Tag Archives: Job

Interview Blues

How do you parse your life in marketable packets?

Coming home from a botched interview for a job I really wanted, I navigated the ensuing snowstorm without incident until I got home. Going up the steep drive to our apartment I couldn’t quite crest the hill. It ended up being a drawn-out ordeal with getting stuck and all the fun that comes with such situations.

But I ended up learning two things from a neighbor who helped me out.

  • If your car has front wheel drive and you’re stuck, try putting on the emergency brake and hit the accelerator. Emergency brakes are usually connected to the back wheels, so doing thus should whip you around and out of that situation. I didn’t have to do this, but I filed this information away as a last resort.
  • I always had previously thought salt with ice and snow. But my neighbor suggested – and that night effectively used – dirt. I filed this information away as well.

These snippets of data are retained and will be recalled in future snow incidents. However, if I went to a job interview the next day and was asked something general like “When have you tried a new solution to a problem?”, I’m not certain I would think to bring up this incident.

Data in my head doesn’t get organized in such nicely sellable chunks. It gets absorbed, recalled and used when needed, modified if necessary, then becomes reabsorbed. This ultimately makes me a heck of an effective worker who is able to accomplish much, but makes me altogether lousy at showcasing ability during interview time.

Once I learn something or accomplish something, either trivial or major, it becomes so integrated into the already existing and constantly evolving chunks of what I know and what I can do, I am hard-pressed to chisel them out again for the presentation successful job hunting requires.

In a probably futile effort to salvage this latest job search disaster, I wrote a letter to my interviewer, pressing myself hard to isolate a look at this rock of ability. Here is the letter, without names of course:

Dear __,

I gave a rather anemic answer to your question about when I have used creativity. So I thought I would provide this additional thought.

Creativity by its very nature is fluid. It flows daily and throughout the day enhancing activities in both minor and major ways. It is so ubiquitous I take it for granted and do not typically “record” specific instances of use. Its immediate output is ad hoc; its mechanism overshadowed by the results it fosters.

That said, here’s a concrete example of my solution-generating creativity at work:

I created a queer history display for Pride Vermont. My original vision featured a center panel with a collage of pictures from prides throughout the decades; a visual history. I diligently copied materials from the Vermont Historical Society.

The problem: As I put the display together, it became apparent that a collage would necessitate not including some years, which would subtract from the larger goal of infusing the display with a sense of time. Indeed, the space itself seemed too small to encompass the trove of wonderful information I had unearthed and wished to share. Even paring it down to one or two pages per year presented logistical issues for such limited surface area. There were too many years…

My creative solution: Instead of a standard mounting, I chronologically overlapped the documents, thereby allowing an easy view of year-by-year via a simple lift of one page to see the page – in its entirety – that it overlapped. Through this approach, no years were omitted and I did not have to compromise my aesthetic sensibility; form, function, and beauty coexisted.

Creation of the display involved other assorted creative bursts, which I discuss in some detail here on my website:

http://jdfoxpresents.com/queer-history-on-display/

Focused as I am on the present and the future, I am not good at heralding past accomplishments; an interview weakness for sure.

I reiterate here my impassioned interest in working for ______ and hope that this missive adds favorably to its articulation.

Respectfully,

JD Fox

Things blur inside me, not just creatively but analytically as well. I help Gary with formatting an excel spreadsheet, then that knowledge too goes back inside me until needed. Which is a very minor example of analytical, for sure, but it happened just yesterday and is what I am able to chisel out at the moment, other incidents currently being irretrievable.

Though I know they – both creative and analytical skills — are there for me to use when I need them; or someone else needs me to use them. I just need to find a way to prove it during the allotted 30 minutes of question and answer showtime.

So-so It Goes

I had a job interview today and the last question threw me a bit. He asked:

What in your current or previous jobs are you hoping to avoid in your next job?

I paused a long time to answer. For one thing, “avoiding” doesn’t sound like it typically would be a good employee quality to have. Especially not with “and other duties as assigned” being a common catchall — or maybe a common gotcha — in job descriptions. But also, I don’t tend to think in terms of avoidance. I mean, I would like to avoid the usual; hunger, homelessness, illness, etc. But tasks are what they are and if something needs to be done, avoidance doesn’t take away that need.

I paused for a long time, a maybe interview-crippling long time. But I think the answer I ended up giving was a good one and was actually more true than the interviewer might ever realize.

I said I hoped to avoid stagnation.

In context of work, it means striving to learn new things, pick up new skills, advance one’s career, and so on building upon et cetera ad infinitum. But I meant it moving beyond a work maxim, though, and into a Weltanschauung where life far too often seems like one giant, twisted mass of averaged-out stagnation: the distance between birth and death divided by the giganormity of the universe times all the moments before and after that you weren’t, aren’t and won’t be.

It’s a tad overwhelming. Underwhelming, too, from a different point of view.

But despite the absurdist-friendly math, growth is the only thing we have to combat the absurdity of it all; for the alternative to growth will eventually happen of its own accord, making actively choosing such an option redundant.

I try to avoid redundancy, too, which is stagnation’s sister.

I didn’t mention her in the job interview and now I’m no longer thinking about the job interview anyway and thinking more about my life as it is right now.

Earlier in the week, I had a better job interview; that is, for a better job. The kind of better, quasi-writing-but-still-writing job I got excited about when someone gave me a lead on it and became even more excited when that lead-turned-live-contact gave me a chance to prove myself worthy of that opportunity with a test of sorts.

But the excitement couldn’t be shared as at that exact same point in time, other, less pleasant circumstances manifested and dominated. That was okay, though, as I reckoned there would still be excitement enough left afterwards to make such insensitive-to-the-events-at-hand expression unnecessary.

But I ended up mucking the test up.

So that excitement moment disintegrated unshared under the weight of the subsequent dismal moment. Both those moments are gone now, as is the one in which you read this sentence.

I feel like I’m in a maddening holding pattern that is a first cousin of stagnation and redundancy; dull isotopes of decaying moments.

Like this one.