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Why HBO’s “How to Make It in America” is a Blueprint for Tackling the Job Market

Sometimes I feel like Mark Wahlberg knows me better than I know myself.

After keeping me transfixed to HBO the past seven years with “Entourage” (the final season was mostly garbage, but I was too far along to quit), the rapper/actor has done it again with the hit HBO drama “How to Make It in America.”

The show, which returns for its second season this Sunday, is everything “Entourage” should and could have been. Unlike the fantasy world of Vince and the gang where no one really struggles for anything, “How to Make It in America” offers a far truer depiction of life for most young adults. We are ambitious, smart and hungry, but not always sure which road leads to the Promised Land.

At the same time, our economy is in the toilet and joblessness has reached crisis levels. If Millennials ever needed a heavy dose of inspiration to stay on the grind in pursuit of our passions — and the almighty dollar — this show is it.

The protagonists, Ben Epstein and Cam Calderon, are best friends in their mid-20s trying to start a fledgling clothing line called Crisp. The first season chronicles Ben and Cam’s misadventures as they hustle all over their hometown of New York City in search of investors, designers, manufacturers and distributors.

Friends, family and pros in the clothing biz all tell Ben and Cam to turn back or try a less risky venture. The two are not Wharton grads or living off an inheritance. They only have a few bucks to their names but are incredibly driven to “make it.” They also abide by the famous Woody Allen credo: “90 percent of life is showing up.”

Just by hustling all over Manhattan and chatting up anyone in the clothing business that will listen, doors begin to open. Ben and Cam might be naïve to think they can start Crisp from scratch, but they are nothing if not opportunistic. When the two friends see a door open, they sprint through before it slams shut. They are assertive, putting themselves in position time and again to succeed.

In real life, too, the job market is fierce, and to win you must be swift. Like Ben and Cam – and even Cam’s felonious but well-meaning cousin Rene – we have to think of every social interaction as a chance to network and promote ourselves. You never know who you might be talking to on the subway or at the lunch counter.

“How to Make It in America” is a new way to view our depressing job market. Forget the competition, and get it for yourself with pure, unfiltered hustle.

Danny Rubin is a national news consultant for media research firm Frank N Magid Associates. He is a former television news reporter, lives in Washington, D.C. and tweets as @dannyhrubin.


    • Hey Jason! Managing editor of the blog here. I actually thought this was smart — gave me a heads up on a show I might appreciate and make a good point about hustling. But always appreciate other opinions, so thanks for chiming in. If you have depth to add, we’d love to hear it!

  1. Tony

    Well I agree with you about the show – I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think the later episodes were that bad.
    But you are absolutely right that every opportunity to network should be taken. I am an Executive Coach and get all my business through networking. Very rarely from formal pitches etc

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  3. I was not been able to make it through season one- maybe not my cup of tea anyway, but most of the time I wanted to take the two main characters’ heads together and bash them together! While I didn’t think that the main characters should give up on their dreams, it was painful to watch them try to do something without any discipline, planning or strategy. I find that to be the opposite of hustling. It would be very unfruitful for a jobseeker to run around the city like they do when there are smarter ways to get your foot in the door.

  4. Danny, you certainly have done a good job selling this show. I don’t watch it myself, but I think I might now! In this economic climate, I think people were getting a little bit fed up with Vince and his infinite budget and Hollywood-glam-type problems. Maybe that’s why the last season was so bad… Or maybe they really did just run out of ideas. This show, though, sounds much more relatable for those of us who aren’t living the lavish life in Beverly Hills. Which is most of us. And that means entrepreneurship is on the rise! The Kauffman Foundation recently published its annual survey of new business creation in the United States, and found that rates of entrepreneurship have gone up across the board over the last few years, reaching their highest rates overall in the last 14 years. Oh HBO- doing justice to the current economic trends!

  5. Jrandom42

    Might work for the clothing industry, but will seriously get doors slammed in your face if you try doing this in engineering and information technology.

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