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Got To Pay the Bills

I have always been “the creative type,” and that initially manifested itself in deep GI Joe battle narratives, wild business ideas, like mobile car washing at 14 during the summer, or song ideas for my garage band. As I got older, I was hoping my career path would involve playing my music in front of thousands of people every night, but knew I should probably study something that didn’t require as much luck to pay the bills, while still giving me a chance to be creative.

I chose to study advertising because I loved seeing great commercials on the Super Bowl that made me laugh, clever billboards that made me turn my head (not safe while driving), or unique logos that had hidden brand meanings. At the time, only three colleges in California had an advertising focus, so I chose to go to a program at San Diego State.

I didn’t want to be stuck in a dark room behind a computer screen all day, so I chose the more managerial path instead of the art/design route. I knew I would be working with artists however, so I decided to also take these free Adobe classes that were offered at a nearby school, in addition to my normal college courses. Since they were free, I took as many of these design program classes as I could.

While in school, I worked at a boutique agency doing account and junior art director work, but moved back to LA after graduating, since bigger advertising opportunities were limited to the bigger cities. Needless to say, band life didn’t work out (though I still write music) so I dove into this career path.

Work Was Impossible To Find

This was towards the end of 2007 and right at the beginning of what was known as The Great Recession. The economy was trash and advertising work was impossible to find for a freshly graduated lad, so I decided to do a bit of traveling, something I never had a desire to do prior. While working retail, I traveled to Australia, backpacked through Europe, and surfed in Indonesia.

During this time I learned of a Communication Management Master’s program at the University of Southern California which focused on marketing and entertainment, and I figured I might as well apply. If I got in I would then decide if I would go or not.

While they may have just taken anyone that wanted to cough up the money, I found out that I was accepted into the program when I was abroad, and started just after returning. There I was introduced to showrunners and producers of major entertainment properties, and fell in love with the business of storytelling. I was even more solidified that I wanted to continue down this creative path.

Once I graduated… again, I was ready to make my mark on the world! I had been doing short-term contract work at an entertainment focused agency, but needed to find another job. It was at the tail end of the recession, however, and finding one wasn’t any easier. My full time job became applying for jobs.

I sent thousands of emails and applications (I mean it), contacted everyone in my network, reached out to everyone I could on LinkedIn, but still no bites. Surely someone with a Master’s degree would get noticed, right? Not in this market.