New Yorkers You Will Meet: The Filthy Rich

 

As I often mention it, everyone has a side hustle in the City, but I haven’t told you about mine yet. When I came to New York in 2012, I had the opportunity to work at catering events while I was job-hunting. Now that I have a full-time position, I still do it occasionally for extra money. It’s pretty much like being a waitress or hostess, but at private events, including people’s homes. This is how I’ve gotten to know the surreal world of a New Yorker type I like to call The Filthy Rich.

The filthy rich lives in a loft, preferably in Soho, Chelsea or the Flatiron District. The filthy rich enjoys gigantic books on coffee tables, white furniture, ironic art installations and candles, lots of candles. As a matter of fact, the filthy rich’s weekly candle budget probably equals a month of groceries for you. Electricity is so 2000 and late.

The filthy rich throws fancy parties with his filthy rich friends who like tiny food with complicated names. It takes more time to describe the tiny food than to eat it, but it doesn’t matter. The filthy rich still wants to hear about it:

FILTHY RICH LADY: “And what is this meatball-looking thing?”

ME IN MY HEAD: “You just said it, it’s a meatball.”

ME FOR REAL: “It’s Polpette Alla Romana”

FILTHY RICH LADY: “And what is that?”

ME IN MY HEAD: “It’s free food. FREE FOOD. And it’s so small you will literally burn the calories by chewing it so get over yourself and eat.”

ME FOR REAL: “It’s a meatball. Would you like to try?”

FILTHY RICH LADY: “No, I’m good. It’s so pretty though!”

Oh yes, filthy rich ladies don’t actually eat. I have a theory that they are on a diet called “Eating By Default:” if they hear a thorough description of a food item and stare at it long enough, their bodies somehow gets all the nutrients from it.

Male or female, the filthy rich does make up by drinking. A lot. The filthy rich can’t handle the sight of an empty glass, like, ever. That’s why he hires people whose one and only job is to refill over and over again. The filthy rich’s friends are more important than him. It’s usually the reason for filthy rich events in the first place. The host sometimes requires you to “shadow” a guest, which basically means following them around like a puppy and refill their glass when it’s closed to empty. Just picture going to a party with a Boozy Fairy God Mother. Here’s the challenging part of the job: you can’t wait until the glass is actually empty, because God forbids the filthy rich guest has to stop talking about his new boat and must NOD at you. That would be catering drama.

Some filthy rich people are not that fun because…well, you know…mo’ money mo’ problems! So occasionally, they will hire you as a “party motivator.” Not that this isn’t self-explanatory, but just to be clear: the filthy rich gives you  money to make guests dance and clap their hands. Yes, caterer workers do make a difference in people’s lives.

Overall, the filthy rich isn’t that bad; he usually lets you try the tiny food and tips. But when I grow up and become filthy rich myself, I hope I don’t turn into a filthy rich person.

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Fake It Until You Make It – The New York Way

New York is the kind of place where people say “I’m an actor,” “I’m a model,” or “I’m an artist” like it’s no big deal. If I didn’t know any better, living in the City would make me feel like I’m failing at life. Thankfully for my self-esteem, those surreal introductions are often part of a typical New York game called “Fake It Until You Make It.”

It’s very rare to meet New Yorkers that only do one thing, which is why life in the Big Apple is never boring. Your waitress might be a Broadway singer, your cab driver a business owner or your bartender an art critic. If you met them at a party, they might not even mention the job that pays the bills and keeps them the busiest. Nope, New Yorkers let their dream define them instead.

As much as I admire a good hustlin’ spirit, I am the kind of person who says “I blog,” not “I am a blogger” and I get annoyed at girls claiming to be “in fashion” when they are really just “into” it. In a town where speaking things to their existence is a religion, I’m still unsure whether I despise the bullshitting ways of the”Fake It Until You Make It” mentality or if I simply envy its daring state of mind. Believing that the kind of energy you put out there has a direct influence on the course of your life is the quintessence of the American Dream. New Yorkers may be the best keepers of this philosophy as they apply it to their careers, relationships and life decisions on the daily.

