Not to rain on your parade (and I think LA gets more parades than rain), but unless you’ve already got a sweet gig lined up, it’s incredibly difficult for new transplants to get real employment when they first arrive. This isn’t your fault; it’s just one of the side effects of moving to a land where dreams and realities fight a battle to the death – and reality usually wins. Employers don’t want to waste time and energy hiring and training new employees who are just going to decide they hate sunshine and hipsters and move straight back to wherever they came from (probably New Jersey).
The good news is there are still ways to make some cash while you’re counting the days to your first-year anniversary. That’s when you’ve proven you’re serious about this whole LA thing.
If nothing else, Los Angeles is a place where things just happen, and everyone wants to be there recording it on Snapchat. Millions of dollars-worth of the LA economy is based in its event industry, and some of that even trickles down to the hardworking “individuals” that staff the events.
And just who are the nameless masses servicing LA’s high society? If you’re reading this, then possibly you, whoever you are.
Caterer – It’s like being a waiter, only instead of a party of six forgetting your name the moment you say it, you’re serving dozens of people that won’t even bother asking. Depending on the size of the event, you’ll work a minimum of four hours with a handful to a hundred other single-serving friends all dressed exactly like you, occasionally serving food “ballet style” (aka in a slow-moving line) and carrying a bottle of wine like it’s a small baby.
Bar Staff – As anyone knows, it’s not really a party unless a “mixologist” in a tie is serving an overly complicated cocktail at a bar tucked away in an uncomfortable corner. If you can sling drinks and banter with well-dressed donors, this may be the way to go; bartenders typically make a couple dollars more per hour and walk around the room a whole lot less.
Set-up and Breakdown Crew – If you’re not into the whole serving people thing but don’t mind carrying heavy loads, there are some opportunities to work on the staff that sets up the events. While some of the bigger venues use their own staff, other companies outsource workers to private homes or businesses that don’t happen to have a bunch of laborers just hanging out on the lawn. You might not take home any tips, but the extra hours might mean you go home with more than you would otherwise. Just watch those fingers; breaking apart a parquet dance floor is more dangerous than you’d think.
Some companies are more reputable than others, so always make sure to google every company that posts an ad, just in case they’ve had any recent class-action lawsuits filed against them (welcome to LA).
Promotions are corporate-sponsored presentations, festivals, and other occasions that use your charming personality and attractive features (or just your ability to sit in a booth for hours) to market whatever product they’ve overstocked in the cooler at your feet. Working promotions is a great way to stick to a set, predictable schedule, while also almost eliminating the chance that you’ll get ketchup spilled on you.
The neat thing is corporations like to sponsor basically anything that they can slap a logo on, so there is a lot of variety available in your workday, and you might even have a good day yourself. One event, I thought I would be passing out samples of a new corporate soy-based protein powder. Turned out I was signing lots of hard-bodied people up for free yoga on the beach in Santa Monica – sponsored by this glorious unknown powdered substance. I had to ask around to make sure I wasn’t supposed to be paying for this.
For those with resumes that include a great job history or even a degree or two, you might want to give “temping” or temporary employment a try. Companies large and small, as well as private individuals like executives and celebrities, often need occasional help filling staffing holes left due to any number of circumstances – but they don’t really want to do the work looking.
That’s where temp staffing companies come in. These companies screen the “talent” to make sure they have the proper “skills” and “sanity” for the various employment opportunities. Those looking for an office job should check out AppleOne and a few others, while those poor souls ambitious/masochistic enough to be a personal assistant in the Entertainment industry might consider Executive Temps or The Friedman Agency.
The nice thing about this set up is that temping can lead to steady employment. Again, employers really don’t want to work at this. Just do a good job and you’ll do fine, and if not at least it’s only temporary.