I Thought My Job Search Failed, Then I Got Hired at a Cocktail Party

How Did You Get That Job?I said “hi” to a guy at a cocktail party. The next thing I knew, I was hired as a writer – by his date!

How did I get that job?

I was at the Emmys®. I had been nominated for a directing award with the team from Guiding Light, but we lost.  So, I’m there, a loser, alone, nursing a glass of wine, when a TV director I knew (Tony Morina) came over with a pretty, dark-haired woman.

I’d met Tony when I was trying to get a job directing on Generations – the first interracial soap opera. (Soaps usually have at least three rotating directors.)

In fact, I’d moved to Los Angeles determined to work on that show. I arrived on February 9th, followed the same system that landed me my first TV job; and by April, I’d met the executive producer.  He gave me an informational interview, and that resulted in his allowing me to “observe” the directors.

[Usually the first step in getting hired to direct any type of television show (soap opera, episodic, reality, etc.) is observing for at least several days to see how they do things on that particular show. It’s kind of a prolonged job interview. You watch, you listen, you ask questions, you meet people – but you don’t get paid, and you don’t direct – unless they really like you after you observe.]

But this executive producer wasn’t interested in giving me a shot – with good reason. Although I had 5½ years of soap opera experience at that point; I had what amounted to three days of actual television directing experience. So, I could understand his hesitation.

But, hey, following six of the seven steps from How Did You Get That Job had at least gotten me in the door:

  1. Give Your Job a Title
  2. Identify Your Favorite Skills
  3. Build a Dream Team
  4. Network
  5. Talk to a Person With the Power to Hire You
  6. Get the Skills You Lack

All that was left was the seventh step: “Apply for the Job You Want.” There was no point in doing that, though, since the executive producer (Jørn Winther) had made it pretty clear that I was never, ever going to direct on Generations.

Even though I was disappointed, I made myself do something else I drive home in the book: I wrote a thank you letter. That letter (unbeknownst to me) was forwarded to the creator/head writer, Sally Sussman. And that’s how it came about that on that night, Sally Sussman (whom I’d never met before that moment) was standing in front of me with her future husband, Tony Morina. She’d seen me say “hi” to him earlier, and asked him who I was.

And then, Sally said words I’ll never forget: “You’re the one who wrote the letter.” Then she asked me, “How would you like to be a creative consultant on the show?” [What can I say? It was a great letter.]

I was flabbergasted, and overjoyed – and, of course, I said yes!

That night, I was offered a job I never pursued; and it was a dream job! And this story gets even better.

Because Sally had hired me, the executive producer gave me the chance to direct.

That’s how I got that job.

How will you get your next job? Will you post resumes online that no one answers? Will you jump at the chance to interview for jobs you know will bore you to tears? Or worse, will you spend your life stuck in a career you hate because you never even tried to go for what you wanted?

My fantastic career – filled with 26+ years worth of dream jobs – started with one book. So can yours.

Buy How Did You Get That Job today.

About Susan Dansby

Susan Dansby has received four Emmy® Awards and two Writers Guild Awards for her work on the soap opera, AS THE WORLD TURNS. She is the author of HOW DID YOU GET THAT JOB? MY DREAM JOBS AND HOW THEY CAME TRUE.
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