Setting the Hook: Or How Finding a Job is Like Fishing

I was part of a bachelor party a few weeks ago in Key West. Among other activities the 15 of us spent a day deep sea fishing on 3 chartered boats. Charter boats are the opposite of party boats where large groups of people all fish together, bring their kids, puke all over and get lines tangles – we got a little personal attention with only 4 to 6 people fishing per boat.
On each boat we had a captain and a first mate. We were trolling which means that each of our fishing poles was cast out into the water with bait and dragged behind boat and it was the captain’s job to steer us into good fishing waters. The first mate’s job was just as important – he was responsible for keeping an eye on all our poles, and being ready to ‘set’ the hook when a pole got a hit. I found out that setting a hook in a fish is a subtle art. You couldn’t yank the pole too quickly because the bait isn’t always all the way in fish’s mouth and you also couldn’t wait too long because you might give the fish a chance to get the hook out. Some guys jigg the line along as they reel it it and SNAP the pole back real quick, and some guys do a series of small yanks on the line before giving it one big YANK back.
Out of the 15 of us that day, we caught a total of 4 fish – 3 Dolphin fish and 1 Cero Mackerel. A slow day for fishing to say the least. One of our boats didn’t catch anything and those guys were pretty bummed.
As I reflected on the shitty (but relaxing) day of fishing, I realized it paralleled my challenges in finding interactive design work in Miami. So yeah, those previous 2 paragraphs were to help me set the scene of my metaphor for the day – looking for a job is just like deep-sea fishing.
When my wife and I first moved from the East Village to Miami last August, I didn’t have to look for a job since I had worked out a long distance agreement with my company, but 2 months ago I left my company to go freelance and I’ve been having a bitch of a time finding solid work. I’ve linked up with a few recruiting firms down here (my first mates) and despite the fact that I think the bait on my resume is pretty tasty, they’re just not finding me companies that will bite. I’ve been casting my net pretty wide and trolling in employment waters from Ft. Lauderdale to South Miami.
The work I have found is at small shops and not of the caliber that I’m used to. My advice to anyone in the interactive/web design field is don’t move to Miami. Aside from a few great places down here (lift-here, elastic people, CPB), the Miami design scene is non-existent. Period.
The one shark I was able to catch just last month was Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Having that fish on my wall has definitely given my career a much needed boost and given me good leverage as I begin to steer my employment ship back into the waters of NYC.
This also reminds me of my other point about job hunting – you have to go where the work is. Unless you’re a superstar in your field and everyone knows you (which I’m not), or you’re a seasoned veteran (Which I’m not yet), many places will not front the money to relocate you and the other places don’t even know you exist because you’re not even on their radar. This means you have to start fishing in new waters.
Within the day (!!!) of me changing my address on creativehotlist and monster to my brother’s address in NYC I started getting emails and calls from recruiters and companies. I was suddenly back in familiar waters with schools and schools of fish. I haven’t set my hook in any company but its been good fishing.
I’m not suggesting to lie about your location, but it definitely helps to move first (if you have the money) or at least have friends or family in the city you’re targeting.
And once you get a bite from an employer interested in you, don’t immediately YANK BACK and set the hook, you might lose em. It might be a huge fish that can break your line of you decide to try to pull it into your boat – so that means you’ll have to keep em on your line and wear em out. Or it could be a smaller fish that hasn’t taken the whole bait in their mouth yet.
I’m not going to tell you the formula for getting a job, because their isn’t one. Everyone has a different style of fishing. Some use lures, some use live bait, some throw chum in the water and some troll. Each employer is different too, which means you might have to make up a few different resumes that highlight different skillsets depending on the job description so that they bite what’s on your hook.
Fish on everyone.