How to Use Quidditch to Start Your Career Without Sounding Like a Complete Nerd

Earlier this week, Major League Quidditch published an article I wrote when I was trying to convince people to join the Argonauts staff this summer. I’m not going to repeat anything I wrote there. I just want to expand on it because not everyone wants or can apply for an MLQ position.

If you’re reading this, you probably have some quidditch volunteer experience. You’ve probably wondered if it’s worth all the time, effort, and risk to your sanity. Will quidditch actually help you get a real job?

Yes. Maybe. Depends. But it’s not impossible.

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What I Learned from Complaining on the Internet

It’s been a week since I wrote My Life in Silicon Valley and it’s still getting hits. Before that, my most popular blog post was the intentionally clickbaity Fantasy Quidditch is Dead. It got just under three hundred hits in two days, with the occasional reader or two later on. It was a very exciting time; I learned that being provocative but backing it up with good content could work for me with the right audience.

#MyLifeInSiliconValley, on the other hand, is still getting eyeballs on it. Over sixteen hundred pairs and counting:

Silicon Valley Stats

Am I posting this to brag? Maybe a little, but mostly I’m just floored by the volume and variety of responses I got. It gave me a lot of food for thought, especially as I’m still trying to make a living with my big words and even bigger mouth. Let me share with you all what I’ve learned this week:

  • There is no such thing as 100% approval.

The initial responses to #MyLifeInSiliconValley were positive because they were mostly from my friends, many of them English majors like me, struggling to make their way in this valley. Nothing feels as great as being told I wrote something good. It gave me the nerve to share it in more public forums than my personal Facebook and Twitter. That’s when I started getting pushback.

I was told that I was lazy. (Have you been talking to my father? I kid. A little.) I was told I was an entitled millennial. (Glad I didn’t mention that I’m 31 and not 22.) I was told that I thought I was too good to be a teacher. (I love teaching. I’m going back to teaching Portuguese school this fall.) I was told that plenty of teachers work a second job anyway. (Where do they find the time?!) I was told to check my privilege. (And here I thought I did a decent job of pointing that out.) I was told that I should be happy that someone I love is employed by a tech company. (Technically, he’s employed by a contracting company. He’s not allowed to misrepresent himself as a Google employee.) I was told to move if I couldn’t it stand it. (Do you have any idea what kind of upfront cost that would entail?)

All my responses in the last paragraph belong in parentheses because they’re not important. While I first felt a need to defend myself in comment threads against anyone who had a problem with my writing, I soon stopped. If my writing couldn’t stand on it’s own, it wasn’t good writing. I needed to let it speak for itself. More importantly, I needed to not take criticism personally.

That being said, if anyone who had a problem with my last post is reading this: I wrote out of frustration, not a desire to attack a whole industry. My problem was and is with the tiny strata of the society that we live in that thinks they represent all of us. They certainly impact the lives of everyone that lives here, but they don’t represent the mosaic of people that live here and depend on one another. Service industry workers need to be able to afford to live here and serve you your cold brew. Teachers need to be able to afford to live here and teach your children. Non-tech industry workers (like my parents) who are staring down retirement need to be able to afford to live here. The homeless that we see (and in my case, often hear) only to quickly ignore them need to be able to afford to live here if we ever want places like Saint James Park to be parks and not homeless encampments.

So if you felt attacked, maybe you’re more culpable than you realize?

  • I have an amazing support network.

I asked for shares and you guys game through. The vast majority of traffic to my article came from Facebook. Some of your friends ended up resharing, sending my writing to places I could no longer follow. Then there were unexpected retweets. If you did any of those things: thank you, thank you, thank you. A story like mine is only as impactful as the size of its audience.

While I promised myself I couldn’t comment on my own story anymore, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t peeking as links to #MyLifeInSiliconValley spread across Facebook and beyond. In sharing my story, some of my friends had to end up defending both it and me. My brother, who at first was hesitant to be mentioned at all when I asked for permission, ended up valiantly coming to my defense.

Also, a quick shoutout to everyone who caught the dumb grammatical errors I missed because I made the mistake of writing drunk on emotions and not even bothering to edit sober before posting. Thanks for keeping the big bad Internet from questioning how much I deserve my English degree, friends.

  • Ask the Internet and sometimes the internet answers.

While I wrote #MyLifeInSiliconValley explicitly for the sake of creating a counternarrative, there was also an implicit purpose to me spreading it around: I wanted someone hiring a writer to read it. As many someones as I could reach. Getting my foot in the door has been the hardest thing for me. (I got another rejection email today.) By writing something like this, I hoped to kick down some doors.

It worked. I was contacted about a few writing positions and I made damn sure that I followed up. I also was told about other opportunities that would fit my skill set. I took those seriously, too.

  • The hustle is harder once it’s truly a side hustle.

I guess now is as good a time as any to confirm that my funemployment is indeed over. I started on Monday as a contract minion at a satellite office in San Jose for other contract minions doing work for Google.

The snacks are nice, having my boyfriend in the office is an unexpected treat, but the pay and the work are both motivating me to keep looking. job is what I needed to pay my bills and move out like the adult I should be by now. The job isn’t just gonna show up, though. I’m going to keep working towards it.

