Monday, February 2, 2009

Sheer hose and jungle animals

I print a lot of things I don’t send out like drafts of things that need actual page editing. Then I turn it over and recycle. It’s frugal and right now like most people, I’m doing Everything to be Frugal.

I’m also doing Everything to know the software I might need in my job search and I was in the middle of a self-teaching Access course (“Buy my product!”) when my mind went for a walk. In a terrible sudden flash I lost all the sensation in my brain and I knew – I knew – I’d sent my resume out to an Important Employer on the other side of a short story. And not some tidy O Henry tale full of deserving, virtuous people but two pages about a guy who wears red contact lenses and hires himself out as an “eliminator” of extortionists.

Until recently, I thought pre-interview anxiety was the worst thing you can feel after grief, guilt, remorse, and embarrassment. But nothing is worse than that freefall into the panic abyss while you figure out if you did or didn’t just ruin your life. Right away, I called my mind back into the house and quickly it recalled for me that I actually emptied the paper tray before I started printing out the story of me and not the guy with red eyes. But I was left thinking about the power of that moment when I wasn’t sure. More than feeling stupid in those seconds I felt exposed, like I’d just walked through town wearing only my imagination underthings, which are unique but not appropriate for the occasion.

In a job market that is standing room only these days, experts are everywhere with rules about what NOT to say, how NOT to come across, and yet be yourself as if you are even still in there under all that prepping. I guess it’s good to be told that dark stockings with white pumps look unsophisticated, but if we’re all going to read the same rules and wind up behaving the same way, well, that’s a lot of sheer hose. It requires balance to remain unique too, and express things you are that others aren’t.

In the 80’s, I was a HR recruiter working for an organization with over 70% turnover. I was in the infancy of my executive-ness, so all I did was interview and hire, sometimes twenty or more employees in one week. Everyone who walked into my office was nervous and afraid of saying the wrong thing, or coming across the wrong way, and some seemed to need a little more oxygen than we had in the room. If I had an applicant who was a total wreck, I’d look them in the eye, and say: “All right, listen. If you’re like everyone else, you’re not comfortable right now, but don’t worry. I won’t ask you anything hard. Just tell me this. If you could be any kind of animal in the jungle, what would it be?” They’d freeze and I’d say “I’m just kidding,” and that was that. The ice was broken and the applicant got to show their uniqueness in how they reacted. Unless I got a poet type who took the question seriously, it worked like a charm.

Tomorrow, I’ll interview for something I want very much. I’ll be busy today reflecting on my accomplishments, doing final research on the organization, and deciding what kind of jungle animal I’d be in case I’m asked.

1 comment:

  1. Laughed out loud thinking about what in the world you would have had to say to explain Side B of your letter! Can you imagine?
    Loved the line about "that's a lot of nude hose."
    Keep up the great writing Susan.

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