When an advertising firm contacted Landon Taylor through LinkedIn, he was surprised and eager to impress.  The company liked his profile, but what escaped its notice: this new prospect wasn’t finished with college. The job description required a degree.

Taylor, 24, has been juggling full time work and full time school for the past several years, while he and his wife raise their young family.  While at San Francisco State University and then transferring to a community college, he has always scrambled for his earnings opportunities: an internship with Warner Music; a position as a tech start-up’s communications director; and when the advertising firm reached out, Taylor pushed hard for the job. He told them up front he was moving steadily toward his degree in public relations and advertising, and this was his pitch: what he had accomplished outside of the classroom was why the ad firm was drawn to Taylor in the first place.  He pointed to the valuable on-the-job skills gained as he worked to cover living and school expenses.  And that he supplemented his income as a waiter, nights and weekends, at California Pizza Kitchen.

“I’ve had to fight for everything, “ Taylor says, recalling what he told his prospective employer. “I have three mouths to feed.  All I need from you is an opportunity – give me chance, and I will show you I’m worth the risk.” The ad firm hired Taylor, who is wrapping up his first year as a digital media planner on the Mazda account, and agreed he should continue school at nights and on the weekends.  He did so for the first six months.

Working ten, even 12-hour days is the norm these days; with an expanding family (now three children under age four) and a bigger commute to his office, Taylor realized he had to make some tough choices.  He took this semester off.  “With a newborn, there was no way I could go to school, work, and be there for my family,” he says, and that he’ll resume his studies in the spring, and finish the following year.   

Taylor is many rungs above where he started as a new father four years ago, when his family received public assistance (Women with Infant Children funds), financial aid for school and borrowed from his father to make rent.  With his ongoing education and accumulated experience, he’s making $45,000 and climbing a career ladder. “This job changed everything.  We can afford our place – no more governmental service anymore; I’m due for a promotion soon.  And I found a new apartment we’re moving into that’s a brand new construction – low-income housing in a nice area.” It’s a big quality of life improvement: forty percent less than his current monthly payment for a lot more space.  And those time pressures?  “I’m in an industry that’s flexible,” Taylor says, explaining that he is occasionally allowed to work from home on days when he needs to be close by.  “We work really hard,” he says of his ad firm colleagues.  The employer flexibility both acknowledges and encourages that, which only feeds into Taylor’s passion to step up.