On Sep 24, I received a message on Instagram from a friend informing me of a job they thought I would be perfect for. Michelob ULTRA was giving one lucky person or couple the opportunity to get paid to live in a van, drink beer, and photograph the national parks.
On September 25, I decided to apply. It was a long shot, 150,000-to-1 I would later learn, but something compelled me to pursue this thing with fervor.
On September 27, I emailed everyone I could find that worked in the marketing or PR department for Michelob ULTRA. The odds of being seen at all with 150k applicants was low, so I was determined to at least get a look and hoped my work would speak for itself from there.
On October 1, I received an email that stated applications had been closed. Those who reached the next round of consideration would be informed via email by the end of the month.
On November 30, I had basically given up hope and decided to start moving on.
On December 7, I received an email with the subject “Pure Gold CEO next steps.” I could read only the first line of the email prior to opening it: “We at Michelob ULTRA want to congratulate you…” Three days later, I received the field assignment for Round 2.
On December 30, I submitted my field assignment. One 90 second video and 4 still frame photos according to a somewhat vague campaign description.
On January 8, I received word regarding my submission and an invitation to move forward with my first interview with the creative team.
On January 19, I received another email with the subject “Background check” and the words “Congratulations on being a finalist…”
On January 25, I had my final interview with the heads of marketing for Michelob ULTRA.
I was told it could be a week or two before a decision was made so when two weeks went by with nothing, I assumed they had offered it to another candidate.
But on February 9, 2021, I awoke to find a “golden ticket” in my inbox; I could read the first line without opening the email. It read “Hi Adam, I am happy to officially extend an offer for you to join our team…”
5 months prior, I had found myself unable to keep from becoming irrationally over-invested in a 150K-to-1 opportunity. I was driving Sophie crazy worrying about it, wondering what-if, and investing more time than felt appropriate on getting struck by lightning. I had put off jobs and travel and plans for the year, illogically tied to a fantasy. And in one little email, it all became real.
10 years of travel (6 years of photography) and suddenly, I was going to be an overnight success. A year prior, Sophie and I couldn’t even afford to live in a cheap apartment in Thailand. We were broke and both of us moved back in with our parents. I had to get a job working graveyard shifts at a budget hotel to make ends meet until this photography dream would.
Now, just like that, it seemed we would never have to worry about whether or not this was a viable livelihood. I was validated, relieved, and overwhelmed.
You see, the prize of winning was not the salary, but the connections and exposure. The PR surrounding this was supposed to get our names out there, and hopefully help build up our website as well. Ideally, we would get on the shortlist for other industry leaders needing similar services. The exciting part was the promise!
But would the experience match the expectations? Was this really the golden goose – the thing that would continue to begat more and more opportunities and ensure our livelihood as travel photographers – or was it nothing more than a golden egg?