Four years ago, I took a job at BuzzFeed. I didn’t know BuzzFeed would grow into the company it is today. I didn’t know I’d get to do the work I’ve done, or get to work with the team I have. I took a risk in taking the job, and it paid off.
This isn’t the story of how I got the job at BuzzFeed.
It’s the story of the job I nearly got three months earlier — one that would have been a total disaster.
It’s August 2012, and I’m living in Springfield, Missouri. It’s the final month for the Stry.us team in the Ozarks. At the end of the month, we’re all about to be unemployed. I have no idea what I’m doing next, but I know I’m done with Stry.us.
I start applying to jobs. I want to go to New York. I think it’s the next big step for me.
And that’s when I see this story on the Nieman Lab blog about a news organization that owns a dozen papers around the country. They’re opening up an office in NYC that’ll be the central hub for all those papers. It’ll be the news desk coordinating national stories for all their properties, and they need a senior editor who can work with all these papers — and occasionally parachute in with a team to run point on big, national stories.
It’s the job I’ve been training for this entire time.
I apply, and I get an email back four hours later from the editor-in-chief: Let’s talk.
I interview with her, and I nail it. I do a second phone interview, and I nail that, too. I do a third, with a senior advisor to the company. He loves me.
They offer to fly me out to New York to meet in person. It seems like a formality at this point: I’m going to get this job.
I don’t get the job.
I bomb the interview. I don’t know why, but I’m a trainwreck that day. I’m evasive and vague in my answers. They ask me some personal questions that I don’t know how to answer. The interview gets uncomfortable, and then more uncomfortable. And worst of all: The trip home takes forever. It’s a three-hour flight to St. Louis, and then a three-hour drive back to Springfield. For 6+ hours, all I can think about is how I’ve blown the chance at my dream job.
I never hear from the newspaper company in New York again.
And then… three months later, I get the job at BuzzFeed. I don’t know at the time that it’ll change my life, but it does. And two months after that, the newspaper company files for bankruptcy. They close their New York office soon after that. Everyone gets fired.
The day I bombed that interview, I thought I’d blown it. I thought I’d missed my one big change.
I had no idea that I’d just experienced one of the luckiest days of my life.
Had I nailed the interview, I would’ve gotten that job. And five months later, I would’ve been out of work.
Instead, I landed at BuzzFeed, and I got the chance to be a part of building something amazing.
I’m lucky to be lucky, I guess.
That photo was taken by Anthony Lindsey, and graciously re-used here with permission of Campaign Monitor.