Monday, February 24, 2014

The Interview

I haven't had a job interview since the year 2000. Between then and now I've spent my time in a flurry of childbirth, out-of-state moves, raising children, homeschooling, church-ministry leading, every-semester-considering whether to go back to school for a Master's degree, and a thousand people asking "Will you ever go back to work?"

Asking whether I'll go back to work is a funny question for the likes of me. I'm not sure I ever worked in the first place. I was employed by a college ministry, which meant I got to organize events, write talks, hang out in college dorms, walk around campus with students conversing about life and God, stay up late and sleep in. I can't go back to that; no one lets me sleep in anymore.

But I get the gist of the question -- will I help finance my kids' college? And, more immediately, will I ever get to buy myself a pair of shoes without breaking the budget? My answer has always been no. I dream of college scholarships for the kids, and every now and then put a pair of boots or flip-flops on the credit card, but I've been unable to imagine filling out a job application or reporting to a boss. Frankly, when I've been in the violent convulsions of motherhood, with tears in my eyes and someone else's poop on my hands - and someone asks if I'll ever "go back" to work I want to shake them. Vigorously.

Somehow, some way, the violent convulsions of mothering young children have given way to sporadic spasms. Suddenly (seemingly overnight), things are easier. All four children pee without my involvement. They can fill their own plates in a buffet line at a friend's potluck. And best of all - by far - except in rare circumstances, they SLEEP. THROUGH. THE. NIGHT. So, veeeeerrrrry gradually, I've come to realize that my life has changed. With more time, more sleep, a new laptop for Christmas, and lots of encouragement and inspiration from my hubby and friends - I have been able to get back to one of the things I love to do but haven't had time for in years: writing.

I've been in love with writing since third grade, when Mrs. Navarro made us write stories with our spelling words and I was in heaven as I completed that assignment every week. Now my goal is to write every day. Problem is, I don't know where I'm going with it. People ask what my passion is: fiction? non-fiction? short stories? poetry? My answer is yes. All of it. But I haven't been able to really produce more than irregular blog posts and a helluva lot of Facebook posts.

This leads me to tell you about the cute little business around the corner from my house. I love it. I love every product on its shelves. I like the owners. And I've noticed they have a Facebook page but don't really utilize it. So, after mustering my courage and practicing my pitch for a short five months or so - I walked in and asked if they might be interested in letting me do publicity work on various social networking sites for them- for free! (there goes my new shoe budget, and the college fund) - because I love to write, love their business, and need experience. (Maybe we should call it an internship so I'll feel better about working pro bono.) I handed one of the owners my "resume", which really only consists of my name, phone number, and references, but lacks the vital "job experience" portion. And I presented a list of my ideas to promote their store online. He went for it! And then he asked if I would come back for an interview to talk to him and his wife at the same time and discuss a plan.

I was elated. In my tendency to, shall we say, "overstate" things, it took a lot of willpower not to shout to the world that I had just become a real writer! with a job! promoting small business and saving the world!

My prep for the interview was mainly research. I pored over numerous articles about marketing and about the myriad of social networking sites and what they are good for and not good for. I contacted two friends who own their own businesses and asked a bunch of questions. And then I spent time composing some "sample" Facebook posts with photos I took on a quick trip back to the store.

When the interview date and time rolled around, I put on my professional, but not business-suit-professional clothes and zipped in my minivan over to the store. I was excited, for sure. I had to have a little reality check talk with myself: "Teri. Remember this isn't a corporate job. You're new. You've got something, but really only have a teeny idea what you're doing. Take it easy."

Things didn't go as marvelously as I pictured. Initially, they asked me to take on a role completely different from what I had suggested. It took a few minutes of explanation, with my heart in my gut, to convey what I wanted to do and what I didn't want to do. And when I handed them my "sample" posts with photos, they glanced at one of the three, smiled and handed them back. By the end of the 40-minute meeting, I had the "job." They were interested in all I proposed. And it was ideal for my abilities and time allowance. But, strangely, I walked out of the store with a huge weight on my heart and melancholy around me like a gray block wall.

I can't tell you now, even days later, why I was upset. I fully appreciated that I had just been given authority to take over "marketing" for a business I love, by people I like, with no expectations because anything I come up with is an improvement over what they are doing, which is nothing. But when I had the chance at the end of the day to process the experience with my husband, the main problem became clear. I had put effort into those darn sample posts - my first "professional" creative writing - and my client didn't really care. My husband is an engineering consultant and he told me how much time and effort goes into proposals they write. But the client only wants the bottom line. Yet they still have to write the proposal. Same with me - I couldn't have gone in empty-handed - I had to know I had something and even that silly effort of handing them the papers and having them handed back was a necessary part of the interview. My writer-self couldn't help but think of William Faulkner's quote, "In writing, you must kill all your darlings." In this case, my darlings were those samples, not edited out in this case - just ignored.

And so my story ends. And begins. I had an interview. I got the job. I'm as thrilled as I can be. We will see how this work fits with the work I'm already doing - mothering, being married, occasionally vacuuming. I must admit I'm a little starry-eyed. The opportunity presented itself so gradually and gently it all seems too good to be true. I am aware that I have a tremendous amount to learn. Additionally, I have the prospect of starting my own business to consider. I don't know what the future holds, but one thing is now behind me: that first interview.

I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.
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