The Art of Ketchup; or, stockpiling the condiments of failure to flavor that success


In the hierarchy of high school social circles, I can say that I got along well with almost all sub-factions that often comprise the divisional lines  of the high school experience.

I was in no way “popular” so to speak, but thanks to a prime spot in the journalism program I was able to talk to and get to know a lot of people. There were most definitely crowds, but from what I remember there really wasn’t ever an “in” crowd. Different groups held different standings, which is odd if you compare it to what you typically see portrayed in media. I was an honors student, but those in the honors program weren’t all “nerds” and even the athletes and cheerleaders weren’t brain-dead socially escalated zombies.

Quite frankly, school groups at good ol’ Burges High were cool. We coexisted. Kind of like skipping to the end of Mean Girls when everyone was at peace. Don’t get me wrong, there were some debacles and scuffles for sure — but nothing worth mentioning.

So in the absence of genuine political divides, there existed loose cliques which mostly comprised of friends of similar interests, but not in the way you would have pictured. I think what brought most people together into these cliques was more a result of upbringing than social or economical divisions (meaning, if a group of people were hanging out together, it’s likely because they had simply done so in previous schools and they just knew each other or lived near each other).

But I got along well with pretty much everyone in all these groups. The sad part being was that I didn’t belong to any of them.

I definitely wasn’t an outsider, but since I wasn’t originally FROM the area (military brat who moved around a lot) I was never really considered a “lifelong” anything to anyone. Journalism was my ticket to speak with a lot of people as were other school programs for which I participated. A lot of people KNEW me and I knew a lot of people, but I was never included in the often talked about social events that happened off campus.

Since then and over the years, I seem to keep finding myself in the same situation. Often on the outside of things, looking in.

I ultimately ended up doing for the military what I did in high school, journalism. It took me to a lot interesting places, introduced me to a lot of great people.

And still, I was often the person people loved to come to work on a Monday morning to recount interesting stories about weekend “adventures” or experiences. I listened and laughed, never judged and often gave advice on next steps among other things.

In each duty station, I was lucky enough to find a small group of friends with similar interests with whom I would spend my own personal time away from work. But it seemed to go every time that each person within my group of friends ended up engaging in a relationship and every time (and I do mean EVERY time) I was the last one left standing.

It’s weird, I’m not a socially awkward person. I enjoy talking to different people (I work in communications FFS). I just hardly ever find myself wanting for that person who completes me because often when I do find that person, I meet his husboyfriend of so many years. (cue the Alanis song).

When the time came to decide to stay in the Navy where I had ten successful years, or try something new somewhere else — I opted for the unknown. I figured I worked ten years to hone my communications skills, even getting a degree in the process (as one who never wastes an opportunity for such free education) and it was worth a shot to be somewhere else.

Because I had gotten along so well with people (even in failed romantic relationships where I’m pretty much still friends with all my exes) the only true forms of rejection I had experienced in life were the college applications I submitted my senior year. I didn’t apply but to handful of schools and scholarships ultimately being rejected to Notre Dame, Colombia, UCLA, etc…

But I’ve written about my sordid academic first attempts, so in the long run I’m actually glad I didn’t get into a big school. I made mistakes and have definitely learned from them, I’m just glad they weren’t at a big expensive school.

But rejection nevertheless isn’t cool.

I look at the last year of my life and I can honestly say rejection flat out sucks.

It was a year ago last month I submitted my first job application to Blizzard and since then I’ve had nothing but rejections for applications at all of my favorite companies. Last night I received my latest of rejections from both Blizzard and Ubisoft.

I have folders upon folders containing specially tailored resumes and cover letters, art projects and portfolios (I even taught myself how to make an app for posting on the iTunes store for my digital portfolio).

I carefully research every application ensuring that my skill-set and education would support it, often resorting to assistant, coordinator, or associate roles just so I was sure I was not overreaching. And every time the answer was the same…

“Thank you for your interest. We regret to inform you…” from the companies who were kind enough to actually give me some sort of response (which, rejection as it may be, is much appreciated). There are countless applications that have disappeared into the ether with no word of their outcome.

