by Susan Casey
AS ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF TEN CAN TELL YOU, THE WORLD IS A competitive place—and sometimes extreme behavior is required in order to get what you want. Nothing as radical as, say, annexing a country or knocking off a bank, just a subtle twisting of the rules from time to time in order to achieve your goals. One such skill that I have found especially useful over the years is the ability to angle my way into almost any job.
I began to develop this technique largely out of desperation, just a few weeks after I graduated from university. I was perusing the classifieds in the Toronto Star when I spotted an ad for my dream job: an entry-level position at a hip Toronto advertising agency, a career-making place where even the briefest employment would open future doors. I had no intention of letting anyone else get this job. Pulling together my first résumé, I carefully matched my "career objectives" to the job requirements spelled out in the ad. Their "must work well on deadline" translated to my love of "fast-paced challenges." I was working my way down the list of attributes when I hit the big snag: "extensive experience operating a stat camera."
This was the pre-desktop-publishing era, back when mock-ups were created with X-Acto knives, cardboard, wax, and, occasionally, drops of blood. Cumbersome photographic equipment was deployed to produce stats, which were images—either a chunk of type or a piece of artwork—that were printed on photographic paper and pasted onto a board to make a proof for the printer.
The stat camera was a lummox of a machine. Standing at least five feet tall, sporting needles and gauges and glass plates and dials and a vacuum that made a scary sucking noise, it required its own darkroom. The art department at my university had contained such a beast, but the camera was considered too valuable and complicated for experimentation by students, even art students like me. Instead, it was manned by a laid-back, long-haired technician named Kirk. Though Kirk was barely older than any of the students, he'd had an aura of technical competence that set him apart. I called Kirk.
"That's easy," he said. "There are only two types of stat cameras: Agfas and Kodaks. They're completely different. So tell them you've had extensive experience working a stat camera, and then once you get the job, if it's an Agfa say 'Oh, I learned on a Kodak,' and if it's a Kodak say 'Oh, I learned on an Agfa: They won't fire you over that, and it'll explain why you've got no clue how to work the thing."
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