Monthly Archives: March 2011

"Blah, Blah, Blah"…On First Dates and Job Interviews

I know I’m not the first one to compare these two scenarios, but having recently been through both the interviewing process and dating, I’m starting to consider rewriting my “script,” clearing the slate like someone in the Witness Protection Program.

I’m very thankful that there will never be another first date for me, and the one I had with my now husband doesn’t fit into ANY of the typical first-date cliches. That’s probably how I knew that it would be my last, first date.

We all bring to the table scripts that fit different contexts. I’ve never been asked on a first date, for example, “What’s your management style” or “Tell me about a time when you were faced with a challenge and turned it into a success.” During a job interview, I’ve never been asked, “So, how many siblings do you have?” or “How old were you when you first had sex?” (which would undoubtedly make job interviews much more interesting).

Maybe we should have a dating resume, a summary of all the questions we’ll probably be asked that we hand the person, give them 5 minutes to review it in order to cut out 99% of the inane conversation bound to follow. Summary at the top:

Youngest of (fill in the blank) siblings, grew up in (fill in the blank), my parents are (fill in the blank).

Graduated from (fill in the blank)and have lived in Boston for (fill in the blank).

I will/won’t kiss you after this and I probably will/won’t sleep with you.

In the past, I’ve been really lucky in a job search to find something very quickly. I don’t bother applying to jobs that I’m not qualified for or jobs that are out of my field of interest. In the same way, when I was doing the online dating thing, I wouldn’t e-mail a guy who was into NASCAR, heavy metal or slasher movies. I also knew that e-mailing a guy who wanted a “slender” or “athletic and toned” woman would be total bait and switch on my part.

This time around in my job search, I have an 80% response to the resumes I’ve sent out but the interviewing process has become endless. You generally start with a 1/2 hour phone screening with either a volunteer or low level staff member, who generally doesn’t get the specifics of the job you’re applying for. You still have to sound cheerful and ridiculously erudite but I can’t help but think that this is what we ALL sound like on the other end of the phone–a steady stream of over-eager, slightly desperate, faceless voices. Then, it’s up to this person to gather the information, sum you up, and decide if you are being “put through to the next round.” Your fate is in their hands.

This is generally how pre-screening of first dates happen, at least for people of my age, over the phone or through e-mail where the words create the chemistry or lack thereof, before you move on to the “next round.” (I have younger friends who do this all through text message which confounds me.) I once exchanged very brief e-mails with a guy who had no sense of humor and really had no interest in a pre-phone conversation. Even though I had a feeling that the date would be a bust, I went anyway. It was the most boring and awkward two hours of my life. With my husband, the communication was charged and honest, both of us very up-front about the life-experiences we were bringing to the table. We flirted. We laughed. By the time we met for the first time, we had already been through the pre-screen, and were pretty sure, as we sat at dinner, that we would make it way beyond even the second round.

In this job search, I’ve had 7 phone interviews that have resulted in 5 in-person interviews. Generally, I’ve met face-to-face with the person I’d be reporting to and another member of the staff, and spewed the same stuff I spewed over the phone, this time the exaggerated smile being witnessed in person. These have become sort of an out-of-body experience for me: Looking down on myself, I see a pathetic woman in a suit, all hand gestures and hair flips, using jargon and every industry buzzword there is. All I can hear is “blah, blah, blah.” You’d be sick of me too.

I’ve left some of these interviews feeling on top of the world calling my husband and saying “Now THAT was a good interview.” I haven’t been invited back by any of these places. Like dates that I’ve thought have gone okay, I automatically go to the superficial–“Should I not have worn a suit to a grass roots agency?”, “Was there lipstick on my teeth?” “Do these shoes look as cheap as they were?” I wonder how ANYONE could be better suited for the job than I.

I’m at the point where I just want to start making shit up: “I’ve raised over a BILLION dollars for our local hospital.” “I’ve raised the money, created the curriculum AND built, with my own two hands, FIVE schools in Rwanda.” I guess eventually, it would all turn into the same “blah, blah, blah” as have my real accomplishments to date but maybe I should give them a go and see if anyone notices. Just be on the alert for reference checks and be sure to tell the person in charge of hiring that you were the one who made the first multi-million dollar gift to both the hospital AND the schools in Rwanda.

