Thursday, April 10, 2008

Slam Dunk, Strindberg Style...

(...or "It's Okay, the French Dude Said")

I had a job interview one afternoon last week. The story of that job interview is probably interesting only to me, but what the hell, I'm gonna tell it anyway.

My interview was at 4:00, in San Francisco. I was working at the coffee shop until 2:00. This left me plenty of time to BART across the Bay. No problem.

At a few minutes after 2:00, literally just as I'm about to head down the stairs into the depths of the Downtown Berkeley BART station, my phone starts to vibrate. It's this dude from a staffing agency, the same dude who got me the seasonal position I had from October through January, which paid pretty well by customer service standards and which I'd hoped might become permanent, but didn't. He says he's got a perfect opportunity for me. He thinks there's basically no chance that I won't get this position. He calls it a "slam dunk." He tells me what it pays. It pays a bit more even than the last job.

Great. I'm definitely interested.

I just need you to email me your most recent resume, he says.

Sure thing, I'll do that as soon as I get home this evening.

Yeah, see, that's probably gonna be too late. I really need it immediately. They want this position filled, like, now.

I couldn't believe this was happening. Weeks go by without any significant developments in my job search and now, here I am, with two important things colliding in the same moment. What do I do? Do I go home and send off the resume for this sure thing, this slam dunk, realizing that if I do this I probably won't make the interview in San Francisco in less than two hours? Or do I pass up the slam dunk and stick to this scheduled interview, which came after a few phone interviews and some bizarre online psychological profile survey which somehow did not detect that I'm a total weirdo?

In keeping with my longtime commitment to indecisiveness, I figured I would try to do both. I hopped on the next bus home, ran the four blocks from the bus stop to my home faster than I've probably ran any distance in years, fired up my computer and emailed the resume off, darted back out the door, hustled the four blocks back to the bus stop, hopped on the next bus to the BART station, and jumped on the next train that would get me headed towards San Francisco.

Just as the train came up on the undersea tunnel, I got a call from the staffing agency dude. Bad news, he says. We were too late in getting your resume over there. They'd just filled the position.
So much for the slam dunk. And I was pretty sure I was going to be late for my interview, as well. Terrific, I'd blown this job interview for nothing.

Actually, miraculously, I walked through the door of the office at 3:58 PM. Definitely not ideal for a job interview to show up two minutes before the scheduled time, but I figured it was better than not showing up at all. I probably also looked a bit disheveled from all the running I'd been doing. Nothing I could do about that at this point.

During the interview, I felt pretty good about things. I somehow forgot about the stress and disappointment I'd been experiencing only moments before, and focused on the interview itself. I think I answered their questions well. I felt warm and sincere and genuine, and I think I did the best that I can expect myself to do in an interview, which is pretty good. I liked the people I interviewed with, and came away from the interview really feeling like I might be a good fit for the company.

On the BART ride home, suddenly all the stress and disappointment I'd somehow managed to put aside during the interview came flooding back to me. I suddenly felt caught up in the grip of tremendous despair. Everything seemed so bleak and hopeless. There was no way I was going to get this job, or any other decent job, ever again. I felt like August Strindberg. I must have been wringing my hands and sighing theatrically or something, because my despair was apparent to a guy standing next to me.

It's okay, it's okay, he said to me. I'm pretty sure he was French.

Yesterday, as I was searching for jobs online, I saw that the company I interviewed with has reposted the position. I guess I didn't get the job. They didn't even contact me to tell me I didn't get the job. That was disappointing.

But it's okay.

I have a job for the moment, one that should, at least, prevent me from starving and becoming homeless, if only barely. And I walk to and from work down gorgeous Berkeley streets on beautiful Berkeley days and it's just not possible for me to despair all the time. And I've made a bit of money selling stuff I wasn't using and don't really need on amazon, and selling one thing I didn't want to part with on craigslist, but I can do without for the moment. It's only for now.

Of course, I'll never know if it was the fact that I showed up a bit dishevelled, only two minutes before 4:00, that cost me my shot at that position. I'm sure it didn't help. But then, the fact that I was fired from a job last year probably didn't help either. It's definitely extra-challenging finding a job in the wake of being fired, trying to convince potential employers that that one failure is not the sum total of who you are, that in fact, if anything, you've learned and grown from that experience. Still, despite this challenge, most of the time I remain hopeful that, in the long run, I might end up with a permanent position that's better than the one I lost. It wasn't a job I especially liked, or that paid much at all. I was just complacent in it, is all.

I'm trying to do more networking these days. So many people I know got their jobs at least in part because they knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone. It's amazing to me how big of a thing networking is, how hugely important it can be. Networking has always been a bit difficult for me, because I'm not the most socially comfortable person in the world and because I have a hard time promoting myself and using people I genuinely like and respect to try to get a leg up. But there are opportunities out there, and I want to give myself the best chance I can of taking advantage of them.


Aaron said...

Would you consider relocating or are you confining your search to the Bay area?

Shifty Pete said...

It amazes me that somebody as obviously smart and capable as yourself struggles to find a position when I meet so many complete idiots that have cushy jobs. I wonder if you were to just put on a suit and start babbling buzzwords like paradigm, leverage, and synergy if you'd be hired on the spot.

Hang in there... I know the despair that can come with being in your position, but it will get better. Good luck!

Anonymous said...


Caro said...

Aaron: All of my effort has been focused on looking at jobs in the Bay Area, I guess because I don't really feel I have any skills or experience that a company in another part of the country would want badly enough to relocate me for them, but for the right position I'd consider relocating.

Pete: Thanks! And I bet a lot of those idiots with cushy jobs knew people at the companies that hired them. :P

VikingWWU: No doubt!

Paul said...

That really sucks, man. I've always highly admired your writing, so it's quite the shock to hear of your job woes. Hey, GiantBomb will need positions eventually, right? You could try them.