By: Ken Boone
I'll probably start this blog post with the biggest blow to my ego, when I failed to get into the High School of Music & Art on trombone at age 15. I looked for every excuse as to why it didn't happen. They had a glut of trombonists auditioning, I dropped my instrument and dented the slide, or God forbid, “dude, you just suck”! I was too young to understand why it wasn't such a bad thing, beginning with the fact that I hated playing the trombone. It led me to gospel music (first true musical passion), playing the piano, writing music, etc.
It would have been nice to have gotten an explanation. The salient points of that one-page letter were:
1. Thanks for auditioning
2. Sorry, you didn’t make it
3. Try again next year if you’re feeling lucky
4. Good luck in all your future endeavors.
I do know the true reason. I thought I could just mail in my performance. As I’ve said many times in this blog and on my podcast, I was one who understood the value of practicing. So, I probably came across as an arrogant little snot with a huge sense of entitlement. They didn’t have to include that in my rejection letter.
As with every dark cloud, the silver lining was something much better than what slipped through my hands. I got more mileage out of Plan B than I ever could have had I gotten in that school. Gospel music found me, not the other way around. I plowed into it with reckless abandon. I didn’t care whether I bombed on stage or not, because the potential booing I would have gotten paled in comparison to the embarrassment I felt when I read that rejection letter years prior. And I was further emboldened by the fact that, even though I bombed countless times, I only got booed off the stage once. That’s a funny story for another day.
While that was my first major rejection, it wasn’t my last. In fact, I came to expect rejection, so much so that I didn’t know how to reaction to acceptance of any kind. That helped to perpetuate the legend of “Ken the Door Man” I wrote about in a prior blog post. It didn’t help that no one attempted to lift my spirits. And I mean no one.
As I got older, the rejections continued, with some instances of success thrown in just to keep things interesting. I was glad to learn that no one batter 1.000 and I wasn’t the only one who thought that fate was singling us out for these indignities. At least the rejecters would give a reason once in a while.
Let’s fast forward to April 2019. I came here to the Charlotte area from Rochester, NY to check out things first-hand. It was more than a reconnaissance mission, it was house hunting. I did my research, hired a realtor, and had a sizable down payment sitting in my bank account. I also made an appointment with an unnamed temp agency that specialized in financial services staffing positions. Unlike the trombone audition episode, I was prepared. The staff there seemed to be excited that I picked them over their competitors. They assured me that I would have no problem getting an accounting gig, because of my experience and the fact that I was willing to take a temp assignment.
The house hunt went well. I made an offer on the fourth house I saw. In fact, I’m typing this blog post from the bonus room of that house. This July will mark a decade of me living in that house. I’ve lived here longer than any other residence I’ve lived in since I was a child! Ok, house bought. Now, time to get that job.
After some unpacking, I called the agency to let them know that I was ready to start working. They seemed thrilled when they set up the appointment for me to update my paperwork and chat about various opportunities. I was a little puzzled because I’d just visited them in April, and things on my end didn’t really change, other than the fact that I was here and no longer in Rochester.
The chat went well until they mentioned something about my resume’. I asked if there were any inaccuracies, to which they replied no. I asked if my experience was on the light side. They said hell no! One more push from me and they started vomiting. The formatting was off. There wasn’t much of a narrative. I didn’t provide a mission or vision statement.
Pointing out that I included each of the “missing” elements on the sheet of paper that represented everything I’d accomplished in my career, they had no choice to go in for the sales pitch. They told me about individuals who helped people spruce up their resumes’, as well as help sharpen their interview skills. And these specialists were reasonably priced. And all of this for a short-term temp gig!
This little dance went on for over a year. They got smarter and began dangling jobs that didn’t exist just to get me to come down, fill out paperwork, and get lectured on having an inadequately styled resume’. I began bringing multiple versions of my resumes’ with me to these meetings, to no avail. They began to realize that I was catching on to the fact they had a quota of applicants to see each month, and this poor sap’s number just happened to come up every three months or so. Did I mention that the only parking was in the garage of their office building? The fee was $15, and they didn’t validate!
As my bank account dwindled, I became overtly displaying my anger with these amateurs. That’s because I spent 10 years in the national office of a Big Four accounting D&T doing some industry-saving things. In fact, when I started down that path, the giants were known as the Big Eight. I earned a degree in Economics with honors. Wasn’t asking for a permanent gig – a temp gig would have worked just fine.
The truth of the matter was that the economy was bad. Companies were hoarding cash and not spending on labor. I knew that because I had an economics degree and I knew about the “factors of production”! As far as the agency calling applicants in for bogus interviews, I have a theory for that. Since there was little hiring in the marketplace, the agency wasn’t generating the necessary fees to keep up appearances. By bringing in dozens of unsuspecting, out-of-work accountings to fill out paperwork, the revenue generated and handed over to the landlord (the most prime office building in Charlotte) could keep them in their plush digs. I suspect that because they closed their offices in location closer to my home.
Just like with the “trombone audition affair”, this debacle had a silver lining. This time, I decided to hang up my shingle and become a freelance financial consultant catering to the needs of small businesses and nonprofit organizations. After some early struggles, that is now working out quite well for me. I also revisited my dream to get back in the music business. Soon after, my buddy Pete called to ask me to do some accounting work for his small businesses. I’ve mentioned many times that his small businesses were a record label and a music management/marketing agency. Talk about a God Shot!
When I earned my degree, I had a job that paid pretty well, so I treated myself to an over-sized, expensive class ring. During the period of my unemployment, the price of gold was skyrocketing, and I just happened to have a hunk of gold on my right ring finger. After much discussion with Celia, I sold my ring for top dollar and bought a Tascam 2488neo digital recorder, along with a matching set of drum microphones. The amount of money I got from the sale of my ring covered the cost of the gear, with me only having to pay $1.00 out of pocket! That’s pretty awesome!
The purchase of the 2488neo allowed me to reenter the music game in earnest. I used the recorder to produce Celia’s debut CD. I also use it to record multi-guest podcast episodes as well as live recording gigs. All are paying gigs, by the way. As for the drum microphones, I haven’t used them much yet, but the night is still young!
From time to time, I get calls from that temp agency, with offers of non-existing jobs. I politely turn them down, telling them that I already have an employment situation that I’m quite satisfied with. Then with an impish grin, I tell them that I got the gigs without the benefit of a resume’!
But wait... there's more!
About the Author
As owner of the Descant Music & Media Group, Ken is a creator and producer of several podcast shows. He is also a music producer, as well as a writer and an accountant for small businesses and nonprofits.