Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Content to Be a Cog, Part Two: Pursuing Opportunity

 

I scored the job interview–the one vetting me as a candidate to work with kids who have autism–but I almost canceled it. The process looked intimidating: thirty minutes to read and respond to questions, followed by an in-person meeting with multiple hosts. And honestly, if driving were to be a big part of the job, I wasn’t sure I was up to that level of responsibility behind the wheel. I was also considering a lucrative role as a dog sitter and childcare provider for a couple of doctors, one that would leave me free to work on my online job during the day. Why put myself through a rigorous interview process and waste everyone’s time if I didn’t plan to take the job? I felt tired just thinking about it.

However, I decided to keep the appointment for several reasons. First, I had learned that being open to experience was often more rewarding than not. I knew I was vulnerable to narrow judgments that, should I hearken to them, could result in missed opportunities. Second, plain old inertia had me considering action soon before the interview, and I thought it would be bad form to cancel so late. Besides all that, I was a second-stringer in the doctors’ home position, waiting on whether the young candidate they were currently trying out would sink or swim–and that was a job where I’d be regularly ferrying the professionals’ precious cargo to and from school. So, I opted to pursue opportunity by getting my car professionally cleaned (a small drama in itself) and following through on the invitation to talk further about the autism position.

I dressed with extra care the day of the interview and arrived early, pulling into a parking lot next to a large wooden building I’d never noticed before, with floor-to-ceiling front windows, a large playground to one side, and glass doors at the entryway. This was a nonprofit that supported families with special needs kids, and I’d never heard of it. I reported to the front desk and sat in the bright, clean front room contemplating colorful toys I’d be tempted to play with myself, were I not trying to make a good impression. I mentally gave the organization some points, if physical environment were any indication of how tightly they ran the rest of the ship.

Then a smiling, attractive face with brightly dyed hair and nose ring appeared around a door and invited me to start the process. She led me down a wide hallway with flanking office doors–and what looked like a glassed-in room–to a meeting area with soft lamp lighting and comfortable chairs. I was left alone to first prepare by reviewing some information and then respond to questions in writing. The friendly young woman would be back later to finish the interview.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the process. The information was accessible and satisfying. The questions elicited conversations about my favorite topics. Not only was it not intimidating; multiple answers to the hypotheticals welled up quickly in my mind, my pen providing ample bullet points for later reference. My favorite challenge was something like: “You have been left without a lesson plan, and you have an hour with the client. You know his target skills are greetings and turn-taking. What will you do for that session?” Well, simple board games, for starters. Those were often overlooked as excellent sources of interaction and skill-building. Indoor plastic slides, role-playing, and goofy what-not-to-do models for the child were also possibilities. I read, reflected, and wrote until it was time for the segment where I usually flail: the awkward, high-pressure verbal Q&A, where I’m likely to forget even my own name.

All interviews should be structured the way this one was, I thought by the time I’d finished talking with the smiling artsy woman. Another pleasant-sounding interviewer from HR participated via phone, occasionally contributing his comments. Later on, a petite, soft-spoken lady joined us. The prep time and the notes I held in front of me helped me make a fluent case for my strengths and potential contribution. I also managed a passable performance role-playing scenarios I would encounter on the job.

A small caveat in my fitness for the role came when the interviewer remarked that on the basis of my job history, I was probably an organized person–and then she glanced down at my large purse. It was unzipped at the time, with prominent belongings vying for space in what could have looked, to the untrained eye, like chaos, but was actually a system–slightly neglected, but soundly principled. A second bit of awkwardness occurred when she invited questions, and I asked about pay and benefits. I thought it was reasonable to know how I would be compensated. But the straightforward query seemed to cause some discomfort, and later I wondered whether I’d done the right thing by broaching it.

Not many days after, I received a letter offering me the position, contingent on the results of a background check, of course. Soon I would find out that there was more to that organization than the large building out front, and it would be the outbuildings that held all the intriguing details for me. I would not regret taking the job, but also didn’t predict the extent of the learning curve ahead. Mine would be a multi-faceted one, drawn out over months, and providing both deep satisfaction and gnawing stress.

