Friday, February 14, 2014

Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part II: Susan's Saga. Episode 10: The Dinner

Part II: Susan's Saga  

Episode 10
The Dinner

In the previous episode, Ben gave Susan quite the lesson on how to reduce her procrastination. But more potent than his tips was his suggesting they postpone their first date--his coming over for dinner--until she felt she made progress on her job search.

Well, the next week, Susan job-searched-up a storm: She wrote custom-applications for the ten best-fit jobs she could find on the superjob sites: and She looked at local colleges' websites--She pictured herself happiest working on a campus, especially as an academic adviser. Alas, she found nothing on-target so she defied herself and phoned the director of academic advising at each college. And lo and behold, at Central Washington State University (where she had taken that impenetrable Excel course,) the director said, "We'll be posting a position for an academic adviser. It will only be part-time/temp, but if you like, I'd be pleased to have you come in for a cup of coffee."

As soon as Susan got off the phone, she called Ben: "Dinner is served."

Of course, the dinner's first minutes were awkward. They'd have to be, even  if she wasn't a new widow and he hadn't just broken up with his girlfriend. It is rather unusual for a woman to--for their first date--invite a guy to dinner. 

But they relaxed more quickly than either of them predicted. Part of it was that he had been tutoring her, part was that they had an obvious topic of conversation: her upcoming job interview, but the biggest part was that they somehow felt magically compatible. They couldn't explain it but they both felt it. But they both knew that the place to start was to talk about the job interview.

Ben began, "You sound really excited about the job."

"I am but I'm terrified about the interview."

"Remember, I'm always having to work on contract. That means, every few months, I have to go on another string of interviews. So I've read a zillion articles on interviewing, even Marty Nemko's.  ;-)  And I joined Toastmasters, which made me much more comfortable talking in front of people, and actually, I met someone there who got me a job. But there's no time for that now."

Susan asked, "So what are the most important things you've learned about interviewing?"

"It basically comes down to three things: First and maybe most important, create chemistry."

"How do you do that?"

"It's hard to say but the obvious really helps: have good eye contact, smile when it feels natural to do so, err on the side of being positive, and be enthusiastic. For example, ask a question or two that shows you read the job description carefully."

"What else?"

"Have ready a few one-minute PAR stories that would impress that employer: some problem you faced, the impressive way you approached it, and the positive result."

"But I don't think I've done anything that would impress him."

"Everyone has. Think."

"Well, how about this? I had a singing student who was thinking of dropping out of college. We talked a lot and I was very patient. Finally he told me it was because his girlfriend broke up with him and he couldn't bear to run into her on campus."

"That's a perfect story!"

"And the third thing I need to remember about interviewing?"

"You can't anticipate all the questions but be prepared for two. The first is the question you're most afraid he'll ask."

"I'm afraid he'll ask why I left my previous job. I can't tell him I was accused of creating a hostile environment for gays."

"You were acquitted."

"Acquitted or not, he won't take the risk of hiring me."

"If you tell him the whole story, all that detail will make clear that you did nothing wrong. And unless he's a silly guy, he'll really appreciate that you answered honestly rather than making up some stock BS answer. Honesty may be the most important ingredient missing in job interviews."

"And in society. Deep down, all of us crave integrity."

"Susan, if he sees integrity in you, he'll see your telling him as a net plus."

"What's the other question I should be prepared for?"

"Some version of "Tell me about yourself." 

"Do I start with where I was born?"

"No. Take one minute to tell the pieces of your life's chronology that would convey that this job is a logical next step for you. Wanna try one?"

"How's something like this: I always liked college and really appreciated my academic adviser. He was very helpful in steering me to the right courses and majors. Then more recently, I worked with at-risk kids and spent quite a bit of time advising them and I loved it. So I was really excited when you invited me to come talk with you about a possible academic adviser job here."

"Susan, you're amazing!" He looked into her eyes the way Rory had. But this didn't feel like a technique. This felt real. 

He leaned over toward her but she got scared. "Ben, I think it's time to call it a night."

"I understand. Will you see me again?"

"If next time, you'll let me come see your place."

With thoughts of Ben and the interview tomorrow, she couldn't sleep.

The next episode is HERE.

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