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Forgiveness

I have had the idea of writing about disappointment and forgiveness for several weeks. This morning, I started to google quotes to lead off this post that would reflect its content, but had to cut the search short to teach my bi-weekly writing workshop to female inmates at a Boston prison.

At the end of each class, I ask the women if they are willing to hand in what they have written. They always do. Today, only 2 hours after I began my internet search for quotes, I discovered this written in the margins of a young woman’s exercise: “Please God help me to forgive myself.”

I have no idea what this woman has done to make her turn to her God to absolve her of her guilt. Perhaps her transgression was not far off from one of the things I’ve felt guilty of in my life–shoplifting a candy bar in junior high school, not playing enough with my daughter, spinning a lie so complex that you can’t even remember where it started. Clearly, the very obvious difference is that she is incarcerated, and according to another margin note, “in pain.”

I have recently gone through a series of disappointing others and of being disappointed. I’ve always felt that the older I get, the harder it is to repair damage in a relationship. In my 20s and 30s, what were considered arguments, as life gets a bit more complicated, turn into a “falling out(s),” and those, well, in my experience, never quite mend completely. Wrapped-up in these disappointments is the question of forgiveness–can we forgive the other, will they forgive us, and most importantly, perhaps, can we forgive ourselves?

When I was in 6th grade, I mercilessly bullied one of my classmates, a socially awkward girl who tried desperately hard to befriend me. My best friend and I hurled insults at her on the playground. We called her “Dog Face.” As an adult I look back on this and am mortified by my behavior. It is not in my nature to behave like this. I envisioned an episode of Oprah, before bullying became a national topic, bullies and those they bullied, coming together to facilitate an apology for what the bully had done. This fantasy opportunity pre-dated facebook by about 20 years, and then, one random day, I received a friend request from her.

I panicked. I called a former classmate to ask his advice. Was she going to seek revenge in some way? Tell me I had ruined her life? On the other hand, the opportunity to apologize had just been handed to me, and I hit “accept.” She quickly sent me a short message that began like this:

“It has been a very long time. Hope life has treated you well”

I took my time to construct a response that would convey the shame I carried for so many years over what I had done to her. I told her that I didn’t recognize myself in that person who could’ve treated anyone that way. This was her response:

“Don’t sweat it. Life is too short to worry about the past. Too many other things to keep you up at night. I don’t hold grudges, especially for 30 years. But I truly appreciate you taking the time to apologize.

I always tell my girls to be nice to everyone, you never know what will be in the future and you don’t want to burn any bridges.”

I responded by telling her how much grace she showed in her response. I was forgiven, but, I don’t think I will ever forgive myself.

Ironically, it’s been facebook that has led to some of my recent disappointments. Nuances in posts and comments are often misconstrued. They can trigger unexpected responses, interpretations, and push buttons (Incidentally, it’s been the lack of comments and acknowledgement from some very dear friends,at a really exciting time in my life, that has disappointed me.) Both people are put in the position of wanting to be heard and oftentimes, no satisfying resolution is reached. You wait and wonder if the relationship is in fact now irreparable, or if time will be the healer it’s supposed to be. My tendency, after I’ve apologized or told my side of things, is to retreat, and see if the other person eventually works their way back into my life. If they don’t, as painful as it always is, I assume that the damage has been too deep and that that person has chosen to exit my life.

Few things are more painful than watching my nine-year-old daughter be disappointed. Yes, the source of those growing pains may be as simple as having a playdate cancelled or missing a favorite tv show, but I envy her the simplicity of those snags. It is so hard when I know that I’ve let someone down, surprised them with an action completely unintended, but it happens, and certainly will continue throughout my life.

I did find the below quote in my quick search and believe in it wholeheartedly:

“Forgiveness is the economy of the heart… forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.”
Hannah More