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  1. Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosop… Contributor

    Congratulations and thank you for this story. I’m only sad I didn’t catch the first one when it’s fresh.

    sawatdeeka: All interviews should be structured the way this one was

    Yes. The standard template is broken. 

    sawatdeeka: A second bit of awkwardness occurred when she invited questions, and I asked about pay and benefits. I thought it was reasonable to know how I would be compensated. But the straightforward query seemed to cause some discomfort, and later I wondered whether I’d done the right thing by broaching it.

    Yes, you did. Frank discussion of hard topics is better than unstated assumptions and the resulting hurt feelings. The interviewers should be prepared for that, and it’s best for them if they first encounter it when hiring an exemplary candidate such as yourself.

    • #1
    • September 20, 2020, at 5:29 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    sawatdeeka: A second bit of awkwardness occurred when she invited questions, and I asked about pay and benefits. I thought it was reasonable to know how I would be compensated. But the straightforward query seemed to cause some discomfort, and later I wondered whether I’d done the right thing by broaching it.

    That’s not awkwardness. That’s a red flag.

    • #2
    • September 20, 2020, at 3:30 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeekaJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka: A second bit of awkwardness occurred when she invited questions, and I asked about pay and benefits. I thought it was reasonable to know how I would be compensated. But the straightforward query seemed to cause some discomfort, and later I wondered whether I’d done the right thing by broaching it.

    That’s not awkwardness. That’s a red flag.

    They have been really good about that. I’ve had a couple of raises since then, and consider myself well paid, at least by my own standards. The response may have been because I was coming in at entry level as a middle-aged person with a lot of experience and education. This field is a golden opportunity for young people especially fresh out of high school who are good at working with individuals and are not sure what career to pursue.

    • #3
    • September 20, 2020, at 4:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka: A second bit of awkwardness occurred when she invited questions, and I asked about pay and benefits. I thought it was reasonable to know how I would be compensated. But the straightforward query seemed to cause some discomfort, and later I wondered whether I’d done the right thing by broaching it.

    That’s not awkwardness. That’s a red flag.

    They have been really good about that. I’ve had a couple of raises since then, and consider myself well paid, at least by my own standards. The response may have been because I was coming in at entry level as a middle-aged person with a lot of experience and education. This field is a golden opportunity for young people especially fresh out of high school who are good at working with individuals and are not sure what career to pursue.

    Shouldn’t matter. Compensation is never off-limits in a legitimate job interview.

    • #4
    • September 20, 2020, at 4:25 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosop… Contributor

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):
    Shouldn’t matter. Compensation is never off-limits in a legitimate job interview.

    Agreed. 

    • #5
    • September 20, 2020, at 4:40 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. The Reticulator Member

    Hank Rhody, Freelance Philosop… (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):
    Shouldn’t matter. Compensation is never off-limits in a legitimate job interview.

    Agreed.

    It can still be awkward for the interviewer. He may be inclined to hire the person but realizes he’s going to have to get approval from the boss to offer more than had been planned on to attract the candidate. And this candidate is just the person to put him in the position of “upgrading” it a bit. Maybe in some organizations it’s not possible to find oneself in that situation, but I’ve known it to happen in a large organization with a strong HR department that does its best to micromanage and systematize these things. (Yes, both.) So at the time of the interview (and it sounds like this may have been one of those situations) the interviewer may be in an awkward spot. There are probably good ways to handle it, but the interviewer isn’t always prepared for that, and how could he be? So I’d cut the interviewer some slack. 

    • #6
    • September 23, 2020, at 8:03 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Boss Mongo Member

    sawatdeeka: I was probably an organized person–and then she glanced down at my large purse. It was unzipped at the time, with prominent belongings vying for space in what could have looked, to the untrained eye, like chaos, but was actually a system–slightly neglected, but soundly principled

    I shared this with the Lovely and Talented Mrs. Mongo, and she said to tell you that whenever we attend the same meet up, she’s going to kiss you.

    • #7
    • September 24, 2020, at 7:05 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeekaJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka: I was probably an organized person–and then she glanced down at my large purse. It was unzipped at the time, with prominent belongings vying for space in what could have looked, to the untrained eye, like chaos, but was actually a system–slightly neglected, but soundly principled

    I shared this with the Lovely and Talented Mrs. Mongo, and she said to tell you that whenever we attend the same meet up, she’s going to kiss you.

    Ha, ha, ha. That’s great. I’m glad she appreciated it. 

    • #8
    • September 24, 2020, at 7:09 PM PDT
    • 3 likes