In the City, the act of pursuing a dream makes it a reality, no matter what’s actually in your way. New Yorkers are eternal optimistic people: it’s just a matter of time until you get where you want to be, so you can either dwell on the long road to walk or skip that part and own your dream. Just think about the opportunities that would come along if you said you were who you want to be to random people! Beyond the hustlers themselves, the ones powerful enough to give your dream a shot actually play that game too for a very simple reason: they invented it.

So why not play it? It seems like a no-brainer: besides the few party poopers that think you wouldn’t be serving drinks if you were indeed the next Beyonce, “Fake It Until You Make It” allows you to multiply your chances of making the right connection. I guess my cynical and pessimist European upbringing always comes back to the surface when I’m about to say “I am a creative writer” to strangers at a cocktail party. Instead, I usually end up talking about my twisted relationship with corporate America. Not very glamorous, I know, but at least it’s honest. Or is it?

I guess it really depends on what honesty means. What’s more real and self-defining than the dreams we live to see come true? “Fake It Until You Make It” might just be New Yorkers’ way to achieve life’s greater purpose. After all, don’t we all want to become the person we truly are?

 

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How To Get Your Resume New York Ready

A killer resume may not be enough to get a job in New York, but it’s definitely a start. That one piece of paper will shape potential employers’ first impression of you. I recently had a chat on what makes a great resume with the fabulous Jennifer Novak, Global Head of Creative Recruiting at DDB Worldwide. Based on her experience in spotting talents in the advertising world and my own New York job-hunting struggles, I compiled some advice that will help you make a difference in the most competitive city in the world.

One resume isn’t enough

The perfect resume doesn’t exist, simply because each job that you apply to is unique, and so should be the resume you are sending along. Re-creating one for every single opportunity isn’t the point, but having a few different versions based on the type of industry, company and position you are pursuing is essential. “Your resume has to look like the job you’re applying to. Simple is always better for a corporate job, and of course you have more freedom for creative positions,” explains Jen Novak.

Know who you are and show it

Standing out is definitely the Holy Grail of building a resume. Applicants always wonder what could make theirs different from the pile sitting on employers’ desk. But the real question should probably be: what makes ME different? A resume is nothing but a reflection of your own personality and background. Whether it’s a hobby, the languages you speak, or countries you lived in, don’t be afraid to reveal who you are outside of the professional world. Even a fun fact about you can go a long way, and Jen is no stranger to this: “I will always remember this one resume of a girl who always dresses as a Saved By The Bell character on Halloween. I still check on her every year.” You never know how you will connect with people!

Don’t make it easy for people to say “no”

Setting clear goals for yourself is crucial, but you don’t want anyone to think that you are not open to more. Instead of stating an objective on top of your resume such as “Seeking a position as an branded-content manager” just describe yourself and the areas you are interested in: “Dynamic advertising professional looking for opportunities in branding.” Jen Novak speaks from experience: “If you’re too specific, I’m going to think you are not open for other positions.” If there’s something you don’t want in New York, is to miss an opportunity to meet face to face with employers. The same thing goes to the email that accompanies your resume. Instead of inquiring on a particular job that might not be open, engage your contact on a subject he or she can relate to, whether it’s learning about the company, or offering to present your work.

The more the better

Don’t be scared to over-sell yourself, you are in the city of extremes after all! One great resume can only get you so far, it’s always better to show your skills instead of just claiming them. Any professional material that showcases your talent is worth sharing: from a personal website, to a portfolio or links to articles you wrote…the extra effort will be appreciated and show your determination.

Be a part of it

Job-hunting for foreigners trying to make it in New York is stressful to say the least, so we tend to think that applying to jobs as early as possible – even prior to arriving in the City – is the way to go. Although it’s good to get the ball rolling, nothing is more efficient than being physically present, like Jen reminded me: “I’m not going to keep up with your travel schedule, if you email me while you are away, I am going to ask you to email me when you are here in New York.” Another tip for international people is to save employers’ time when it comes to visa issues: do your own research and be ready to answer any questions, so that no paperwork gets in the way of your success.

Thanks to Jennifer Novak, Global Head of Creative Recruiting at DDB Worldwide for the great tips!

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Working in New York vs. Working in Paris

Work is probably the best way to get to know a city, its people, and vibe. Even after working in Manhattan for a year and a half now, leaving the office at 5.30 PM still feels like a luxury, and I haven’t gotten used to the fact that coworkers bond over mani pedis. Based on my experience in both Paris and New York, here are a few typical work situations that would be completely different from one side of the globe to the other:

It’s 9 AM in the office…

Paris: You’re early today

New York: Why are you late?

