Job Trek will be a series of articles about finding work after self employment. To explore new worlds and civilizations… To go where I have never been before.
A little while ago, I got a call to go in for a job interview. It was for a job I didn’t really want, but I really needed. It was local, which was a plus, but it was way beneath my skill set. I know I shouldn’t say that, since a job is a job and as I don’t have one, I’m not in a position to cast stones, but underemployed would have been an understatement in this case.
Nevertheless, as it was my only interview in some time, I went. If nothing else, it would be good ‘interview’ practice. I haven’t applied for a job in almost a decade and it’s definitely not like riding a bike. Everything has changed regarding networking, applying, even CV formats.
The job was as an administrative assistant / receptionist in a professional office. I have run my own publishing / printing company for almost a decade and before that was making 6 figures as a process consultant. Frankly, it was a total mystery to me as to why they called.
The interview was in two parts. First, I would meet with the owner of the company and the office manager, so he could tell me about the job and the company. Then I would meet with the office manager alone to confirm some details about the job, my resume and so on. I introduced myself to the waiting office manager and she showed me in to the board room. She asked me to have a seat but didn’t specify where, so I moved in to the closest seat to the door.
“Not there!” she said, just a little too loudly.
I turned to her, eyebrows raised.
“Mr. X sits there.” She had an apologetic look on her face and I couldn’t decide if she was apologizing for yelling or for her demanding boss.
I moved to the other side of the table and he promptly walked in, flopped into ‘his’ chair, and started with: “So what’s so great about you?” I had wrongly thought that as a gentleman of some years, with silver hair and an impeccable shirt and tie, that he would also have manners.
I replied that I was easygoing, could manage my time, knew more software than any administrative assistant they could hope to ever hire and could help them well beyond the confines of the role. I didn’t use the word ‘confines’ but you get my drift.
He looked me over for a moment as if deciding whether I was worthy of further breath. I was. He told me what he was looking for, the hours I would be working and that he didn’t stand for interference on those hours for family matters or other issues. If I had kids and I wanted to attend their ballet recital or their soccer game, I could forget about it. He expected this person to be at that desk come and I quote “hell or high water.”
What I should have done was scrape up what was left of my self esteem and dignity, thanked him for his time and walked out. What I did was sit there and nod my head. When you live in an area that has few jobs and you have been looking for over a year, with little success, you don’t walk out on the only opportunity that is before you. Or so was saying my mother’s voice in the back of my mind. I just sat there. He finished his speech, none of the remainder of which I heard a word of and left with nary a thank you for coming in or goodbye.
I turned to the office manager. She smiled and asked if I had any questions.
“What’s the office style around here? Autocratic, fun, challenging?”
I knew the answer but really wanted to see what she would say.
She just smiled and said: “It’s just fine.”
We went over a few things but I think we both knew I wasn’t getting the job.