I’m not ungrateful for a job opportunity I recently accepted working for the Navy (this time as a civilian). But it’s far from the industry I want to be in, and admittedly I only accepted it because it will pay the bills. Whenever I was faced with seemingly doomed assignments in the Navy (like getting stationed in Meridian, Mississippi), I often made the best of such situations by seeking out an opportunity to learn and improve myself (which is how I ended up finish my Bachelor’s degree). I’ll do the same with this next job — give them the best person they could possibly want (hopefully) and use the time wisely in improving myself (master’s degree or a professional certification).

But I am still sitting here wondering where I went wrong. I sought out resume consultants to ensure the information communicated on mine read like a private sector professional. I went to workshops and job fairs. I networked with people over the last year, some who have become really good friends that I turn to not only for assistance and job leads, but for honest feedback on my application materials.

And still, well, you see the opening graphic — nothing.

After a year of applying, showcasing the best of my work of the last ten years, and communicating the ever-evolving, passionate person the Navy helped me to become, I sit here looking at more job rejections.

I can’t help but wonder, is it me? But really, is it?

Some say “well, it’s a tough economy…” It’s not. We’ve since dug ourselves out of that crisis.

Some say, “perhaps you’ve set your expectations too high…” Really? For a vast number of entry level positions my bar is set too high?

I’m usually a very humble person, but I’ve learned to balance that with the confidence needed to effectively communicate my skills and experience. It’s with that in mind that I’m perplexed at how a knowledgeable communicator with years upon years of experience and education, who also happens to be a war vet, can’t seem to catch a break in the tech and gaming industry to which I’ve LONG desired to work?

With companies that claim to have veteran hiring initiatives (such as Activision and Amazon) and companies that seem to have diversity issues (like Facebook and Google), why am I still sitting here looking at mountains of rejections from the industry? Just looking at this blog site, looking at the material I have shared on “The Professional” tab, what makes me undesirable as a candidate? Or better yet, what makes OTHERS better?

These are not unreasonable questions. I think after a year of trying and failing, it’s reasonable to ask. For without knowledge on how to correct something, how can it be corrected?

I’ve applied to almost all gaming and tech companies (Sony, EA, Bungie, NCsoft…and so on) with communications-related openings which include PR, internal communications, and community management and every time I receive a rejection letter, or get wind that I was rejected, that feeling Elle Woods had in Legally Blonde when she attempted to join her classmates in study group with fresh baked muffins replays in my mind. I mean, come on, it sucks.

What I find interesting when I frequent the job boards of all my favorite companies it is interesting that most of them are senior or manager positions. Few of them are at my level. It makes me wonder why SO MANY are at that level. Who the hell is leading these teams for these companies if they have a huge number of openings?

And then someone explained to me part of the reason those postings exist is because they already have people slated for those positions. And more often than not they come from other companies (namely competitors).

So let me get this straight — you want to hire someone WHO ALREADY HAS A JOB in the industry? And then they wonder why the tech and gaming industry is hurting in the realm of diversity. Such an incestuous hiring practice does no good for a company that is aiming to reflect the societal breakdown of the consumers it hopes to gain and maintain.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect and admire a company that chooses to hire/promote from within, but this bouncing of people between companies is not fair to those of us looking to break in. Especially when people like me chose to learn and grow while we served the nation.

Look, I don’t expect favors, and I don’t expect hand outs. I busted my ass for ten years to gain experience and knowledge which included doing so in environments where things exploded and people died in a tragically frequent basis. What I want is to be taken seriously as a candidate with a LOT to offer that I have MORE than efficiently communicated in a resume, cover letter and interview.

I’ve never been one to wallow (okay, maybe a little — but usually only for an evening with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a depressing movie), so people reading this are likely to ask,

“So what are you going to do about it?”

That I at least can answer. Keep trying. I mean, I lose everything if I simply give up.

Continue networking, seeking out opportunities for self-improvement. Continue applying.

I’ll wear them down Sandra Bullock at the Oscars style.

I work in communications — I’m not looking to make millions of dollars or live some lavish lifestyle. I don’t think it’s asking a lot to get a job at a company I really like (or love) even if the pay isn’t up to some unknown standard. I just want to work, to EARN my right to be there and to do a job that will make me happy. Happy because it challenges me in the right ways, and makes or develops things that I enjoy myself and can share with others. This is why I chose gaming and tech.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. “
Truman Capote

If that’s true, Mr. Capote, then I have  in one year, gathered enough condiments to flavor every hot dog at Yankee Stadium for a few seasons.

For now though: Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked…and, hehe, Legally Blonde. I believe things are in order for this evening.

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