diversity and inclusion – and all that other hippie chow chow. I won’t get into specifics (if you want specifics and you’re in Upstate NY, VT or NH, you can hire me!) , but most of my clients – the ones with realistic expectations – are surprised at how positive and supportive my workshops are. There’s no accusations or awful “processing”. Just people developing skills to help them attract and retain a workforce that is diverse in perspectives, yet unified in goals.

That’s how I became a freelancer and also the weirdest way I scored a job.

*clown horn*

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2010 9:13 pm

    Wow, I love knowing this! What a fascinating job to have – the secret interviewer one. And then to have it blossom into you being able to do the diversity workshops is a pretty great twist of fate. But I wonder how disheartening it was to go on the interviews and see, time after time, evidence of how biased their hiring practices were.

    Oh, and hey, I am going to be in northern NH for a few days in October visiting my Mom. Maybe we can figure out some way to meet for a meal or something!

  2. Imogen Quest permalink
    September 3, 2010 8:06 am

    This is fascinating and inspiring. Definitely a good thing to read while pondering the dread “what’s next?”

  3. September 7, 2010 1:58 am

    Oh I wouldn’t say it was a twist of fate – this was a genius move on your part and kudos to you for recognizing an opportunity and being quick enough to grasp it.

  4. hsofia permalink
    September 8, 2010 12:06 pm

    The work you did/do is very cool. Wish I could sit in on one of those!

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