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Prairie rose


The Difference

December 17, 2003

After two months of job hunting, yesterday morning I had my first job interview in over four years.

Now, the last time I was on the job hunting circuit, I was a fresh college graduate trying to convince potential employers that my skills were not already borderline obsolete and that a person who more closely resembled a schoolmarm than anything else was perfectly capable of setting up a computer network or pulling cable through crawl spaces. And I was “off” every time. If I wore a suit dress, my interviewers were in flannel and denim. If I wore slacks and a sweater, my interviewers were in business suits. I was forever scrambling for the answers to geeky questions, trying to convince them that I was capable of doing the work, even if I didn’t live and breathe computers. I finally landed a job completely unrelated to my major for a company who did their own specialized training. Among the members of my training class were high school kids looking for part time jobs and housewives returning to the work force.

But this interview was different. If the job I held for the past four years did me any good at all, it taught me to know what I do and do not want in a job, clearly enough that I was able to articulate it when I was asked the question in the interview. I am capable of learning anything, I told my interviewer, but what I am looking for is a job that uses the skills I already have.

So, what’s the difference? Last time I was looking for a job specifically as a computer tech or network administrator. Sure, I used Microsoft Office, PageMaker, and PhotoShop constantly for my own purposes at home. They were tucked in my resume under “other skills,” since, after all, I was not applying for secretarial or graphic arts positions. And where did I end up? At a job that utilized none of my strengths, and all of my weaknesses.

I was happy to be laid off. I want out of that scene. I’m tired of playing games, always trying to be what I’m not, just to succeed at a job I don’t care for anyway. This interview was the perfect testing ground for my new philosophy, because the job opening was only part time, and paid half what I was making in unemployment, so I didn’t really care if I got the job or not. I went into this interview with the attitude that I had nothing to lose, so I would tell it like it is. And I did. “This is what I’m good at. You won’t find it reflected on my resume, because my last job didn’t use any of those skills, but I use them constantly for my own projects.”

Did I know Microsoft Office? Yes, I did. Word? Yes. Excel? Yes. Access? Yes, but I’m a bit rusty—my personal databases are way behind. I use all of those programs constantly. Word… Excel… PageMaker…

“You know PageMaker?”

You mean somebody actually cares that I know PageMaker? My skills would actually be useful to a company?

(Keep in mind, this was a minor secretary/receptionist/data entry position. Knowledge of desktop publishing was not in the job description at all.)

I will probably not get the job. I was up front that I needed a fulltime job and would have to continue to job hunt. She was up front and said they were having a problem filling the position because it was only part time, but they really didn’t have enough work to make the position fulltime. But I left there thinking, what a difference it makes to interview for a job that actually uses the things I’m good at! There was no hesitation, no stumbling over technical conversation designed to test my knowledge. Or if there was, I didn’t notice, because our conversation never pushed the limits of my comfort zone.

Oh, and my choice of interview outfit was the exact same style of outfit my interviewer was wearing.

I don’t know how much longer it’s going to take me to find a job, and this job hunting thing is getting really old. But if I actually end up with a job that uses the skills I already possess instead of forcing me to be something I’m not—it will be so worth it!