That being said, writing after putting in eight hours of staring at spreadsheets is hard. It’s easy to see how someone can get so exhausted by a job that they get complacent about finding the job. It happens every day; we just never hear about it.

I was supposed to post this on Wednesday; instead, I ended up finishing the first draft Thursday morning on the light rail to work. It’s Thursday night now, I did some housework, and I am finally finishing this damn thing.

Writing is work. I love it, but it’s still work. I need to find what will keep me working and not waiting for inspiration to come from on high.

  • I’m not alone.

I can’t tell you how hard it was to admit in such a public way just how pathetic my day-to-day life had become. I’m fairly image conscious. I like people to think that I’m competent and on top of my shit because usually, I am. I felt like I was admitting defeat when I wrote #MyLifeInSiliconValley, but I kept writing anyway. I prepared to deal with the shock and disappointment of my friends.

Instead, so many of you (some of whom I haven’t talked to for ages!) reached out and shared your stories with me. There’s thinking that you’re not the only one struggling to live here and then there’s knowing it because someone is sharing their struggle with you. It was such a relief.

That’s not enough, though. Sharing among friends, I mean. Like I said before, stories are only as impactful as their audiences. As much as I was hyped by my sixteen hundred-ish hits, the original had over forty-six thousand hits in it’s first few hours. It got reshared by The Observer. I considered not linking to it and giving it more hits but at this point any traffic I create is negligible. That story still controls the narrative of what it means to live in Silicon Valley.

That’s the hardest lesson I learned. It’s also something I want to do my part in ending. I want to make #MyLifeInSiliconValley into a regular series. I’m not alone. You have stories and I want to share them. We live here, too. Our stories are valuable, too.

Comment, message, or tweet at me. Use that #MyLifeInSiliconValley hashtag. Let’s tell some new stories.

This Is My Life in Silicon Valley

Though my funemployment may finally/hopefully be coming to an end, I am still working on my writing-based side hustles because no one seems to want to hire me as a writer. (Recruiters seem to think I’m the perfect polyglot contract minion candidate instead.) That means reading up on content writing, marketing, social media, SEO, and all the buzzwords a writer’s gotta know if she wants to make a living with her words.

However, the dream is to write in and about my community. When I saw This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley in my Facebook feed, it seemed like just the sort of content I should be reading and maybe even emulating. I know it was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek bit of satire, but it left me a crying mess instead of being inspired or even amused.

I hate to give that indulgent piece of writing more clicks, but please do read it before reading this so you have some context. Or don’t and just share this so maybe I go viral and get some eyeballs on my writing. That’d be cool too.

I wake up at 7:30 am to the sound of everyone else in the house getting ready for work, or in my dad’s case, coming home from work because he’s been running his non-tech company’s graveyard shift since I was in middle school. Ashamed to remind everyone that I’m still at home and jobless, I grab my laptop and stay in bed, checking my email and waiting for the house to quiet down.

There are a few of the usual automated rejections, thanking me for my application and encouraging me to apply for other opportunities. One looks like it was actually written by a human, so I respond with my thanks for their quick and personal response. Maybe they’ll remember me when something else comes up.

There’s another email from [name redacted] from [kinda sketchy sounding recruiting company redacted], introducing himself yet again (seriously, I get an email from him at least once a week) before throwing a job description for something I am interested in but wildly unqualified for. 5+ years of marketing, computer science, technical writing, an MBA? Have you even read my hella entry level resume, [name redacted]? Or is this a form letter you send out to everyone with an English degree who posted their resume on Indeed/Monster/etc?

I shower and grab a quick breakfast, reminding myself how lucky I am that I have parents that love and support me enough to let me keep living at home for free as I figure out how to turn my degree into a job. I’m ashamed now for hiding out this morning because I didn’t want to deal with being grilled about the job search. That conversation usually ends with being told what I should have done: stayed with the underpaid job that turned out to be an overworked internship or just stuck with getting my teaching credential because what else do you do with a BA in English?

I leave the house that my parents managed to pay off without even a GED between them, let alone a degree (Portugal was a dictatorship back in the day, so they only got four years of reading, writing, and arithmetic.) and walk to the bus station. I’m playing Pokemon GO as I do, headphones on, and yet it doesn’t drown out the honk and the catcall I get for the audacity of wearing shorts on an August day. I catch nothing but the usual suburban suspects: Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Meowths.

I take the 522 to the Alum Rock Transit Center, where I switch over to the light rail. I like to write on the train because it makes me feel like I’m going somewhere. I look through job postings on LinkedIn and Indeed. I’ve seen and applied for several of them already, but I save the promising ones and start working on cover letters for them. I hate cover letters but I know that if I want a writing job, they gotta see how I write. I work quidditch into every single one of them because that is a thing I am good at and I know it makes me stick out from the herd.