Getting an early start in New York is a give and take: you get to enjoy life after 5 o’ clock and avoid the Parisian infamous “metro boulot dodo” grind.

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It’s lunch break…

Paris: What are we eating today?

New York: Are you eating today?

I’m not saying that New Yorkers don’t eat for lunch, but they usually skip the lunch break and snack in front of their computer instead of going out for a proper meal. It’s kind of sad but again, that allows them to peace out early and go about their lives.

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It’s 6 PM in the office…

Paris: I hope you didn’t have any dinner plans tonight

New York: You are burning the midnight oil

One thing that I don’t miss about working in Paris is the very thin line between your personal and professional life. In New York, having plans is something your boss and coworkers actually respect. Staying late at work is not rewarding like in France: it’s seen as a lack of productivity.

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It’s Happy Hour…

Paris: Let’s go to the bar downstairs at 8 PM

New York: Let’s get drunk in the office at 5 PM

In New York, most corporate people have dinner at 6 PM, which for me is still apero time (if not gouter.) So having drinks with coworkers is always an early event that can be started in the office.

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It’s the company’s Christmas party

Paris: Make sure you don’t get drunk in front of your boss

New York: Make sure your boss sees you drunk (and end up liking you more)

Again, New Yorkers love their glass of scotch or a skinny margarita. Staying sober is not the best way to make connections.

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From Paris to New York or the other way around…what has YOUR work experience been like?

 

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5 New York Job Interview Tips

Over the past year and a half, I went from desperately looking for a job in New York to interviewing candidates at my company. Weird. After months of sending applications to only score a few interviews, I am finally getting a glimpse – just a tiny glimpse, but still – of the other side of the game.

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Based on my job-hunting time in the City and most recent professional experience, here are 5 interview tips that should be helpful anywhere, but vital in New York:

#1 Everyday is an interview

Just because you are not officially at an interview doesn’t mean you’re not being interviewed. As I mentioned in previous posts, New Yorkers struggle with disconnecting from their work life, and while it sucks for them, it’s the perfect opportunity for you! So live your life as if any day could turn into a surprise interview: always dress to impress, and carry a copy of your most up to date resume. People need everything ASAP in New York, and everything could also mean you…so be prepared!

#2 Find Your Mentor 

Before even applying to jobs, make sure you have that one special person who will recommend you if need be. If an employer asks about your references during an interview, being able to share a contact with no hesitation goes a long way. Having a mentor means that you must have done something right, whatever it is. When it comes down to picking the perfect candidate, solid references will make the difference.

#3 A positive interview can turn into a negative answer

…and that’s ok! Don’t let a negative answer bring you down and question your interview skills. Just because you nailed the interview part doesn’t mean the job was made for you. Now I know that employers spend  lot of time wondering if the candidate would actually be happy at the job. The people hiring you know more about the position itself than you do, so if they decide not to go with you, it doesn’t mean you failed, it means your talent lays somewhere else.

#4 A shitty interview is better than no interview

It’s so hard to even get to the interview phase in a city as competitive as New York that anything is good to take. Especially when you need a visa! Even if you are not really interested in the job you are interviewing for, or your interview didn’t go as planned, the simple fact of getting one is an accomplishment and should keep you motivated. The moral of the story is: never turn down an opportunity because it could open the least expected doors.

#5 Keep an open mind

It’s good to have expectations about an interview and know what you want out of it: an idea of the job, the benefits, the culture of the company…but be aware that it could take a completely different direction. The person you are supposed to meet with could no longer be available, so could be the position you think you are about to interview for. I got my first job in New York by finding out that there were no openings at the agency I was meeting with, but I kept the conversation going and ended up being introduced to another company that was sharing the same open space.

To sum it up, having the right resume is never enough, adapting to any given situation is what will help turn an opportunity into something real. Happy hunting and good luck!

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Network Until You Drop: How To (Really) Make It In America

So you applied to hundreds of jobs online, but after getting nowhere, you ended up following my advice and booked a trip to the City of dreams. Congratulations! You are now about to enter phase two of the New York job hunt: the part where you network your a$$ off!

