Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Internal Dialog

I interviewed for a job on Friday that I have no business trying to get. I'm utterly and totally unqualified for it by formal education and training as well as by informal life experience, not to mention by innate aptitude. I presume that the guy who interviewed me realizes this from my feeble resume and from the answers I gave him, even if he DID say something about an upcoming "second interview."

But what if I'm wrong? What if they DO offer me the job and I'm thrown into the maelstrom with no ability to stay afloat? "They won't do that!" the voice of optimism within me proclaims. "They'll train you and give you time to acclimate," it cheerily explains.

"Yes, but people like me train as slowly as molasses and take forever to acclimate, and a bustling medical records department of a local under-funded and under-staffed clinic can't afford to be THAT patient, and, believe me, they WON'T be!" the voice of realism counters.

"Well, look at it this way," replies the voice of optimism. "It may feel like you're being thrown into the water and told to sink or swim, but the fact-of-the-matter is that you'll be given swimming lessons, and even if you sink anyway, you won't drown. You won't die. You'll be hauled out of the pool to live another day and REALLY learn to swim or to take up some other activity for which you're better suited. And, in the meantime, you've gained the priceless experience of interviewing for and of trying your hand at a new job within the general field you're interested in, and you can take the knowledge and wisdom you gain from that experience and do something positive with it."

And the voice of realism, although still harboring its share of legitimate doubts, is pretty much forced to agree and stfu.

But, still, I wonder how many people go into a job interview not only believing but also KNOWING that they're in over their heads. They may not have known it driving in to the office, but after they've arrived and read a more detailed description of the position's duties than they did in the Craigslist ad, they know they aren't ready for such a job when they sit down before the interviewer and start answering questions such as: "Now that you've read the list of duties for this position, do you believe you can perform them?"

How often do other people face this situation, and, when they do, how do they carry on? When asked if they believe they can do the job, do they do what I did and look the interviewer straight in the eye and say "Yes" when their mind and heart scream, "NO WAY, Jose!"?

And what SHOULD we do when we find ourselves in this situation? Should we lie and tell the interviewer the answer he expects and the answer we need to tell him if we're to have any chance of getting the job we have no business getting, or should we tell him the truth?

Most adults even decades younger than me have probably had the opportunity and experience to find their answers already, but I'm more or less just beginning to seek them. I could ask those who have already found their answers to share them with me, and, in a sense, that's part of what I'm doing here. Yet, I suspect that I can't rely on other people's answers but must discover my own. Go with the flow, play it by ear, try it and see what happens and take it from there.

Yes, these are old cliches. But they're cliches for a good reason.


Mary Lois said...

You have taken that brave first step of making a move you're unsure of -- congratulations! You're a cautious man, protecting your inner, terrified child, and now you've placed that little guy out on a limb. I for one am proud of you.

Being a totally different personality type, I have done things like this all my life. I've been on so many job interviews -- many of which I had no qualifications for -- that I can't even remember them all. But I remember the fear: What's the worst that can happen? That I won't get the job? Or that I do get it and suck? How bad will it be.

Fortunately for all of us, there are jobs we go for that we don't get. When we reflect on it later, we wonder why we even thought about going on that interview. Sometimes we get jobs we don't like and that don't like us; I've been at some of those that when I got fired it was a kick in the teeth but I was really relieved not to have to go into that horrible place one more time.

It's just a rite of passage -- a difficult one -- but it's just a first step toward self-actualization. Go easy on yourself here and wait to see what happens.

Steve said...

Mary Lois--
I said I didn't really expect that anyone could help me much by sharing with me their responses to what I wrote about my job interview, but your warm and surpassingly wise reply has helped tremendously. Thank you, my friend.

Unknown said...

I like a concept I learned recently: Swallow the Frog, which is the idea that you should do one difficult thing every day. You did the job interview. Great.

I think you should leave it to the company and the interviewer as to whether you are right for the job and as to whether you can handle the duties.

The interviewer was probably expecting everyone he saw to say he could handle the duties. The 'test' may have been to see if you asked questions. The interviewer-interviewee process is a ridiculous dance and you are, basically, NOT the one in charge of that.

If you get the job and it is a bad fit, all you can do is make the most of it. It is possible in many of these circumstances that management can adjust things to make the job more suitable or reassign you. So, unless you have other opportunities in the hopper, just do the best you can.

The jobs that I have had have never made sense as any kind of a progression, upward or otherwise. It is all wildly haphazard and that is one thing you can't hope to fix.

The best job comes only from continually throwing yourself in that icy water. And swallowing frogs. Anyway, that's what I think.

Steve said...

Thanks, Tom. I don't have any other jobs "in the hopper" (with one possible exception), so I think you're right that I just need to plunge myself into "icy water" and do my best to "swallow the frog" and see what happens. I seriously doubt that I'll get this job, but if I'm called in for a second interview, I will try not to let this opinion interfere with the effectiveness of my presentation.