Do you have a dream job? No? That’s all right. There are many things worth dreaming of other than jobs.
But even if you’ve never dreamed of a particular job or profession, know this: sometimes you stumble into it. Suddenly you find yourself in a job that seems to have been created just for you.
After talking to Joseph, we feel like this is exactly what has happened to him.
Now he’s a social media officer at ROMEO, a dating agency for gay men, and he’s loving it. He’s going to tell you all about that in the interview below.
By the way, we really enjoyed doing this interview. It was funny, cheerful and very honest. We also found out a bit about using gay dating apps in Iran and gay rugby teams, and, well, there aren’t that many people out there who can tell you stories like these.
Joseph will tell you:
- What it's like to work for a gay dating app;
- How the hiring process unfolded;
- How he wrote a sample article about sex and food;
- If there is any female or straight person working in their company;
- What it's like to search for a job abroad;
- If his sexual orientation has any influence on his job search;
- If a gap in your resume can cause you trouble
- Why it's important to talk about LGBTQ topics;
- And then some.
Your CV says that you are from Dublin. Why did you move to the Netherlands?
My brother lived in the Netherlands for almost ten years. I decided to move over just for the summer. I quit all of my good jobs in Dublin to move here.
After the summer, I realized that the Netherlands was excellent, and I wanted to stay here. Now it's my home.
Was it hard to find a job in a new country?
When I moved here, I had some savings and didn't have to work at all for six months. I just had a good time. But as my money was running out, I started applying for jobs in my field.
Because I had six months missing in my CV, it was hard to find anyone even to interview me. Then I panicked. :D And that's when I started going to cafés, bars, cinemas, and restaurants.
Does that mean you had to start from scratch?
Yes. For the first six months, I worked at Starbucks serving coffee. I think they hired me just because the women at the counter liked my attitude. :D I was thirty-three years old, and my manager was nineteen. It was fun.
At that time, no one was really hiring. But if you're moving here now, as long as you speak English, you can work in Amsterdam. You don't need Dutch to work here unless you want to work for the city council or the national theatre.
Then I decided that I don't want to stay at Starbucks forever, so I started looking for a new job. And I found ROMEO.
Their website advised jobseekers to use Kickresume to create a CV. That's how I found out about you. I created one CV, I applied for one job, and I got it.
I can imagine it was quite hard to explain a gap in your CV.
Yes. Because I wasn't actually traveling. I was just living in Amsterdam and partying, and I was thirty-three. :D I guess it made me look a bit irresponsible.
When you are traveling the world, it would make sense that you took months off. But I just took time off to spend time with my brother which isn't really common.
Does your sexual orientation play any role when searching for a job? I have noticed that most of the jobs in your CV are gay-related.
Hmm. Do I seek gay work? I didn't realize that until now, but yes, I do. I'm super gay every day. Everything I do is gay. I work gay, I talk gay, I live gay. :D
Speaking of your current job, can you tell me what it's like to work for a gay dating app?
Oh my god, it's amazing! I'm so blessed.
When I lived in Dublin, I was a cultural journalist. Now I started doing social media. My journalism could have been described as fluffy by other more serious journalists. A lot of my work was kind of soft, light entertainment, and whimsical. Restaurant and cafe reviews, cinema and theatre reviews.
But as I grew, I started to move into TV, Radio and I also began to write about things I felt were important to me - gay rights, queer life, nudity. I'm so grateful to the opportunities I got with great publications like Totally Dublin and Le Cool magazine. :D
Now I work for a dating agency for men and it includes LGBTQ rights and activism. Even though I have entered it from a very soft and fluffy area, a lot of my work is quite serious and important.
We also have our own foundation and work to make life better for queer people.
Are you motivated by the fact that you are helping others?
Yes, that's my primary purpose. We want to help people around the world. Our charity foundation is for the groups in the world that want to make life better for queer people.
If you have a manifesto, idea, or a project, you can apply for funding, and we might be able to give you money to make it happen.
For example, a group of women in West Saharan Africa wanted to create a safe space for lesbians to meet, but if they did this, they would be putting themselves in danger.
Instead, they created a women's football team that acts as a queer safe space. This is one project we were able to fund. But there are so many more.
We fund projects like this all around the world. We try to help people in most challenged areas as there are countries where people don't support the LGBTQ community.
