James Aviaz moved to New York from Sydney in October 2010. He's currently Marketing Manager for music startup Songtrust , having previously helped launch operations for Uber in New York. James is also working on Records Abroad - a music discovery site highlighting new music from outside the US and England.
For the better part of my adult life, I've prided myself on being pretty good a bunch of things: writing, talking to people, drinking, the Internets, tasks involving some kind of strategic thinking. For the longest time, this seemed like a great strategy. Being kinda good at a bunch of things makes me more employable / likable, so went the theory. And then New York happened.
New York is the home of the elevator pitch. People want to know who you are, what you want, and how they can help. You see, Australia is not a country that punishes those without straight answers to these questions. We prefer to start sentences with evasive words like: 'Yeah, nah...' HONESTLY, WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Being thrown into the New York job hunt quickly jolted me out of 'yeah, nah'-ville. And if anyone's been jolted recently in any way, shape or form, you'll attest to a certain unpleasantness to the experience. Think fender bender with a Mac truck.
In order to get anyone in New York's attention, you need to very quickly and powerfully surmise WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT.
Try not to say things like, 'yeah, I'm kinda working on this thing at the moment.' WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN TO A HUMAN BEING WITH THE ATTENTION SPAN OF A FLEA?
This is also a critical time to note that Americans ingest masses of high fructose corn syrup each day, rendering them with the patience of a hyperactive puppy. Oh look, is that another shiny thing? Yes. It always is.
The funny thing about moving to New York is the preponderance of misinformation about the city's inhabitants. One such fallacy is that: 'New Yorkers are really rude'. It was then to my surprise that 95% of all people I've met in the City have been STUPIDLY HELPFUL AND WONDERFUL. The trick is you've got to learn how to give them the best chance to help you.
The recipe for this elusive dish contains good helpings of bravado, salesmanship, and a sprinkling of razzle-dazzle. The New York Networking Moment is not a time for shrinking violets. BRING OUT THE FUCKING NUKE OF CHARM AND PIZZAZ.
New York is a city built on dreams. Entrepreneurial types are everywhere. There's not a cafe in Manhattan that at some point in the day wouldn't have a meeting about 'that big thing I'm working on that will change the world, can I have some money?' It's intoxicating. So, you best be ready to sell your dream or else get lost in the mire. Big ideas, big hopes, big shit.
Growing up in Australia systematically breeds this instinct out of you. The real winners Down Under are the guys flying below the radar pretending they'd rather drink 15 beers than work on business strategy. And if anyone dares shine above the crowd - and HEAVEN FORBID BE PROUD OF IT - they'll be cut down like a tall poppy.
And herein lies the innate difficulty of being an Aussie-come-lately in the Big Apple: everything you need to do to get people's attention, goes against the very charm of being an Australian *jolt*
Selling yourself short is bad enough, but it's even more criminal to give a confusing account of yourself. Humble should not equal bumble. Jacks-Of-All-Trades are especially bad at this. 'Yeah, I've got a bit of experience in this and that, so really I'm looking for all kinds of opportunities'. Translation to a New Yorker: "BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH."
I've distinct memories of saying things in my early 20s like: 'don't pigeonhole yourself' and 'you don't want to get pigeonholed'. Guess what, pigeonholing is how a city bursting at the seams with Attention Deficit Disorder sufferers can compute you - and more importantly, work through their cranial Rolodex to help you in your quest. Turns out, being an expert at something is REALLY FUCKING VALUABLE.
This is probably Saturn Returns talking, but I'd love to grab my 21-year-old self and say: 'Hey mate, fucking chase your dreams and be excellent at something you love. In 10 years time, you'll have an enormous network of contacts, experiences beyond your wildest dreams, and you'll be an expert - something people will PAY YOU VERY WELL FOR.'
The most amazing people I've met have all been insanely determined to achieve something great. When you talk to them, you know exactly what they're about and what they want. To use marketing parlance *stabs self in groin*, their 'brand messaging' is always on-point and consistent. Real passion, believe it or not, seems seamless. Jacks-Of-All-Trades are like a turret gun of passion, spluttering ammunition at anything that moves. Pigeonholers are badass motherfucking snipers.
Now nearing my 30th birthday, I’m preparing to build myself a nice pigeonhole in which to get comfortable. Let's hope I go 'coo coo', rather than 'cookoo'.