Sunday, August 21, 2011

The secret to getting a job is an Electrolux vacuum cleaner

Resumes, interviews, cover letters—they’re crucial to getting a good job in publishing, right? Nah.

I’ve worked in different positions in the same publishing company for nigh on 35 years. One of my daughter C’s friends recently asked me how I got my first job. Well, it was like this:

Back when Soho was thick with starving artists, before it had turned into a vast retail-therapy spa, I had a friend who lived in a loft in a building on Mercer Street that was actually occupied by artists, and she had a neighbor whose husband was a performance artist. He was putting on a piece in Central Park involving gigantic black weather balloons, and he was desperately seeking a vacuum cleaner that could blow air as well as suck it, so that he could hook it up to a generator and fill the balloons. He also needed about 20 volunteers to hold the balloons.

It happened that I had an old canister-style Electrolux that had reverse air flow. It also happened that my father was returning to San Francisco from Egypt, where he was using his engineering skills to design systems to protect the tombs in the Valley of the Kings from water damage, and would be stopping over in New York with a mass of English Egyptologists. He asked me if there was anything interesting for them to do on their layover. It was a beautiful day, the Electrolux did its thing, the English Egyptos were delighted to participate. And my friend’s neighbor was so appreciative of my role in helping pull it off that she put me up for a job as a night proofreader at the company where she worked.

(Side note: A later project by the same artist encountered difficulties. He installed himself in a cage in Washington Square with a bushel of tomatoes outside it and a sign that read “I DESERVE TO BE PUNISHED.” Police had to rescue him from an overenthusiastic crowd.)

I was telling the story of how I got my job to a friend of mine who recently retired after a long career at the same company. She said she got her first job there when she was an aspiring singer, and a belly dancer at the club where she worked told her about a proofreading position.

So I don’t really have a lot of advice for today’s young job seekers. I’d lend them my Electrolux, but it died long ago. And what with computers and spell-check, the proofreading positions at the company have all dried up. 

1 comment:

Barbara said...

That's one of the best "how I got my job" stories I've ever heard! Glad the Egyptologists (and your dad) had a sense of humor.