When talking about less safe countries, I have noticed in your cover letter that you used a dating app also in Iran, where the penalty for homosexuality is death. Is it true?
Yes, I've been to Iran, and I used the app there. Also in Azerbaijan. But these apps have really taken safety on board.
If you open it in Iran, it will warn you not to use it in that country and will advise you to take down your real photo, put up a photo that is non-generic, for example, your hobby. They ask you not to meet people and so on.
They have a list of dangerous countries and also safety & dating advice. And the lists and safety tips are maintained.
But I need to mention that despite this, these are lovely countries. I met a lot of happy gay people and a lot of open-minded straight people. They have a very religious mandate which runs the nations, but people are often smart enough to make up their own minds.
However, in Iran, the law is not so tolerant of gay people, and there's a death penalty for homosexuality. Iran isn't the only country that has it, but it's the one I happened to visit.
Weren't you a bit afraid to use it there?
Nooo! If they want to arrest me, then arrest me. Let’s get in the media, let’s talk about this. Incarcerate me. Let's bring more attention to this subject! :)
Did you also use ROMEO app before you got to work there?
Yes, since the second year of its existence. It was around fourteen years ago. I said that in my job interview and I think it impressed them. I watched the company grow for years before I worked for them.
I'm pretty sure it impressed them. What did the hiring process look like?
It was brilliant. I woke up one day and decided that I will apply for a job at ROMEO. Just at a time when I wanted to go back to journalism, they sent a message to all their users to say they were looking for a social media officer.
So I created my resume and also had to do a short video resume. Then they invited me for a Skype interview and were really impressed. And they invited me for a face-to-face meeting.
It was very serious. There were three people and a lot of questions. I had to talk for about an hour and a half. Then they asked me to write a piece of text about sex and food.
About sex and food? :D
Yes. :D So, I went home and started writing a document about sex and food. My boyfriend was throwing a party that day.
So, I was writing at my desk while the party was happening around me. Very annoying. :D But in the end, I managed to write it, and they really liked it.
However, there was also another candidate they liked. In the end, they hired both of us. They gave me the position of Social Media Officer and invented a new job for him.
For how long have you been working there already? And do you still use the app?
It's for three years now. And sure, I mean, I have to. :D If I'm the voice of the brand, I need to know how it works, what are the issues and the bugs.
But I also like to see guys via it. So I'm using it for both. I have three different profiles — work profile, personal profile, and my original profile.
And what does a gay app social media officer do? Is your job somehow different from other social media jobs?
Yes. Social media can be very false, fake, and empty, and it's trying to present how something is perfect, wonderful, and happy — reducing storytelling to hashtags?
We go to sex parties and photograph pole dancers in their underwear. Then we talk to members of the trans community who feel persecuted and restricted. #poledancingforlife #translifematters
I was on my holiday in Peru, and I also shared snaps from my personal life on our Instagram.
But Social Media can be a power for good if it is used honestly like we try to do at ROMEO. We engage in community conversations, and we aren't trying to promote the perfect brand. Our social media doesn't need to be perfect. It is honest.
But you were originally studying journalism and also had few jobs in the media sphere. Why did you decide to engage in social media?
Honestly, I just needed a job, and this was the perfect evolution for me. :D Working in traditional journalism is great, but the face of journalism in the last twenty years has changed enormously. It's all moving more and more to digital.
Even though my title is Social Media Officer and a lot of my work is marketing-related, I'm also doing work around PR, as I tend to voice of the brand.
Sometimes, I'm also writing articles for media if I have time. I'm a journalist, it's in my blood! :D I also write the majority of our blog.
What does your day usually look like?
It's quite structured. Every morning, we have a standup meeting. We talk about what we are going to do, what tasks are we working on, who we need to help us. Then we go and achieve those tasks.
The following day, we move some tickets to done and create new ones. Throughout the day, I spend the day writing, developing ideas, and answering emails.
In the afternoon, I'm finishing blog posts, going through texts with our text editor, or going through images with our image designer.
At the end of the day, we try as best we can to publish the content and post on our social media channels.
Can you maybe compare your current job to working for media? Do you enjoy it more?
This is the best job I've ever had in my entire life. They are so supportive and wonderful. I have so much freedom, and it's like the job was designed for me.
I love it, and they love me, they also sometimes can't stand me, but that's another sign of love, in my opinion.
Do you also use social media after work, or are you happy that you can be offline for the rest of the day?
