In 1997, a few months after my 16th birthday, a new movie theatre was being built in my hometown. My best friend, at the time, mentioned to me that they were accepting resumes; she would be starting there mid-May when she turned 16. I begged my parents to drive me over to the office trailer where the manager was stationed so I could also put in my resume.
I arrived after school in early May, wearing a sweet little dress, and was hired on the spot.
I later found out that the Assistant Manager had been in charge of hiring and had already selected the thirty-odd staff. I happened to walk in minutes before he came to let the general manager know. Within four years, through hard work and a good attitude, I moved up from concession to projectionist and finally to management.
In 2002, after my parents lost their home and we were all three basically homeless (living in cheap motels or with friends of friends), I was a newly-made college dropout, and the transfer I had been promised to a movie theatre in Dallas had fallen through. One day, hungry but not yet penniless, we went into Dave & Buster’s for lunch. I noticed a sign on the door that they were looking for a Front Desk Clerk.
I requested a job application and filled it out while Dad and I ate a plate of fries between us. When I took it to the desk, the HR Manager happened to be standing there. He read it on the spot; his eyes lit up.
“You have management experience? We have a position that just opened up. You’d be perfect for it.”
He invited me to an interview that afternoon and hired me the very next day.
I worked in the cash office, a secure room where the safe doors were a foot thick and weighed a ton. I counted the money coming in, reconciled credit card receipts, ordered office supplies. After a year of hard work, I became the assistant to the Business Manager, running payroll and doing accounts payable. After 3 years, the Business Manager had changed three times and each time I was passed up for a promotion, despite doing the work, so I started looking for another job.
By 2005, the concept of taking your resume door-to-door had ceased to exist. Online applications had replaced physical ones, and there was no more face-to-face interaction before the interview. The climate had changed completely. It became even moreso about who you knew, than what you knew.
As luck would have it, I met my (now) husband and moved to Australia in 2006. I studied for a year and gained my Diploma of Business, thanks to said husband, and after a year, I was ready to rejoin the workforce. But the truth was the same as in the U.S., qualifications and experience were needed for basic office work, and the idea of dropping your resume in at a store or restaurant was unheard of. Online applications were the only way to get in a job.
I snagged a management position at a tech store, Dick Smith Electronics (basically Radio Shack), in 2007. Unsatisfied, I moved from company to company until 2013 when I took a position at a telecommunications company. After 5 1/2 years, I moved from answering phones to case management to project management and ultimately quality management.
After being made redundant, I won a role in another company. The hiring manager was looking for someone with strong computer skills, a willingness to learn systems, and the right attitude towards change. While the experience and qualifications to do the role were stated, they were secondary to the soft skills. It was a rare opportunity. If I had been made redundant even three months later, the role would have been gone.
In these 23 years, I have learned one thing: timing – and to a greater extent, luck – has more to do with success than actual hard work. Sure, at the telecommunications company I spent years “growing my brand” and being tenacious to a fault (read: passionate and annoying). That helped, but mostly it was right place, right time (and right race – a discussion for someone smarter than me). Unfortunately, that also means I have no good advice for the younger generation. All I know is that the mindset espoused by some people – grit, determination, taking resumes door-to-door – are all a relic of a past long gone. Career experiences are not universal, so stop treating it like they are.