This past year, I realized that I needed to learn how to prioritize my life and especially my finances. Fresh out of school and with less financial support from my parents, I soon discovered that my biggest problems were my frequent, if not unnecessary, indulgences at the endless boutiques, department stores, and sidewalk booths that lined the streets of New York City.
Acknowledging my weakness, I sat down and made a plan of attack, outlining ways to extend the life of my shrinking budget. Some cuts, like going to the movies, were easy to make, but others, like shoes, were harder to compromise. Groceries? Yogurt will do. Happy Hour? Here to stay.
I splurged on a subscription to The New York Times, but the weekend edition was all I would allow myself. I imagined reading the paper through and through, sipping lattes in whichever artsy coffee house or beautiful park I was in, soaking up news of the world and fueling my intellectual self for meaningful, educated, and important conversations.
Embarrassingly enough, up until this point, even through college, I usually assumed the role of the “I-know-some-but-not-enough-and-I-don’t-want-you-all-to-think-I’m-a-fool” mute in political and worldly debates at the dinner table. Devouring The New York Times every weekend made me more informed, curious, and confident.
The Sunday paper soon became my favorite. The Style section quickly turned into the most anticipated guilty pleasure of my week. When I reached that area, I made sure I had enough time to thoroughly read and enjoy its entirety in one sitting. Bill Cunningham’s “On The Street” feature and the Modern Love stories were magnificently entertaining on their own.
However, I always saved the wedding announcements for last. That section would entertain me with the most romantic, enchanted, and undoubtedly smitten love stories of the week. Each Sunday, I would read, wonder, and, well, judge the newlyweds who shared their change from Me to We with the world.
As much as I was reinforcing so many hopeful single gal clichés, I admittedly would sigh and dream about the fairy tale weddings and happily-ever-afters, replacing their information with my name and photo.
My year in Manhattan was stereotypical in many ways: I had the attitude, I was fast-paced, and I easily forgot that people existed elsewhere off that tiny island. But one thing I admired, and never tired of, was the New Yorkers’ desire to pursue marriage after a career.
I don’t want to imply that the West Coast is filled with girls obtaining an M.r.S degree, but I noticed this frequently enough that I’m sure people who have lived on both coasts, especially in New York City, would agree with me.
I did tire of reading about all of the golden retriever couples, the All-American power teams who are descendants of the country’s greatest names: the John Smith IIIs and their Ivy-League pedigree, with their equally attractive, successful, and important fiancés, heirs to the deepest rooted and successful companies in the nation.
After scrutinizing the photos and rolling my eyes at their polished resumes and Mother Teresa humanitarian efforts, I realized that The New York Times wedding section was secretly throwing all of the unemployed saps (like myself) a bone. I had discovered an untapped networking tool.
After the names were listed their mothers’ and fathers’ followed, unleashing a family tree, and along with that, job titles and career histories. In my plot to reach out to strangers and beg for a job, I had figured out a cheat-sheet for a quick, reliable, and fresh alternative to make an otherwise desperate e-mail to a stranger personal, caring, and interesting.
To test my theory, I contacted an editor at Vanity Fair. My attempt to lure my way into the magazine publishing world went as follows:
Dear Mr. Editor:
I hope this finds you well. I came about your name in an unorthodox fashion, and I sincerely apologize if you find this inappropriate.
I was reading The New York Times Wedding announcements this past weekend, and I came across your story. I noticed you work as an assistant editor for Vanity Fair, and I thought it might be beneficial to reach out to you.
I graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Magazine and a minor in Communication Studies. I have held five editorial internship positions, four at magazines and one at a literary agency. Since graduating last year in June 2008, I have been looking for a job at a magazine. I have had a few internship opportunities, but nothing has panned out into an actual job.
This is relevant to my email to you because I am always looking for new ways to network, and this was an unexpected opportunity I couldn’t pass up. If I have learned anything this year, it’s that most people find their jobs through other acquaintances and fortunate timing. Ideally, I would love to find out if you were aware of any available jobs at Vanity Fair or Condé Nast, but I realize that is a lot for a stranger to ask. If anything, I wanted to introduce myself and welcome any advice you may have for me.
If you have the time, I would love to hear back from you. Congratulations on your wedding!
While it didn’t result in an actual job, it did result in a contact to add. Mr. Editor turned out to reply in a lovely, polite, and overall regretful tone that I expected. As I’ve grown used to, his e-mail was filled with apologies for having no job openings to report, a circumstance faulted to the tough economy, and concluded with an ending message urging me to hang in there.
Was it rude to email out of the blue? Perhaps. Was it worth it? I think so. But most of all, I think it came off as an intriguing surprise – my unusual networking trick demonstrated my perseverance to land a job, my research skills, my interest not only in the company but the individual, and my ability to read through the lines, seeking out possibilities and opportunities where one may never think of. I can’t imagine an employer who would shy away from those traits.
And, in the end, I think those kinds of tricks will prove to be definitely, worth my time and dollar, even if I can only afford it on the weekends.