It depends. I take breaks for my own mental health and sanity, but the nature of my job is that if I go to a gay club on the weekend, I should photograph it and it should be on social media.
I'm always on social media — at work or outside the office hours. But I take little breaks. I leave my work phone off for three days every month.
Maybe a year ago there was a moment that I couldn't log into social media, I just needed some time to be offline. At the moment, it's completely fine.
I'm trying to imagine the work atmosphere in a company that develops a gay dating app. Are there also any female or straight persons working there?
Yes, there are! :D When I started, it was thirty men in Amsterdam and sixty men in Berlin. And then, they hired a woman.
The thing is that we used to advertise our open positions via an app which is used only by men. Then we realized that we should also advertise through agencies.
We did, and we got great applicants. We sooo needed women to work here! :D So they hired the first woman.
Funny story, we only had toilets for males at that time and needed to renovate one also for females.
Since then, another Irish female joined us. She's my boss, and she's incredible. And we now have a female designer from Brazil who is the newest team member.
So, we have three women here in Amsterdam. And there's a bunch of straight people. I don't really know who's straight and who's gay.
And what about the company culture? It seems like you encourage employees to be themselves and don't care whether it's controversial or not. That's super cool!
Yes, we are blessed and lucky! We don't have investors, only one guy is the owner. He created the kind of company that he's happy with.
The goals of our company are to be inclusive, to create a gay community which is free from shame. And the workplace is the same.
I have a colleague who paints the nails on his left hand because he can't paint the other hand as well. His hair is usually pink, purple or blond and he wears tiny shorts and see-through t-shirts during summer. And nobody thinks it's risky. We feel it's fabulous and adds a sense of safety to our queer space on the 12th floor.
Some people wear jeans and polo shirts, and that's fine too.
Does it also happen that new people you meet ask you where do you work and then they are a bit shocked?
Yes, a lot of times. I can tell you one story. I was traveling in Peru for three weeks, and we met two doctors from Switzerland.
They are living in Bolivia and are volunteering at an HIV Center. That's in a country that doesn't have great resources for HIV treatment, and they're watching people die. It's really sad that many patients are dying unnecessarily in this Bolivian hospital. These Swiss volunteer doctors are really doing something meaningful by being there and trying to make a change.
And they asked me what I do. And I was like "Ohhhh.. social media.. for a gay dating app." :D It felt like "Your life has such a meaning and purpose, and mine is so shallow." :D That was just my initial reaction, but if you live your life comparing yourself to others, you will always end up feeling a little less than your actual value.
My work is important to me, and in many ways, I hope it helps some people to feel prouder for being gay and confident to look for love online.
I always say to people that I'm working in marketing and journalism. And they want to know more. I never have any shame because of who I am, and I enjoy coming out and forcing my agenda into the minds and thoughts of strangers.
Here in Europe, it's much more comfortable, because ROMEO is a well-known brand amongst the gay community.
Why do you need to talk about LGBTQ topics?
Because I'm so privileged, I'm a white, male, middle-class, highly-educated gay guy, which means that the doors are opened for me a lot quicker. I go into places, and people might be willing to listen to me.
I'm not saying my life is easy, but the patriarchy and current ruling systems mean doors are open for me, and I want to use that privilege to help if I can.
I hope that my storytelling, blogging, posting on social media, and so on, by being visible, I'm making the world a little bit happier and safer for other gay people.
When I was in Peru, I met people who didn't even know that gay people even existed. That's ridiculous! With visibility and exposure, you engender tolerance.
Since when you are so into these topics?
My whole life. I knew I was gay when I was seven. I just didn't really understand it at that time. Then when I got older, I was writing essays for my high-school about being gay.
I was writing that I'm homosexual, was writing about gays and beautiful shapes of men's bodies.
But to keep me safe, my teachers never read them in front of the class and still gave me excellent grades. And I really appreciate it.
What are the most common gay stereotypes that you are trying to defeat? I've seen that you play rugby.
I don't really want to smash stereotypes, but I think there's nothing wrong with being a feminine gay or masculine gay if that's who you really are.
There's nothing wrong with being straight, gay, asexual, or being in-between or identifying as male, female, or transgender. As long as it's the authentic you and makes you happy, it's the only way forward.
So, I don't want to smash stereotypes, but I want to demonstrate that gay people are of every shape, size, color, and gender exist and deserve to find love and happiness.