“You’ll never work in this town again”

You’ve probably heard that phrase in TV and movies, in fact, it’s become quite cliché in my opinion. I recently watched an interview with Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen from 2018 where Paul discusses how he got the role of Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the interview, he says he had a meeting with a producer that told him he was done in Hollywood, and immediately following that meeting he [Bettany] received a phone call from Joss Whedon offering him the part of Vision. This story reminded me of the time that I was told I would “never work in this town again”.

Years ago, while living and working in Greenville, South Carolina, I was unhappy with my job and I was trying to break out of it. I was looking for another position in local marketing agencies as a web developer. At the time, I had zero connections to the local community and did all of my job searching with Google: “php developer greenville sc”. Despite the no networking abilities, no connections, and poor job search skills, I found a local shop that was more web development than marketing, and they were hiring. Their website’s job description included a link to an online application with the usual resume upload and personal info, but it also included a questionnaire wanting more specifics on experience, programming style, and various bits and bobs. So, I started filling out the application. That’s when I received a phone call.

A local recruiter, who shall not be named, from a local recruiting agency, that too will remain nameless, phoned me up. They had seen my profile on LinkedIn and had an opportunity for me. They told me all about the company and the position and it all sounded great. I was excited about the possibility of interviewing there, so the recruiter agreed to send them my information. At the end of the call, he revealed the name of the company he was hiring for. It was the same company I had tracked down myself and was in the middle of applying for.

After the phone call, I went back to my browser and looked at my half completed application. The direct application was asking many more questions than the recruiter asked me, so in my inexperienced and young mind, I thought “hey, I’ll just finish filling this out and when they get my resume from the recruiter, they’ll have a little extra info on me for the interview”. I didn’t see anything wrong with my thinking. I thought it would help my chances. I was wrong.

The next day I got a call from the recruiter. Excited and thinking it was to schedule an interview, I answered the phone. I was immediately berated with accusations of “double submittal” and trying to “screw” the recruiter. I was in shock. I casually explained that I had already been in the middle of an application and decided to finish it as the company was asking more specific questions than the recruiter did. I also explained that since the recruiter was sending my info over, I didn’t see how it was a “double submittal”. The recruiter wasn’t having any of it, and then he hit me with “I’ll make sure you never work in this town again”.

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I was nervous and scared. Could this person really prevent me from getting another job in my city? Logically I knew he couldn’t, but emotions are quicker to the brain than logic. Years later I would become friends with the owners of the company that I had attempted to interview with and they remembered the incident. They told me the same recruiter threatened to blackball their company if they hired me.

Needless to say, I did not get the interview. A few months after the incident, I received a cold call from a local business owner about a different opportunity in town that was a bigger step up than the one I had attempted to get earlier. I took the job which eventually led to other possibilities and eventually to where I am now, a full-time remote Software Engineer working for an international company. So I guess that recruiter was right, I never did work in that town again.