Tuesday 3 July 2012

What's Black & Blue & Red All Over?

Nope, not a newspaper.  It's the leg I stuck through the rotten floorboard in the porch yesterday.  Underneath the abrasions, the bruises have turned interesting colours.  Perhaps I won't wear shorts today.

I meant to segue yesterday from literally sticking my foot in it to the figurative equivalent but I went off on a different, albeit related, rant instead.  I originally was going to post about my anger and frustration at not securing a position that I desperately needed after I had jumped through all the hoops of a lengthy interview process.  I had passed each of the weed-out stages with flying colours—3 telephone interviews, submission of writing samples, completion of a written simulation exercise.  At each stage, I held my breath wondering if I would move on to the next, and I grew more confident with each advancement.  I was really suited for this position; I did not have to lie or embellish my skills and experience at all.  It was in the sweet spot of my knowledge, interests, talents, everything.  I had not even applied for this job; I was headhunted for it.  This job was perfect:  It paid a lot; it allowed telecommuting; it utilized my strongest skills; it was a segue into a lucrative field that would allow me to make city wages whilst living in the country and working from home.  I would have been able to pay down my debt in months rather than years on this salary, and I could have held my head high because I would not have been underemployed, doing work that is beneath my education and experience, as I have so often done.  The humiliation from being underemployed seeps into all areas of my life and sabotages my confidence.  I feel worthless and humiliated when I am underemployed, and it makes me behave more and more arrogantly.  When people cannot get an ego boost from what they do, they fall back on obtaining one from who they are.  It is much healthier to get that lift from what one does, because that is within our control.  Who we are is not a choice, so we have no right to feel pride based upon our demographic characteristics and congenital gifts.  But we all need to get it somewhere; our self-esteem must be built upon some foundation so, much like the pure-bloods in the wizarding world, we revert to using what we have.  If we have done nothing of which to be proud, we take pride in what we are instead of what we do.  That is pathetic and contemptible, not to mention morally indefensible.

But I digress.  The point is, this job was ideal and, for the first time, I did not have to embellish my way through the interview process, feigning interest and relevant skills and experience.  This was huge for me.  Typically, I am applying for a job based solely upon the money or the convenience or the perks or some other feature than the work itself.  After this lengthy and nerve-wracking process, I was called in for the final step:  an on-site interview marathon, with 5 different people grilling me separately, asking many of the same questions, as if to wear me down, like a police interrogation room.  One of the interviewers expressed empathy, saying that, after he had endured 7 interviews over 2 days, when they asked him why he wanted to work there, he responded, "I don't know anymore; I can't remember."  I thought he was on my side (by coincidence, he turned out to be a friend of a friend).  I was told that few people make it to the on-site interview stage (and most that make it that far are hired, I assume).  It cost me over $100 to travel to the office, money I could not afford to spend and money that I would not have spent unless I was 100% certain I would get the job.  I do not do anything on spec, least of all waste money.

I dressed semi-formally and conservatively (as one always must for job interviews), and remained "on", upbeat, curious, polite, enthusiastic, and honest throughout the entire day.  Each interrogator seemed impressed with my answers.  Although the company is corporate, this is not a client-facing department so the employees can be less generic and drone-ish and have more personality.  The fellow I mentioned above said that they have people from eclectic backgrounds in this division and that it is not a handicap because, "you can teach a smart person to do anything."  Finally, a place that appreciates brains!  I left the interview certain that I had nailed it.  I had finally found the elusive job that pays corporate wages but that I did not have to be a corporate type to obtain.

The next day, I bought flowers.  I went for a run and did my ab and jump rope work for the first time in months.  I began weeding the flowerbeds.  I cleared off the dining room table and City Boy and I had dinner like civilized people.  I planned to attend a special, but expensive, annual knitting event over the weekend that I never would have allowed myself to spend the money on if I wasn't about to start a tremendously lucrative job.  I made lists of deferred maintenance to take care of for my car and house, and lists of things to buy.  I planned out which debts to pay first, made a calendar of how I would pay them off and get some much-needed clothes, appliances, and furniture.

Then, 2 days later, I was told they were in a meeting discussing me and I would get word after they had finished.  I got the call several hours later:  They were going to pass.  "Not a good culture fit."  I thought about this phrase for a few hours.  At first, I was simply in shock and disbelief.  When it finally sunk in that I was not getting this job, I was incandescent with rage.  Livid.  Incensed.  I emailed the two people who had seemed the nicest at the interview and asked them to reconsider or at least give me a more detailed explanation for their decision.  The friend-of-friend guy sent me a fake-nice reply stating they would do neither.  He turned out to be a dick.

"Not a good culture fit."

I thought about that phrase some more.  In fact, I have thought of nothing else since Friday.  I spent the weekend seething, and I haven't stopped.  I don't want to think about how high my blood pressure is at present.  They had no substantive reason not to hire me.  They had no issue with my brains or skills or experience.  They had seen my written work (this was a writing job—I said it was perfect!).  I concluded that "not a good culture fit" means they just didn't like me.  After meeting me on their turf and talking to me individually, they did not want me to be part of their team.  But why?  What did I say wrong?  As I stated in my first post, it should be mandatory for companies to explain, in detail, why they didn't hire you, if you demand to know.

Did I dress too conservatively (pearl necklace, earrings, long black dress, black stockings, black flats, hair in bun, Little Miss Perfect bag to add just the tiniest touch of humour and quirkiness to the ensemble)?  No, one must always dress conservatively for interviews, even if the office is casual.  You can never go wrong by being more formal when you make a first impression.  You can always dress down once you see the environment.  That is standard job-seeking wisdom.

Did I seem too enthusiastic, too desperate?  No, I am a veteran of too many job interviews to make that rookie error.

Did I just seem too old?  Several friends have suggested it was age discrimination, that they wanted someone younger, more energetic, moldable.  But I do project energy in interviews.  I am not an idiot.  I don't appear to be a depressive or anxiety-ridden in a situation like that.  It would be the kiss of death.  I am very shrewd and I know how to play the game, and I thought I played it superbly that day, which is what kills me.  How could I think I did so well, how could I have done so well up to that point, but somehow made them do a 180 in their opinion of me?  City Boy suggested weight discrimination but I don't think I am fat enough for that to be a factor.  But could that be the simple answer?

As I implied above, if it were a very corporate place then, yes, I would not be a good culture fit, although that should not preclude me getting a job since I can fake it for the money.  But this was a, shall we say, more creative area, with more diverse and more highly educated people.  Mr. Turned-Out-To-Be-An-Arsehole went to Harvard.  This IS my milieu: bright people, not typical brain-dead corporate drones.  So what was it?  Why did they hate me after meeting me?  I made sure to ask each of them how long they had worked there, how they liked it, all the endearing questions you are supposed to ask.  Like I said, I know how to play the game.  When I don't get a job that I am applying for just for the money, that I would detest, where I am truly not a good culture fit, I am not surprised when I am not chosen and I don't enquire too deeply into it.  Usually I am told that I am overqualified, that they are afraid I will leave, and I accept that.  But this was a 6 month gig as a contractor, not a lifetime commitment on their part if it didn't work out.  And I was neither under- nor overqualified; I could have performed the work magnificently.  In fact, I was planning to make myself indispensable so they would extend the contract.

So what the fuck happened?  Why didn't they want me after all that hoop-jumping?

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