When my son first went away to school five years ago, I became obsessed with getting a job.
Being out of the job market for nearly 20 years – and 56 years old – weren’t exactly strong selling points, but I applied to dozens of jobs on Indeed.com for everything from a writer to a brand ambassador for Kind bars.
Many of the jobs were below my experience level or pay grade, but you commit employment hari kari when you stay home with kids. Employers think you’re a brain-dead ditz who spent her days watching TV and eating bonbons (which is not to say this never happened. It might have. That’s all I’ll say on that subject).
They also assume that you’re out of touch with the working world, particularly computers and technology. They’d much rather hire a kid fresh out of school with magic thumbs than somone who started out on clunky VDTs (video display terminals) in 1981.
I never got one interview from Indeed, and began to wonder if anyone did. That is until I applied for a writing job and was invited to an “open interview” in a public library about an hour’s drive away. In the application, we were encouraged to show our writing chops, so I wrote what I thought was an amusing cover letter.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when I got the email to come in for an interview, relieved that someone finally appreciated my sense of humor.
I was happy until I opened the company’s Facebook page and saw that they invited the public to the open interviews at the library. The slight kick I had in my step vanished when the library posted a “job fair” sign in the lobby inviting everyone to the open interviews too.
So much for my writing chops.
I called up the Curmudgeon and told him that I wasn’t going to bother going to the open interview, which we both joked sounded like an “open marriage.” But he quickly turned into my father, ordering me to go. By the way, he’d never do this to either of our kids. He is such a pushover when it comes to them.
“I think you should go,” he said. “You are too much in your shell. You’ve got to get out and explore. If you don’t like what they have to offer, just go home and walk the dog.”
He may be right. Staying home eliminates the need to get dressed up or put on make-up on a daily basis. One of the things I enjoyed most about working is that it kept me honest. It forced me to get dressed up, do my hair and make-up and generally look presentable every day.
I can’t say this has always been true as a stay-at-home mom. I’ve let some things go. In fact, I’ve often felt the need to apologize when walking into Ulta, where employees often look up and probably think: “Well, look what the cat dragged in.”
So I looked at this interview as a chance to regain my edge, or some semblance of it.
I dressed in business casual: a new silky blouse from the Loft, a black skirt, black tights and black ankle boots that I hoped would make me look a little younger and hip than I am. I took my seat among three other job candidates, including a young girl sitting with her grandmother.
“This is my first job interview,” she said.
“Oh, did you just graduate from school?” I asked.
“No, I’m actually still in school,” she said.
“Oh, what college?” I asked.
“Well, no, it’s high school. I’m a junior in high school.”
So there it was: I was vying for a writing job against a high school junior, who also applied on Indeed.com and was invited to the open interview. Another applicant was a journalism major at Central Connecticut State University, though blessedly she appeared to be at least 20.
After waiting for about an hour, I was invited into a meeting room and told by my prospective boss that this would be a “speed interview,” which I assume is akin to speed dating. But as I sat there and answered a few questions, I began to wonder about the “open interview” process.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to sift through applications and narrow down the applicant pool instead of hosting a cattle call? And how much can you really learn about someone and their abilities in five or 10 minutes? I think an “open interview” is a useless step, particularly after learning that serious candidates would have to return for a second interview.
But that’s just me. I’m old-fashioned like that. Which is probably why I’ll continue to write my blog and leave this writing job to the high school junior. (By the way, I’m pulling for her to get the job. Can you imagine how good it would look on her college application?)
One of the many pitfalls of getting older is an unwillingness to do things or perform tasks that you were willing to do in your youth to get ahead and advance your career. As you age, you get a lot more picky about how and with whom you spend your time. And at the end of the day, you realize time is a lot more valuable than money.
I’ve learned that I don’t like open interviews, so I’ll probably never subject myself to another one. I’ve learned to embrace my part-time job, which allows me the time and freedom to explore and express myself.
But mostly, I did what the Curmudgeon asked of me. I showed up, and gave it my best shot. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a dog to walk.