“A Bucket of Steam”: Proving Your Worth in the World of Jewels – Part 2

After three years of being a runner, I felt it was time for me to move on to something more substantial in the jewelry industry. The line you just read was a blatant lie. After three years of being a runner, errand girl, yes-(wo)man, verbal punching bag, script editor, gopher, hustler, and sometimes butt of the joke, I quit my first job in the industry without a damned idea of what I’d be doing next. Thankfully, I was in a relationship where I could take a few months off and not be financially affected, so that I could think about where I’d like to be and hope to heaven wherever that place was needed someone with my skill set. But let’s be honest here… what exactly were my skills? Well, I knew how jewelry was made, for one. Being a runner allowed me to learn the ins and outs of the craft, so, I had that going for me. But what I didn’t have was a college degree, so if I wanted to work anywhere in this trade that didn’t involve selling ninety-nine dollar U through Z color, SI9 clarity “diamond” studs at a kiosk in the mall the rest of my life, I needed to get a little crafty, and show just how well I could sell by technically selling something that didn’t yet even exist …

…myself, in future form.

*****

I have only genetics to thank for what I looked like at twenty-seven years old. I stood about 5’10” with broad shoulders and a slight frame. An Italian father gave me my dark hair, warm skin, and a generally bad attitude. A German mother gave me my gray eyes, height, and a belief that you will go as far only as hard as you are willing to work. Everything else, however, was gained from my life’s experiences, and everything I ever had, I mostly got with just a little luck.

In early 2000, I was asked to do a photo shoot for a major jewelry trade publication out of King of Prussia, PA. I had done some modeling over the years but never took it seriously enough to consider as a career, so I obliged, knowing it would give my folks something else to add to the scrap book. Four girls took part in this shoot and at just a few years shy of thirty, I was, hands down, the eldest of the group. The magazine was Jewelers Circular Keystone, and the shoot was for their media kit to be released later in the year. When it came out, a friend of mine in the trade brought me a few copies so that I could keep a couple and give one to my parents. Inside the folder were several 5 x 7 cards, each emblazoned with a different model’s face. There I was, in black and white; hair all Jessica Rabbit-like, looking like an old movie star. It was cool. It’s still cool when I think about it, but I never knew just how handy that card would come in until the day I applied for a position with the most well-known jewelry designer in the Philadelphia area.

*****

Three months had gone by without a single call for a job. I had faxed (yes, F-A-X-E-D), mailed, and physically brought in my resume to every major jewelry retailer near where I lived with no luck. I didn’t technically do sales in my previous job, didn’t finish college, and frankly, looked like crap on paper, so I started to get really nervous and when I get nervous, my brain starts exploding.

Did I make a mistake by leaving my last job?

Should I just go back to school?

Is this even the industry for me?

What’s the meaning of life?

Did my parents adopt me?

Will Luke and Laura ever get back together?

See what I mean? Crazy-talk was taking over, until that one day I decided to take the subway up to Center City and do a walk-about in Rittenhouse Square. That is when I saw “The Store.”

I had noticed its name before. I knew it had something to do with jewelry, and I knew it wasn’t for people like me; you know, broke people. This place was a place I was unfamiliar with. The main-liners shopped here: the people from Yardley, and Merion, and Bryn Mawr. Occasionally I would come across their ads in a Philadelphia magazine that I picked up in my dentist’s office or purchased if I had a few extra bucks in my pocket. This name wasn’t just a name synonymous with Philly itself… it was, by all respects… a brand, and so I let my curiosity get the best of me, and walked my under-dressed body through the elegantly decorated doors.

Welcome to LAGOS,” said a voice behind the counter.

I belong here,” replied my brain to itself. And so, it got to working. What can I do to get myself noticed? What can I do to get myself in?

*****

Google was still in its early stages in the year 2000. “Googling” a brand like LAGOS didn’t bring a ton of results, but what it did bring was the address and telephone number of its corporate headquarters in North Philly. One thing that I did know about the brand from the trade shows I was allowed to attend with my previous employer was that their show booth was big, and secluded, and that their sales team was intimidatingly beautiful. “This…” I thought… “This could be my *in*” and this is where those 5 x 7, Vanessa Redgrave-esque media kit cards would come in handy.

I borrowed a career-style pencil skirt from my sister-in-law and wore my most conservative button-downed shirt. I straightened my hair, wore a touch of makeup, and tried my absolute best to de-South-Philly my speaking voice. In my hand was a manila envelope containing a crisp, newly printed version of my resume on a medium weight card stock, and a well-written cover letter explaining in minimal words what I was looking for and what I would be able to bring to the table. Attached to the back was my JCK headshot card, in the hope that whoever was in charge of hiring would at least give me a second thought based on my appearance. It was a long shot, but I didn’t have a choice. If my looks could even partially get me in, then I knew my abilities would keep me in, but my past experiences on their own would have never been enough. I had no choice but to pull out all the stops.

*****

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

*****

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Barbara Ann?”

“Yes. This is Barbara.” (Cringing at the fact that I even included the “Ann” part on my resume. So effing stupid. So. Freaking. DUMB.)

“Hi, this is Marcia with Lagos. We received your resume and wanted to know if we could set up a time that works for you to come in for an interview.”

And in my mind, with a smile on my face that could have melted the Antarctic, the song continued…

 Then there were those that made me feel good
But never as good as I’m feeling right now
Baby you’re the only one that’s ever known how
To make me wanna live like I wanna live now
I said yeah yeah (yeah yeah) yeah yeah yeah yeah the waiting… is the hardest part…

To be continued…