Graduating with an undergraduate degree in interior design from Iowa State University this past May, up against a job placement rate of 20 percent, was daunting. I was sitting with the other 80 percent unsure of what I could do to get on team 20.
Last spring, I submitted an entry to the Hospitality Design Awards with a classmate. When we found out our hotel design was selected as one of three student finalists, we were beyond excited to go to New York City and accept our award.
Freshly printed business cards in hand, I walked into the award reception ready to schmooze. Reading the nametags of the professionals as I circled the room, I knew it was brimming with opportunities. Unfortunately the recent economy restricted my conversations to lots of “Congratulations!” or “Great to meet you, we unfortunately aren’t hiring now, but keep in touch…”
Later on, that same evening, almost out of business cards, boutique DESIGN’s Michael Schneider approached me. What he was about to offer, I don’t think either of us could have guessed would affect my life and career in such a huge way.
Michael explained that Boutique Media Group was hosting an event in Virginia in a few weeks called Hospitality Match, an opportunity for Buyers and Sellers to form quality working relationships. He mentioned that he could use an extra set of hands and if I wanted, I could join the BMG team for the event as it would be filled with designers from hospitality firms with possible job opportunities.
Back in Iowa I followed up on this brief conversation with Michael, with the understanding that if I could get from Iowa to Virginia on my own he could take care of the rest. Next thing I knew I was on a plane, not knowing who I would meet or even exactly what I was doing. The next morning, as the sellers slowly arrived Michael asked me to help them set up their tables, and through this experience I got to know quite a few of them. Already this experience was paying off.
Later, Hospitality Match 2009 was in full swing; people were having fun, doing business, and I personally was doing my best impression of a sponge – soaking it all in. At the lunches each day I was able to sit with tables full of professionals in the hospitality field. I could ask a question and I’d get a tableful of advice with perspectives from all parts of the industry. It was great.
Although I had many memorable conversations with talented professionals, there was one in particular that really grabbed my attention. It was with Kyle Barnes from Disney Imagineering. I couldn’t believe the projects he got to work on day in and day out. It sounded so exciting. He also really seemed to enjoy what he did for a living.
After Match I followed up with everyone and heard the same “We’re not hiring but catch up with us again sometime in the future.” The economy was bearing down on me again. I woke up each day more uncertain of how many months it would take for firms to start hiring.
Then in some brief moment of perfect celestial alignment, (or being in the right place at the right time) I felt the first glimmer of hope. On the same day I applied for a waitressing job I got a call from Disney offering an interview for an interior design internship position with Disney Imagineering. I immediately began intensely preparing for the only real opportunity in front of me. There was no way I was going to mess this up.
I waited about three weeks to hear back from them, and I am happy to say that, shortly, I will be moving from Iowa to California to work with Disney Imagineering and I couldn’t “imagine” a better opportunity.
If I didn’t understand this before, I do now – follow up with everything. The process of finding a dream job may not be the direct path you envision. Take chances, put yourself out there, and I can only wish you will meet someone as helpful and generous as Michael and the BMG team along the way. When I am able, I hope I can pay it forward.
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