On the Right Track
My days of being a professional interviewee are over. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve haven’t worked, and the transition hasn’t been easy. One would think that since I had all the time in the world, I would be much more productive than I’ve been. That happens they say, when you suddenly stop what you’ve been doing – you lose that momentum and that is what I did the minute I said my farewell to my last job.
I tried to find humorous things about my journey looking for a new job and trust me, there is nothing funny about not earning a paycheck. You question every decision you ever made and then your self-esteem plummets to unchartered waters (lots of tears!). Your heart fills with hope the minute someone calls or emails you about scheduling an interview and when you realize it’s not a good fit, your emotions act very much like a pendulum swinging to the other extreme. I’ve been fortunate that my resume has been read and been called for interviews. From those, I’ve acquired some interesting and humorous stories about my attempt to climb the professional ladder.
My first interview was for a part-time position at a non-profit organization that provided medical equipment to underdeveloped countries. The 25 year old kid/baby manager who interviewed me reeked of foreign cigarettes, was still too young to be jaded and believed he could save the world. Throughout the entire interview I imagined spraying Febreeze on his ripped jeans, combing his overgrown hair and asking him if he wanted a breath mint. Granted, I was way, WAY over qualified but what was most surprising to me was that I didn’t get the job. I didn’t even want it; I just wanted to be offered the position. I think when I breathed in deeply after exiting his office was the nail in that proverbial coffin.
One thing that was new to me was the process of phone interviews, as the last time I interviewed was over 12 years ago. It’s a hard concept to embrace as most hiring managers feel they can sum up a person’s career in 30 minutes or less. I’m not a big fan of the phone interview as you can’t read the expressions of what others are thinking. There were times during a phone screen when all I could hear were crickets in the background. There was absolute silence on the other end. Did I just lose my phone connection or worse, put someone to sleep? The most difficult part of a phone interview is when you are trying to be clever or say the wittiest remark and fear it will be interpreted the wrong way. After tons of practice with the initial phone process, I did make it to the next round when I made a Human Resources person cry on the phone. This lovely lady, who was clearly compassionate, literally broke down in tears (I heard sniffles) when I was asked to relay my most significant professional moment. I was called in for a 2nd interview, but not before the same woman sent me 5 versions of my interview schedule, misspelling names and titles. The organization only had 14 people. Really. This position was advertised as full time and I was offered a temporary contract because as she put it “they had an emergency budget meeting”. Uh, really? Couldn’t they have done that before advertising the job? No thank you and I ran the other way.
What was more agonizing during my quest for employment was getting past the first, second and sometimes 3rd round of prying questions and then losing out to someone younger with less experience (hint: money), revamping of the department (another hint: money), or worse, I’m overqualified (final hint: money). Perhaps if I readjusted my expectations or lied about my experience, I would have been employed before now.
There were many times I was so down about not being offered a position, I was ready to settle, settle for anyone who would have me. You know, I have a lot to offer and the way things were going, someone would get it for cheap, like selling my soul, which brings me to another impressionable interview with a notable Psychoanalytic Society in the area. They were looking for someone to plan their educational courses. When I arrived at their offices, I was unaware that I had to ring an inside doorbell signaling my arrival. If it wasn’t for a couple going to marriage counseling I would still be sitting there. I am convinced that it was a “test” to see how observant one is, like a lab rat. After the interview with 3 shrinks over analyzing my answers, I felt worse than before I arrived. “Hmm, I see.” (with a hand to their chin) “how do you feel about that?” Like shit, thank you very much.
After a significant drought, I was offered a great job, but not before being offered two other positions within a two week period. Talk about feast or famine. I’m on a high and am wanted, professionally speaking. I look forward to the start of 2014 being gainfully employed and regaining that momentum. Go Tarheels!