JD Prater | Growth Marketer | San Francisco

discovering what's possible

I'm a seasoned growth marketer living in the San Francisco bay area. I'm quick on my feet and excel at digital strategies and storytelling.

Square Peg in a Round Hole

Refreshing, invigorating, and gratifying. These are words that capture how I felt today when I deleted my Idealist.org shortcut off my toolbar. In fact, I deleted all my job search links. I will no longer need these because I’m happily employed. After a long process (5 interviews), I got the job of Climate Educator in Colorado. With this job and location secured, I get to say Screw You DC Job Market!

Let me stop here and say if you’re looking for tact or, for those in DC, diplomacy it’s not contained in the following paragraphs. The following paragraphs are my thoughts on the Washington DC job market – for the good and the bad. Unlike Meg’s post, mine will not be so gracious to the pretentiousness and audacity surrounding the DC job market.

I thought it would be easy after college. I had been told that with a college degree and work experience I was all but guaranteed a job of my choice. Well, I had both. Before moving to DC, I had my college degree, plenty of work experience, a year of international experience (studying and working), and even some grad school hours. Surely, this would be enough experience to land me a job in DC.


When Meg and I arrived in DC we were so optimistic about the job market. We thought we would send out a couple of cover letters and resumes and POOF! jobs would be at our finger tips. I mean, come on, DC supposedly has the 5th best job market in the country. At first, I conservatively sent out my resumes and cover letters. I would only send out a couple at a time, because I didn’t want to tell organizations that I had already taken another job. After several weeks of not hearing anything, I began to increase the amount I sent out. But . . .  still . . . nothing. This went on for six months. My optimism slowly faded to doubt which made me cynical and hostile regarding all things employment.

Friends would tell me about their awesome job while I tried to sit calmly nodding with a half smile all the while controlling the emotions swelling up inside me. It didn’t matter how many jobs I applied for, because I realized that I’m not what DC is looking for. Not even for the bottom of the rung office jobs that I applied for. Believe me; I was well-qualified for 90% of them. A high school student could perform these job duties. So in an effort to conform myself to DC’s standards, I, 27 years-old with a college degree, plenty of work experience, and international experience, took an internship to gain DC Experience.


Now there is experience and then there is DC Experience. Experience is what I have. DC experience is what I have plus a completed Master’s degree, 2-4 years work experience, at least two quality internships, fluency in another language, applicable volunteer work, international experience, and connections - all for an entry-level $30,000/year job at a non-profit organization. If you don’t believe me then go to Idealist right now. The pretentiousness of this city is infuriating. Anyone with “DC experience” should be at a mid-level career making $60,000+/year not fighting for a mind-numbingly easy, entry-level position.


A few months into the internship, I contemplated the longevity of gaining DC Experience. I quickly put together a list of everything I needed to accomplish and how I was going to do it in order to “qualify” for the types of positions and fields I wanted to be working in. Dwelling upon this list for a couple of weeks, I came to the conclusion that I was on a path of conforming myself into someone who I didn’t want to become. I didn’t want to be someone who focused every aspect of their life on their career. I don’t want to have what it takes to be successful in DC. I just don’t fit that mold. For I am a square peg in a round hole. 

Square Peg in a Round Hole Apollo 13