I can’t stop ruminating about the job hunt. So much of it makes absolutely no sense and it preys on all of my insecurities and anxieties making the recent weeks of unpaid unemployment seem like a never ending mind***k. I really do hate to use vulgar slang so early in a post (hey, at least I didn't use "Mind***k" as the title!), but that’s the most accurate word to describe my current perceptions. Yes, I've developed amazing connections and clarity about my life goals as I navigate this process, but at its worst, interviewing has become “a disturbing and extremely confusing experience caused by deliberate psychological manipulation”. Of course my logical self knows that no one is actually consciously going out of their way to make this the most painful process possible, it’s just the way I’m experiencing this flawed system when I feel at my most vulnerable (which sadly is more often lately).
My dad told me that he could tell within three minutes of meeting a potential client whether or not they’d actually implement his strategic marketing plans if he were to consult. He walked away from a number of lucrative opportunities because he had a gut feeling that his talents and time would ultimately be wasted.
I don’t quite have the radar fine-tuned for immediately detecting a lack of integrity or a solidly good fit. At times I’ve been disappointed at unanswered emails late in the search process by people who initially seemed smart and kind. I’ve also been surprised at my ability to connect with people in positions I wasn’t initially that excited about.
I’m learning how important it is for me to be upfront about my need for honest communications with clear expectations and a timeline. I’ve had interviews that lasted only 20 minutes, but I was immediately asked to come back for the next round. Other times I’ve made it through 2 or 3 hour long interviews yet have to send multiple emails to finally get a rejection letter days or weeks later. (Sidenote: I’m still waiting on that rejection from an interview before Thanksgiving. Ugh.)
There seems to be something inherently wrong with the way most companies go about hiring and I’m still trying to determine the best way forward for me. I’ve had friends ask if I’ve thought about using a headhunter. It would be appealing to feel like a potential employer is recruiting me rather than me being at their mercy for an opportunity. The imbalance I’ve consistently sensed in many interviews has taken its toll on me. Yes, it’s true that I’ve taken both jobs that were offered to me immediately without any negotiation, but that doesn’t mean I’m desperate. Employers have to know that everyone you interview probably has submitted resumes to dozens of other companies. The competition is real for both sides. Employers need talent. Jobseekers need offers. In the end, everyone is playing the game, but we don’t all get to know the rules or see the scoreboard.
I love research and gathering data to make decisions. I can get easily frustrated when someone spends 10 minutes telling me stuff about their company that anyone who spent 10 minutes on their website could figure out - I want to learn something that is not common knowledge. That being said, sometimes I don’t want to hear about how great it is to work somewhere if I’m not even going to make it past the first screening. I also don’t like it when it feels as if I’m the only one who needs to give the elevator pitch. Why shouldn’t a potential supervisor feel compelled to share with me why they are an ideal manager/director? In other words, I’d like to flip the switch: Why should I choose them rather than why should I convince them to choose me?
I’ve made so many mistakes in interviews, especially when I’m caught off guard and triggered by a particular question, comment, or reaction. It usually results in me nervously oversharing to the point where I probably come across as being too intense, emotional, and quirky. Despite having had at least 50+ interviews, I’ve only withdrawn myself from one application process. The short version of the story is that someone who wasn’t from Charlottesville and had never lived here referred to the place I consider to be my home as one of the most racist cities in the country. I thought it was an inappropriate thing to declare as fact in an interview (most significantly because it’s just not verifiably true) and I couldn’t see myself working with a person who’d say something that seemed so inflammatory for no useful purpose when we didn’t even know each other yet.
This week I had four wildly different experiences in my job search. I only wish I could have compiled the best of each into one perfect interview.
The first was for a part-time social media specialist position with a local nonprofit. I immediately cliqued with the person interviewing me and it was an authentic and intimate conversation. The only real drawbacks were that it’s only part-time and it’ll take at least a week to find out about next steps. I can’t stand the waiting! I do believe I could make a substantial impact in this role because it’s so similar to other work I’ve already excelled in.
The second call was a screening for a volunteer position with a nonprofit I contacted back in November via Instagram message. I stumbled across their page during my research on early literacy and was amazed at their product and team. It’s important for me to find a worthy place to implement all the ideas I developed during my research on the literacy crisis over the past year. Money isn’t my only motivation or measure of success. I’ve volunteered time for causes that matter to me for most of my adult life and I want to continue that even though I’m also looking to pay the bills. ;) The call went so well I immediately scheduled another with the founder. We spoke for nearly an hour and it was the most refreshing and inspiring conversation I’ve had in weeks. I’m so excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to learn more when I meet with them again this week.
The third call was for another nonprofit education related position. The call was only 30 minutes and it felt like a third of that was taken up with an overview of the company which I already knew about because I was familiar with it. There was a hard stop so I didn’t have the opportunity to ask more than my top priority question on what are next steps and the timeline. It didn’t help that I rambled, so the whole experience felt like a waste of everyone’s time.
My fourth meeting was a group interview for a running-related position that seemed like a dream come true opportunity. Sadly, I failed the most in this particular interview by making critical errors that, in retrospect, I whole-heartedly regret. If I could do it over, I would. After talking it over with my sister, who overheard most of the call (thanks to thin walls in a small townhouse!), I now realize I was actually self-sabotaging the interview by having absolutely no filter and being way too honest. Maybe I was hoping that my experience, resume, portfolio, and personality would carry me into the next round or maybe I was so afraid of getting to the next round only to be rejected that I gave them an easy out. Could it be both? All I know is that for the first time ever I received both a prompt response and a detailed explanation for why I would not be receiving an invitation to a second interview. I really respect that because it’s been nearly impossible to get the same from other potential employers, even those who I’ve met multiple times and provided assignments for review that took hours to complete. It’s possible that this role really isn’t the right fit for me now and I saved myself future disappointment by not investing myself too much into the process. I do know that I appreciated the candor and responsiveness.
So all this is to say: I need a break. Actually I need two breaks — I need a break from interviewing and I need someone to give me a break by offering me a position. I’ve had multiple interviews every week since my part time job ended in early January and it’s emotionally draining. I need to hit Control-ALT-Delete to reboot. Taking a week without scheduling any interviews will give me time to reassess and energize. I also would love to be able to have some assurances made with my next offer, however long it takes to get one. I am looking to start working in a place where I see myself staying for 10+ years. I’ve never had the desire to jump from job to job to advance my career. Loyalty and dedication are important to me and I feel like onboarding takes time. No one can ever fully realize their potential if they aren’t given a solid amount of time to adjust to a new role and grow.