I get off the light rail at Saint James and put only one headphone in. Like the Pokemon GO loading screen says, you gotta be aware of your surroundings. There’s a comment about my ass that I ignore because the last time I talked back to a leering resident of Saint James Park, I got called a bitch and followed for a few blocks. I mentally wrestle with wondering what’s more important: fighting the misogyny inherent in our society or having empathy for someone who doesn’t have a home in one of the most income disparate parts of the country. Both are #SiliconValleyProblems no one has an answer for, least of all a #WhiteGirlFeminist like me.

I walk to my favorite Starbucks, which is on the other side of town from my home in Evergreen. It’s my favorite not just because it’s on the west side of town, a welcome escape from the east side, but because the barista I have a crush on in spite of being very happily not single works here. He played Ferdinand in The Tempest once; it’s my favorite Shakespeare play and he played the part to boyishly charming perfection. I try not to think about the fact that an artist has to work a service job to survive.

Instead, I think about every well-intended article I’ve read telling me to save instead of going to Starbucks, but I feel like a real, professional, glamorous freelance writer when I work here and I’m not just gonna use their free wifi without ordering something. I work on content for the blog I’m going to launch with David soon. It’d be cool if we could monetize it to the point where we could make a real job of it, or at least a decent side hustle. Scoring a content writing gig, a copywriting position, or even (dare I dream?) a job writing for the Metro based on our work would be cool too.

I crank out some drafts fueled by coffee and dreams, forgetting that I’ve forgotten lunch. One of my buddies, another English major trying to make his way in the world, is starting a writing consulting business and asks if I could use some side income. The answer is obviously yes. Later on, the boyfriend texts me. Want to meet for dinner? I remember that I’ve forgotten lunch, so the answer is obviously yes.

He works for Google, but by “works for Google,” I mean that he’s valuable contract minion who’s been strung along with the promise of having an inside track for an FTE (full time employee, for those of you who don’t speak fluent Google) position that he’s long since given up on. He still lives at home too, because a contract is only as stable as it is profitable to keep from moving the same job to Austin or some other, cheaper up-and-coming tech hub.

I look at jobs in Portland and Salt Lake City as I wait for him to pick me up, but I don’t apply because even though I have friends out there, my family and the Portuguese community I grew up in are here and I don’t know who I am without them. Little Portugal was here before Silicon Valley and I try not to think about how one is dwindling as the other is booming.

We get burritos at La Vic’s and I add orange sauce (though I think Iguanas‘s is better) and Mexican food to the reasons why I can’t leave San Jose. We discuss the article he shared on Facebook, the one about the people who got here and made it first are making it hard for anyone else to even afford living here, let alone buy a house. Until I get a job, his income alone isn’t enough to rent a place. I have to wonder which is worse: living at home with no job, or living at home with a job that doesn’t pay enough.

We drive through Little Portugal as we head back to the east side. Instead of the purple banners with grapes and other vaguely Portuguese symbols I remember, there are signs urging you to Shop Alum Rock. I wonder if that helped more than what the small businesses here, Portuguese or not, got as a payout for their lost business because of the unending road “improvements.” Then again, those improvements are supposed to help the 522, which is how I get around.

He drops me off at home. My dad’s gone to work by now, my brother’s locked up in his room grading papers (he has a tenure-track job teaching high school history, but it’s in Morgan Hill which means the pay is worse than if we were teaching in San Jose, hence why he too is still living at home), but my mom’s in the living room waiting for me with the usual questions. How was your day? Did you find a job yet?

Not yet, I reply. She wonders what I could possibly be doing all day out of the house but not actually working. I’m so smart, I got such good grades, I volunteer for so many things. Even I’m shocked at how busy I am for someone with supposedly all the free time in the world. The usual questions behind us, we settle down and watch Food Network together before we head to bed. I remember how lucky I am that my family cares so much and that it’s probably just as hard for them to watch me struggle instead of succeed.

We talk about the plan for tomorrow: picking up my seven-month-old nieces for their weekly stay with us. My sister and brother-in-law both work, staggering their days off so that one of them is home with the twins. On the days they both work, they’re at our house. Can’t beat the childcare costs at Grandma’s, right? They have to pay their mortgage (on a house in Tracy because there is no way they could afford a house in San Jose) somehow, not to mention save up to help pay for the girls to go to college.

I dream of a 9-5 and being able to put a down payment on a house.

I was born and raised here and I’m beginning to doubt I can stay here. I also recognize how privileged I am. I got a great education without crippling student debt from West Valley College and San Jose State. I’m lucky enough to live for free in one of the most expensive markets in the country, leaving me the luxury of looking for at least an okay job instead of just any job. I’m not saying we need to kill Silicon Valley and roll things back to the Valley of Heart’s Delight, but at the way things are going, I don’t know if I can make a home in the place I’ve always called home. I know I’m not the only one, but no one is gonna write an HBO show about us.

Phew, that felt good to get out of my system. If you related to this more than you laughed at This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley, like this, share this, talk about this. I’ll even give you a hashtag: #MyLifeInSiliconValley. I don’t care that the original article was meant to be satire; it still perpetuates the ideas people have about living here. We don’t all have the luxury of writing indulgent satires of our lifestyles. For many of us, trying to live here is no joke.