Yesterday, after four straight weeks of sending out oodles of resumes, using networking contacts, and applying for low paying internships without so much as a blip of interest from any employer, I scored a potential hit. Realizing that four weeks in this DOA job market isn’t a long wait, I immediately celebrated my good fortune. The position, a 6-12 month contracting role in internal corporate communications for a large firm in the Chicago suburbs, manages to marry several attractive elements at once.
In the first place, it’s a paid writing gig and when I found myself laid off almost two months ago, I didn’t set the bar for my next role any higher than that. But in addition the pay is good, the company is doing well, and I even like the transient nature of the position. One of the many reasons I have failed to succeed long term in the corporate world is the tendency to feel trapped and helpless at around the two year mark in a given situation. Once I have mastered my work, I want more, but the cubicle environment is famous for stifling ambition. However, were I fortunate enough to be offered this contract, the fear of claustrophobia is inherently removed.
At 5 PM yesterday, after I set up a time for a phone interview and logged off the computer, I decided to treat myself to a glass of wine. I knew better than to count my chickens. I hadn’t been hired yet. But the opening up of the employment channels at all was a vindication of sorts: my decision to invest fully in a writing career, rather than clinging to operations or administration (the old safe standbys) would eventually pay off. I am good enough, smart enough and doggone it, at least Erin, the recruiter who found my resume on CareerBuilder, likes me.
Therefore, as close to buoyant in mood as I ever get, I waited for my husband Eddie to come home so I could share the good news: plan my interview outfit, strategize about what experiences I should highlight with my interlocutors and which I should save for second string. Though the looming threat of disappointment always hangs around the edges of an interview experience, it is important to enjoy that sweet spot, the precious moments before the interrogation when anything seems possible. You are your smartest, most capable, most positive self. There is so much that is debilitating about the unemployment cycle, so it is vital to enjoy these fleeting moments.
And so it was that when my husband’s first piece of interview advice turned out to be “don’t fuck it up,” I crashed as quickly as I had ascended the emotional heights. Disbelieving my ears and wanting very badly for him to vindicate himself, I asked if he believed this was the right choice of words for instilling confidence. His reply: “well, it’s a genuine concern.”
I have written honestly, and at length about my battles with social awkwardness and volatile self-esteem. I am well aware that I do not always perform as I wish in front of a crowd. However, when it comes to interviews, and anything related to survival, like landing a job, evading police or patching up drunken injuries without a trip to the emergency room, my success ratio is darned close to impeccable. As we writers are sensitive types, is there anything more painful than hearing our deepest fears verbalized by a loved one? I had managed in the last month, to lull myself into the secure state of belief that if I could just secure a face to face interview, I’d be unstoppable. Yet here was my own spouse disclosing the uncertainty that I might screw myself out of opportunity by being a nervous loose canon.
Upon reflection after an evening spent wounded on my part, and groveling on my husband’s, it is apparent that Eddie stepped in a pile of unintended verbal diarrhea. Somewhere in my heart I know that he was awkwardly trying to advise me not to let nerves get the better of me, to have the confidence in myself that he has, to understand that I am qualified for this role, and even if I don’t get it, another like it will come my way. I just wish he would have stayed quiet until he knew better how to frame the discussion. Red wine doesn’t go very well with tears.