I got a text this week that was a screenshot of another text. It read:
Person 1: I just saw Jared. Remember that time he never answered my email? Such a hot shot.
Person 2: Woowwww he never answered? Did you say something?
Person 1: No, I don’t really want to meet with someone who doesn’t answer my emails.
The backstory: A friend has a friend who wanted connections with people in comedy. I received an email explaining this and I forgot to email this person back. I know what you’re thinking: “Who would ever contact YOU for comedy advice?” That’s the same thought I had. I read this person’s email, which asked for connections at YouTube, Comedy Central, College Humor, with God himself, and with anyone else in the comedy world who could help her client, and I, too, chuckled a bit. Then I got a bit dark. I started thinking about how I’d love to know people at those places and how I really must be messing up if I don’t know anyone at YouTube. Maybe writing for a website with the word “frat” in it is screwing me over. An executive at Comedy Central probably saw the title of last week’s column, “America Is An Ass Country,” and thought, “screw this misogynist,” without even reading a well thought out column on the changing tastes of a nation. Then I got angry. Screw this girl. Even if I did know these people, why would I just scramble to help someone I don’t even know? Then I ate ice cream to feel better. Then I ate Chinese food. Then I realized every decision I had ever made was a mistake (especially Chinese food and ice cream). Then I forgot to email her back. So, yes, I forgot. I’m wrong for that. But my wrongness pales in comparison to how wrong she is for thinking anyone gives a shit about her email.
Honestly? I don’t blame her. I understand thinking, “Screw this guy. I’m a pretty and special snowflake, and I need help!” Along with most people right after graduating college, I used to be that person. I sold life insurance, annuities, and mutual funds (adult shit). If your mom or dad has this job, then you know it’s called being a financial advisor, but the rest of the world refers to these people as “the annoying insurance salespeople who won’t stop calling.” That’s the job. You find friends and friends of friends who may be in need of these products, and you call them until they tell you to stop. If you don’t have any friends or family in need, then you make cold calls. I’d make 300 calls a day to an unexpecting audience hoping to come to their office and scare them about death enough to help pay my rent. When you cold call right out of college, it’s astonishing. You learn very quickly it’s nothing like “The Wolf Of Wall Street” or “Glengarry Glen Ross.” There are no boards with money signs or high fives or company-sponsored little person throwing competitions. It’s just you and a phone. You say, “Hi, this is Jared Freid,” and an adult hangs up right away. This has never happened to you. Ever. You spent 22 years saying your name to adults who faked like they cared. And now it’s real life: their time, their money. Click. the phone hangs up, and it’s your job to pick it up and do it again. On the off chance I’d get a meeting, it would be exciting. A partner and I would go introduce ourselves to this person and discuss his financial goals, praying someone hoped he didn’t die. And sometimes this would happen. And then we’d discuss a plan to help his family and I’d start thinking of all the brunches I was about to buy. The meeting would end with a simple, “Email me.” Then I’d email, wait a week, email, wait a week, email, wait two weeks, email, wait three weeks, call. “Hi, this is Jared Freid.” Click. And THAT’s when you’d learn who really cares about your emails. Nobody.
That’s why the person in the above conversation couldn’t be more wrong. Life is a series of emails that go unanswered. It won’t be because whoever you emailed didn’t want to answer or that you’re not good enough. It’s because you’re not the first thing on that person’s mind. That person has his own life and problems and chicks he’s banged who he hopes aren’t pregnant. If you follow up and follow up again, he will, at some point, reply. But you’ll realize that even that email back rarely means anything. All the people you emailed were in your position and to get where they are, it took way more unanswered emails than ones that got answered. It took way more people saying, “I don’t really work in that area, but I’ll keep my eyes open,” than people who stood up, extended their right hand, and excitedly exclaimed, “You got the job!” You are amongst the millions of postgrads who want something, and the key to it is a lot like cold calling: numbers and persistence.
There’s this age-old saying that you hear from the fraternity brother with the 2.0 GPA: “It’s all about who you know.” A world where the economic divide grows each day encourages this thought. We see the rich get richer because they know other rich people. And yes, this is true to an extent. But the rich also don’t have time for your email. That’s why they’re rich. They aren’t spending their days looking at how many retweets their fart joke got as they received your email and thought, “I was hoping that drunk kid from Thanksgiving would get in touch about that internship.” You may know someone or have a parent who knows someone, but you need that person more than he needs you. I know it’s hard to believe right now while you still live in a fraternity surrounded by pledges doing gargoyle poses on top of a bar because you demanded it, but it’s a lesson better learned early. You will email, they will not respond, and the best thing you can do is nicely follow up two weeks later. That, kids, is called persistence. It’s not the first email that shows you care; it’s the third..