one part post-academic, one part post-evangelical, and a generous splash of feminist

My first interview: how it went

I had my phone interview last Friday. I got an email from the HR person, BA, on Tuesday, and we set up a time for a phone call on Friday at 10:00. I spent all day Thursday preparing: I researched the company on their website, read news articles about them, and made a list of potential questions and wrote out my answers. On Friday morning I was all ready, and made sure to put some real clothes on, and do my hair and makeup. Even though BA wouldn’t be able to see me, I knew I’d feel more professional wearing something nicer than my running clothes & sneakers.

BA was about 10 minutes late calling me. Rather than stress me out, the delay made me a lot less nervous. I think it’s because it gave me a chance to truly compose myself and do a little last minute prep. And it goes to show how this is just one small piece of a much bigger picture, both for BA & company and for me.

When she called, I did my best to sound smiley and friendly. I’d thought she might ask me some off-the-wall questions, as this is a tech-related company, and that’s the sort of thing tech companies do. But it turned out to be very straightforward, standard interview questions. Her first question was the standard, “Tell me about yourself.” I did my little spiel, though perhaps a bit more awkwardly than I would have liked. Other questions focused on why I was leaving academia, how I would make the transition, what about this company’s work appealed to me, my weaknesses. And, speaking of weaknesses, this is such a hard question. Not because I don’t have weaknesses, but because I don’t want to sound like I can’t do the job. If I were being honest, I could definitely identify some things that I would need to work on in order to make a successful transition to this type of work. But these are the things you’re not supposed to say; instead, you have to come up with something relatively benign or even unrelated. I thought I’d found a solution by saying that I have a tendency to procrastinate, but that I work well with a deadline in mind, so I always make sure to create a deadline for myself. But apparently procrastination is one of the two or three things you’re not supposed to admit as a weakness, along with misanthropy and being Republican. So while I hope I spun it to my advantage, maybe it was a total faceplant.

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Gendered studies

A few weeks ago I went to an alumni event in my city (which is on the opposite side of the country from Grad U). While there, I chatted with a woman, MA, who works at the graduate student center. I mentioned that I had just finished my degree in Wallpaper Studies and she said with a knowing smirk, “And how was that?” Surprised, I answered cagily. “What do you mean?”

“Well, in my role at the grad student center, I see all the students who’ve had it with their programs and are just about to leave. And there are a disproportionate number of women coming to us from Wallpaper Studies.”

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My first interview

I finally got a response to one of my applications! An HR person emailed me today to set up a phone interview for later this week. I don’t want to jinx it, so that’s all I’m going to say for now. But I already feel like I’ve accomplished something just by getting a response. Yay!

Networking my head off

I got on a big networking kick last week. I’d been discouraged after a few early attempts didn’t come to much, and had been worrying a lot about the logistics of it all. I knew I was supposed to be “leveraging” my LinkedIn network, but what exactly did that mean? And how do I tell friends and acquaintances that I’m looking for a job without sounding like I’m selling myself? I don’t have all the answers, but I feel like I’ve come a long way in about a week. Here are some examples:

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Just sent off an application via Jobvite in which I attached the wrong cover letter file. The one that included a previous draft of the real cover letter, the copied-and-pasted job description, plus a generous sprinkling of bits and pieces from other cover letters. I spent far too long agonizing over this job application in the first place, and then I send it off and make a stupid, magnificently ironic mistake like that. After touting my brilliant eye for detail, killer proofreading abilities, and unmatched communication skills, I miss this. I guess it was bound to happen at some point. But is it better or worse that this is a job for which I got a contact through my ever-improving networking skills? If I were a nobody, then I could just scratch this one off the list: oops! But since I have an in, this person who doesn’t really know me is probably going to think I’m an idiot and regret recommending me.

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“Benign self-absorption”

I just got off the phone with my mom. I mentioned to her that I was going to get unemployment benefits, saying, “I didn’t think I’d qualify, but I do, so that will be really helpful.”

Her response: “Yeah, under Obama everyone gets everything they want, all they have to do is ask. Doesn’t matter if you’ve earned it or not.”

I have been through enough therapy at this point to know that my mom’s personal judgments often come at the cost of civility, and it doesn’t help the situation for me to take it personally. So I ignored her unintentional implication. But I was genuinely confused because I knew she’d made the tortured decision to collect on her benefits a couple of years ago. “Well, you got unemployment too when you were looking for work.”

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Feeling better

I’m feeling a lot better now than I was the other day.

First, I found out that I’m eligible for unemployment benefits. I applied a couple of weeks ago just for the heck of it, figuring I never made enough at any part-time jobs to qualify for anything. But a couple of days ago I got a form in the mail including the details of my weekly and maximum benefit amounts. Just knowing this has made a big difference for me–it’s not tons of money, but it’s so much more than $0, and I won’t have to feel like a total drain on my partner’s income.

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Unemployment Blues

Job hunting is as bad as dissertation writing. It’s different, because I am more motivated to find a job than I was when I was writing most of my dissertation. But job hunting is, like my dissertation, much more than a full-time job. Even when I’m not actively working on application materials or networking or informational interviewing, the foremost thought on my mind is I don’t have a job and I really, really, really need one. It’s gotten particularly bad lately, and I’ve been asking myself why. I only defended my dissertation a month ago, and I only graduated a week ago. Yet the trajectory of my pessimism has gone sharply downhill in that last week.

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Virgin and Child, and Snake

For dissertation-related reasons, I’ve had the Genesis account of the Fall on my mind lately. If it’s been awhile since you’ve thought about it, here’s a recap: Adam and Eve are innocently enjoying paradise and close communion with God when Satan, in the form of a serpent, comes to tempt Eve. He persuades her to eat the fruit from the one tree she’s not supposed to eat from. She shares the fruit with Adam. Once he eats it, they both realize they are naked, and they cobble together some fig leaves to cover themselves. Then they hear God, who has come to the garden for a walk. They hide, but when God calls out to Adam, “Where are you?” Adam reveals his location. It’s pretty obvious that they’ve disobeyed the one rule they were supposed to follow, but when he’s asked for an explanation, Adam blames the whole thing on Eve. Eve blames the whole thing on the serpent. God summarily damns him:

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I successfully defended my dissertation last Friday and am now Dr. Vashti!

It is great to be done. And, now that my only job is to find a job, I should have more time for blogging (and I certainly have a lot of unformed posts that have been percolating over the past months). More to come soon!

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