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Never ever been to Manhattan or any of the five boroughs? The first thing you need is a point of reference to get your networking game on. There must be someone in this town who is somehow related to you: that guy you sat next to in College who always posts pictures of the skyline on Facebook, or your sister’s friend who started her own business here…It’s time to put that six degree of separation theory into practice!

Any occasion can be an excuse to network in New York, that’s why you should never turn down an invite. When I was looking for a job in Paris, I would feel guilty about going out while being broke and unemployed. Well that mentality does not apply to the Big Apple! Just because you’re not attending a professional event doesn’t mean you won’t meet the right people and that they won’t talk about work.

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There is an upside to New Yorkers being career freaks: they don’t mind talking business to complete strangers while they are out! If it wasn’t for being at a random party one night, I would have never met the person who introduced me to my current boss. People here are curious about everyone’s story, sometimes for selfish reasons: they may need you one day. Acquaintances in the City are a two-way street, so until you become the person who gives advice, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking some!

I think there is a huge difference between the idea of networking in the US and Europe. New Yorkers will actually keep their word if they say they want to help you. Where I’m from, networking basically means that you were privileged enough to have connections and can use them at any given time. In America, it’s about working hard to make those connections, and it’s considered a real skill.

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Contacts are not going to fall out of the sky, you actually have to make the first move, and there are many ways to do so. When I felt like things weren’t coming my way, I went to companies and delivered my resume in person, hoping to be at the right place at the right time. The reactions were very positive: people thought it was daring of me to show up like that, and it did get my resume in the right hands.

Bottom line is; it’s all up to you! If everything goes well, the Network Until You Drop phase should be the last step of your master plan to become a New Yorker. Ready?

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Is Applying To New York Jobs Online A Waste Of Time?

Settling in New York can be a long process, and although networking is king here, you should not wait until you put down your bags to let the job hunt begin.

Unless you have a company in your home country or somewhere else in the States that offers to transfer you to New York and takes care of everything, you will most likely need to be in town to nail a job. But being an active job hunter in the City comes with limited time. As if the expensive price of life wasn’t enough, we foreigners are only allowed to stay 3 months on a tourist visa before being sent back to our mama’s crib!

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That’s why applying to jobs online prior to your arrival seems like the smart thing to do. When I decided to come back to New York as a working girl and no longer an exchange student, I still had a lot to wrap up back home. So in parallel with writing my thesis and getting my degree, I was sending applications via Monster.com, or Simplyhired.com – which are by the way very messed up names for employment websites. It sounds like one is brutally honest and the other straight up delusional. Spoiler alert: there is nothing simple about looking for a job in 2014, especially not in this city. The only way “simple” could belong to New York hiring process was if someone came up with a new expression.

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On Barney Stinson’s behalf, I would describe job hunting in Manhattan as “impossimple”: there’s no way in hell it’s gonna be easy! At least Monster is honest about the personality of most employers ignoring the cover letters you spent hours writing and making you feel like a failure. But back to my story. I really thought that sending resumes from France would help me line up dozens of interviews by the time I get to New York. Little did I know… IMAGINATION_JUST_AN_ILLUSION_I_08e19d796d70051b6e1f41945a9bb1f4

In three months, I must have sent over 100 applications, and got one answer. Not three or two; just one! What’s even more depressing is that it was from the American branch of a company I had already worked for in France. So that barely counts, because getting back to me was the least they could do.

Now, New Yorkers at heart, I don’t mean to discourage you…quite the opposite actually. I want my epic fails to make you strong and prepared. One of the mistakes I made was to be very transparent about my situation in cover letters: a French girl passionate about New York who will be the perfect fit…as long as you sponsor her for a visa. By always trying to justify myself for wanting to move to the States, I lost focus on what truly mattered: I was more than qualified and motivated to get where I wanted to be.

Here’s the deal: applying online isn’t the best way to get you in front of the right people. It’s only when I came back to New York that things finally started happening for me. Sending resumes and touching cover letters is a total waste of time, unless you make it the phase one of an elaborated master plan. That’s the only way it can be efficient. Not just because it’s good practice, but because it will make you angry. And you need that hustler anger in order to move to phase two. But I’m getting ahead of myself!

So work on your resume, cover letters and portfolio…but don’t forget to book tickets to New York because your presence here is worth a thousand applications.

 

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