Get to Know: Cydney Hayes, Writer

Joined Job Portraits: December 2019 | Based in: San Francisco

December 6, 2020

What do you do at Job Portraits?

I’m a writer, and most of my work falls under two umbrellas. The first one is client work—blog posts, articles, photo captions. Usually, that starts with meeting with a creative lead and maybe a project manager to figure out strategy for the piece. Then once I have my first draft together, the creative lead reviews it and gives me feedback, and one of our wordsmiths looks it over before we deliver it to the client.

One of the things I like about writing at Job Portraits is we don’t take the usual, whitewashed approach to talking about companies. Candidates are smart. They know work comes with challenges. So I think it’s much more effective to just be honest and pull out real truths.

Tell us about your background. What led you to Job Portraits?

I come from journalism. I started reporting on my high school newspaper and then went to Medill, where I specialized in magazines. While I was in college, I did an internship at Baltimore magazine that was focused on longer-form pieces and field reporting, and then another internship at Entertainment Weekly, which was the more digital-forward side of things—just putting out a constant stream of content.

I’m originally from LA, and when I graduated I wanted to come back to California. But I’d decided I didn’t really want a job at an entertainment magazine, so I started looking in the Bay Area. I worked as an editorial consultant for a news startup in Oakland at first; after that ended, I started looking at marketing roles. Around that time, I had coffee with another Medill alum who’d made the editorial-to-marketing transition, and she put me in touch with Miki, who was looking for a junior writer to join Job Portraits part-time.

I talked to a few people on the team, and I could tell it was a culture fit. It’s a very meta experience applying for a job at an employer branding agency. They clearly knew how to describe themselves to candidates. But it came from a completely transparent place—they were very clear about the kind of work I’d be doing, how much time I’d be spending there each week, and the opportunities I’d have to grow.

What’s challenging about your work?

I’m the newest member of the team, and I think the hardest part is just figuring out what I don’t know. Every day I realize something else I need to learn. With the marketing blog posts, for example, I’m writing pretty technical content for an organization that’s an authority on employer branding, but I don’t have any previous experience in this industry. So while I can take the actual writing work off people’s plates, I still need to do a lot of discovery before I can deliver quality work.

No one treats that like a burden, though. They made sure I know that they expected to train me, and that’s put my mind at ease. I also have regular one-on-ones with Miki, Jackson, and Jon, and I have a meeting later today that is literally called “Cydney’s Brain Trust,” which is just to make sure I’m getting all the support I need. Plus, when I joined, Jackson gave me a schedule of all the regular meetings and told me I was welcome to sit in any time, so I go when I can just to get as much context as possible. I try to learn every single day, which at this point in my career is probably the most valuable thing I could be doing.

What’s surprised you since joining Job Portraits?

Honestly, it surprised me that everything was as advertised—it really is transparent, and it really is a very collaborative culture. I think they understand how important it is to have people with different backgrounds and different perspectives. I don’t know as much about employer branding as some of my teammates do, but they still want me to chime in. I’ve never experienced that before as a new member of a team. 

It was also surprising how much they let people be people and support each other. We start our weekly team meetings by talking about what we’re anxious and excited about—work and otherwise—and people actually care! I mentioned once that my roommate was moving out, and Olivia DM’d me after just to say, “Hey, roommate stuff sucks. If you ever want to talk, I’m here.”

In school and at my internships, your personal life was never part of the equation. That set me up to be very efficient, but it’s also exhausting and stressful and not sustainable long-term. Here, if I’m tired when I come home from my café job, I can take a nap and get started on Job Portraits work later, and that’s completely okay. And because we care about and take care of each other, I’m that much more invested in the team. It makes me feel like this is somewhere I want to stay for a while.

Lightning Round!

What’s your morning routine?

I get up around 5:45, take a shower, and walk down to the café in Chinatown where I work part-time. I drink a lot of coffee, because I’m always dead that early, and then work until noon or so before I go home and start on Job Portraits projects.

What’s your superpower?

I’m a lucid dreamer, which means I know when I’m dreaming, and sometimes I can even control my dreams. If I feel like I can’t run, for example, I can tell myself, “No, this is a dream. You can run.” I’ve had dreams where I decide to go somewhere else, too—LA, or Baltimore, or Madrid. That’s fun.

What's your spirit animal?

I don’t know my spirit animal, but I can tell you my patronus, which is basically the animal version of yourself in the Harry Potter universe. I did a project on Harry Potter once when I was at EW and took the quiz, so I know I’m a spotted owl—wise and observant! I like it.

Tell us about a book that had a big impact on you.

I love Joan Didion. I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem when I first moved up here, and I especially like her essay On Keeping a Notebook. I’ve kept journals since I was 12, and I think recording your life like that allows you to understand yourself better. You can go back through and pick out themes. She alludes to that a lot—the importance of recordkeeping. Reading that essay felt like seeing everything I’d always thought about keeping journals, laid out in front of me on the page.

If you could interview one person, living or dead, who would it be?

Definitely Stanley Kubrick. He’s my favorite director, and I’d love to ask him about something he said once: “If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed.” I go back and forth on whether that’s true, and I’m curious about why he thinks so.

What unpopular opinion do you hold?

I hate cilantro so much. I wish I didn’t, because it’s in all my favorite cuisines—Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican. But I have that genetic thing; it’s not just like, “Oh, it’s not my favorite.” I cannot eat it. Even the smallest amount will ruin my whole meal.

What’s your next adventure?

Figuring out post-grad life has been an ongoing adventure, but I’m also excited to visit Sweden this summer. My brother-in-law is Swedish, so I’m going to visit his family with him and my sister. And the trip is over my birthday, which will be fun.

Video music credit: Video music credit: Walk by Ikson | Music promoted by Audio Library

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