Who’s giving the interview during an interview? Is it the company looking to fill a spot on their hiring list, or is it the prospective employee looking for the perfect job?
The reality is both sides are interviewing each other, but in most contexts, when you say you’re going to an interview, you expect to be asked a bunch of questions and to have to answer them in order to potentially earn a paycheck from that company. It should be a mixture of the two, and I’ve come to realize over time how important it is for the prospective employee to come prepared with questions that are, actually, important to them.
When I first applied for teaching jobs, I was lucky to hear back from anywhere. When I got my first returned phone call from a school district, I was overjoyed, and my day was made. I remember sharing the news with my mentor teacher and the English department as a whole, and I remember them cheering me on as I went to my first interview. I prepared so much for it, and I remember running the questions through my head over and over again until I felt comfortable with my answers. I remember going to Buffalo Wild Wings with Alex and sitting in the bar section together as she read me questions I had written down. I cared so much about being the perfect teacher during the interview process, but I didn’t put nearly as much thought into my questions for them.
In this stage of my career, I feel comfortable being selective, and I know what it’s like to ask questions that affect how the company looks to an outsider. The interviewers will want to answer truthfully. One question I’m fond of is, “How does your school have a unique teaching culture, and how have you helped foster it?”
Interviewing isn’t easy. It’s difficult and makes me anxious just thinking about. To some people, it comes as naturally as getting dressed in the morning; they exude confidence, charisma, and likability in their body language. They are charming and outgoing, yet enigmatic. They speak of their previous experience like it’s their job to. And once they get the job, inevitably, they perform above expectations and exceed every bound or standard in their way.
I don’t know why, but this person I am describing is definitely not me. On the surface, I might seem confident and prepared, but that’s usually a facade. This isn’t to say that I don’t come prepared; it’s just that, once I’m in the heat of the moment, my confidence withers and my preparedness deteriorates with it. Everything I had worked so hard on prior to the interview is gone in a moment of overthinking about how I’m dressed or that one word I said wrong. Whenever people talk about keeping cool under pressure, I like to imagine they must be good at interviews, as they would find it normal to speak of their experience.
Another reason for this is, interviewing generally has you speaking about your previous experience in a way that’s glowing and positive. Sometimes your experiences aren’t glowing and positive, like in one recent case, and that should be normal. Not every work placement is going to be a slam dunk. Not every experience is destined to be positive and full of rainbows.
I guess the main reason I get anxious about interviews is, I secretly dislike my own experience and feel artificial and fake speaking about it with a positive spin. I wish it were easier to speak truthfully while still maintaining expertise over your experience. It’s never been easy, has it?
Appreciate the simple things, including regular trips to the pharmacy, and you will find more joy in your life. Aspiring for grand heights is admirable, but sometimes it’s nice to relax without performative evaluations on your career. Relaxation, for me, can come from meditating a bit on a small but meaningful weekly adventure.
This brings me to Alex and I’s general store round-up. Our apartment now resembles the CVS holiday section as equally as it resembles Ikea. The weekly round-up starts the same way every time: a forgotten item on the grocery list, a running list on the fridge that grows and grows until it’s so much more than imagined. The pressure to cross them off the list lingers overhead like a constant reminder. Suddenly the time arrives; it’s tonight or never.
Maybe it’s just the thrill of taking something new and fresh off the to do list, or maybe I like shopping for random items at CVS and adding them to our apartment aesthetic (I roasted myself before, but I do appreciate how affordable CVS holiday items are.) Or the snacks and mentos. The cheap but long-lasting holiday candles, peppermint and pine grove and sandlewood. The fresh Powerade bottle, a waterfall in my mouth. The Dunkin coffee drinks, a midnight energy boost. The new facemasks and treatments and spreads. The inevitable ice cream or jerky or Sun Chips added to the cart at the last minute. There’s a lot to love about these spontaneous trips to the pharmacy. It’s a small but wonderful thing, like a small wonder for this week overall.
Above the factory was a smog that
I came to revere one day while
Laboring at the conveyor line,
Where we would stare up and see it
Through the window taunting us.
It was break-time and Ben was
Coughing beside me at the air,
The polluted air we helped create.
I exalted the smog like a true modern
Man ought to do, and loved it too.
I enjoyed it when I walked to my car
Afterward and kept my eyes planted
On its face as I drove away to see
My children and my wife at home.
I slept in bed and turned to her and
Saw the smog again in her face,
In the faces of my children,
In the face of my wife.
I saw the smog and loved it.