“Hobbies”

429317066_02c52871fe_mI work full-time as a copywriter for a popular website. I really like my job, and the nice thing about it is that I got by doing a whole lot of “nothing.”

I’ve loved writing for a while now. It’s been my only consistent hobby since high school. Theater came and went. Drawing didn’t last long. Squash never stood a chance. Writing was the one to stick it out. So, a couple years ago, when I was basically unemployed (I made a little bit of money grading papers for an online university) and looking for work, it’s no surprise that I devoted a few of my empty days each week to writing. It wasn’t as productive as digging around the Internet for job (or so I thought), but it was a nice escape.

I wrote humor pieces and submitted them to websites. Some of the sites paid, but for most of them, the reward was purely exposure. I also started a fiction blog. Every day, I wrote one tiny crime story, most of them between 200-500 words in length. I kept writing. I kept honing my craft. I got published. I got some attention, just a little bit, but that didn’t matter. Writing was just my little hobby, so I’d take what I could get.

Then a job opened up. A deal-a-day site I’d heard of was looking for someone to write funny product descriptions. They wanted someone with 2-4 years copywriting experience, which I didn’t have, but might settle for someone with a track record of published pieces for an online audience, which I did have.

It wasn’t the first writing job to get my attention. I’d seen many others, sent in my resume, and never heard back. This one seemed even more exciting than the others, though, which, in my mind, meant that it would be even harder to get. I hesitated to apply. Being told you’re not good enough to do what you love most doesn’t make you feel great.

At the time, I was mostly looking into residential life positions at universities. In college, I’d worked as an RA (or my weird little school’s version of an RA), and enjoyed it. No, it had nothing to do with my major, and no it wasn’t my “passion,” but I needed a job, any job.

Then I got another humor piece accepted to a website. This in-and-of itself wasn’t special. It was for a site I’d been on before. What made this piece significant was that, this time, in our emails back and forth, the site’s editor just happened to mention his day job. He worked for a big online retailer, the parent company of the deal-a-day website looking for a copywriter. I told him about the position, said I’d been eyeing it but didn’t know if I should apply, and he put in a low-level referral for me (we’d never actually met, so, understandably, he wasn’t going to give me a full endorsement).

I didn’t want to get my hopes up, of course. But then I got a phone interview. Still, I tried to keep myself from getting too excited. Maybe they needed to meet some set number of interviews before hiring the guy everyone had already decided on. But no, the phone interview went great and they wanted a writing sample. I wrote up a mock deal, and waited to hear back. They liked it. They invited me for an in-person interview at their office. I flew out, I interviewed, I waited.

Meanwhile, I’d been rejected for every res life position I’d applied for, including one at my own college, the office I used to work for. All my eggs were in this basket now. I had nothing else lined up.

When the recruiter called, he spoke so slowly that it took a few moments to realize that he was offering me the job. I cried a little bit. I celebrated a lot. But that’s not what’s important here. You know why I got the job? Because they liked the humor pieces I’d published online, and they liked that I wrote something every day for my blog.

My hobbies. In the end, it was my stupid little hobbies.

The lesson here: don’t overlook anything. An interviewer asks you a question, and your first thought is going to be that you need to frame it around work experiences. But not always. It’s not you, the professional, who is the candidate. It’s you, the whole person. So take everything into account.

(photo by Flickr user Yosomono used under a Creative Commons License.)

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