Louie was elated! “Good news Mom, I am in New York this weekend visiting my girlfriend and got a call for an interview next week at a Fortune 100 company; bad news is I don’t have any dress clothes or shoes to wear.” Louie was Cinderfella thinking he needed a makeover to go to the Job Ball. Mom swung into action asking his girlfriend, Bridget, to take Louie to Brooks Brothers in NYC for an emergency outfit.
Cinderfella Scrubs the Job Market
When Louie started job hunting three months ago he expected to be scooped up because his talent, education and experience fit the changing times. He had created computer animations in class at age 10, followed by original poster art design and writing, and successful music and happy food websites in high school that are still used. He finally designed his own multidisciplinary college degree while working part time as a paid intern with two different firms—a marketing firm and a theatrics software management firm. His college degree was based on research that integrated three disciplines (Art & Design, Information Systems, and English & Literary Analysis) all focused on “user experience” in web design which he wrote and presented as his thesis. He published his thesis as a collection of essays in a book, Designing With Stories, and showed that “software [user] experiences are designed much like that of a screenplay or a novel.”
Armed with copies of his book, Louie expected fast results. But that was not to be. He toiled in the job market for three hectic months along with the 50% of other recent grads nationwide unable to find a job. He sent out over 200 resumes, attended job fairs, contacted head hunters, and had many interviews with startups, small to mid-sized firms, and a few large established firms. He interviewed at prestigious design schools and considered getting a graduate degree. Most people expressed interest and a number of them called him back for further discussions. Some gave him sample projects to demonstrate his expertise (free work he thought after the third design he provided to one firm). Others offered internships. And now he had a crack at working for a Fortune 100 company, one of his last job opportunities and probably the one with the highest pay.
He would dress for the part to get this job.
Cinderfella’s Big Interview (A paraphrased description)
I walked into this huge sky scraper building complex with many interconnected parts. My first interviewer posed the problem of how would I design a solution to the jammed elevators caused by everybody going to the lunch room in the lobby at the same time. I guessed I was being asked to be innovative off the top of my head.
I offered three solutions: (1) Put the lunch room in the middle of the complex and have people approach it from all directions. (2) Electronically allocate most elevators for “down” traffic during lunch hour to spread the load. (3) Stagger employee lunch hour times to spread out elevator use during lunch. He asked if I had any more ideas. I had the feeling he was more interested in me helping him solve his problem than finding out if I fit their needs.
I was then escorted through a cubicle maze to my next interviews as my escort described, without any irony whatsoever, “how F100 believed in open-styled work spaces to enhance collaboration rather than closed cubicles” (like the ones we were walking through)! Three people interviewed me separately and asked the same old tired questions like they were reading from a company manual: What do you want to be when you grow up? How can you make an impact on our company? What do you do for fun? I felt like my time was being wasted.
I ask them some questions: What are your business, design, and product/service philosophies? They said they had just acquired a company in the ‘digital space,’ and did not have a philosophy yet. They also could not describe the design approach of their new product line because it was proprietary. The environment was cold and uninviting with no sense of energy and passion.
I worried that they might offer me a job.
Cinderfella Gets a Princely Job
The next day Louie got a job offer from a 25-person web design company in Brooklyn he had interviewed with the previous week in his worn jeans, old Converse tennis shoes, and crumpled long-sleeve sport shirt over faded tee shirt. This was a hot and free-wheeling dotcom firm of the future that was growing as fast as it could hire people like Louie. He let F100 know he was no longer available and returned the corporate clothes to Brooks Brothers except for the dress shoes and dress pants which he thought he may need later when and if he grew up.
It turned out that Louie hadn’t needed a makeover after all; Instead, F100 was the one needing a makeover in order to face the future, which had just slipped through its fingers unrecognized and walked out of the door dressed like Cinderfella.