Saturday, September 16, 2006

What Will I Wear to the Interview? Or: What Are My Chances?

After a month of faithfully checking the online job bulletin boards at the University of Iowa, I gave up. Last week, I poured my energies into a writing project and a homemade Christmas gift Mark and I are creating for the girls. I didn't bother to look for new postings. Somehow I was convinced I'd fulfilled the quota of resumes I ought to throw out into the job market. I'd sown as many seeds as I could bear; I'd wait and see if anything came back to me.

Last night Mark found a message on our answering machine from a guy in the University News Services department at the UI. Could they "bring me in for an interview" next week? he asked over the machine. Call him on his cell tonight (Friday) or over the weekend?

This threw me into the frenzy of trying to remember just what sort of job I'd applied for. Something to do with editing and routing UI news releases to the media, and national news to the UI list serve. I checked the description online and found the job has more to do with my particular skillset than any other job I've applied for. Still, I have no Associated Press style knowledge. I have no journalism background.

I called Steve on his cell phone where he apologized for the background noise: He was at the Ped Mall; it was Friday night. Kids screamed in the background. There were six candidates for the job, and every interview slot had been filled for next week except for Monday afternoon. Monday afternoon was the only time I'd have trouble getting to an interview. But if I didn't, he'd have to meet with the committee next week, and reschedule another time-slot based on the committee's schedule-compatibility. "You know what?" I told him. "I'll make it work."

The job offers financial security--its baseline salary is one of the higher paying I've seen. I could pay for child care and bring home 400$ a month. Not to mention the $581 in health flex credits we desperately need. The job I'm looking at is 50% time, and requires a morning shift presumably because that's when news releases get routed. But I find myself panicked at the problem of the children's care: Could I leave them early every morning with a babysitter (who would, initially, be a stranger)? And what would Mark and I do on inclement-weather days, in the winter, when the driveway was a a foot deep in snow and I have to leave at 6:50 a.m., he has to get Una to preschool, and the babysitter's car won't start? It's almost enough to make me cancel the interview.

What about when the kids are sick? Or I have a doctor appointment? Yes, I'll have vacation and sick time, but will this position, advertised as necessitating the "handling of multiple tasks simultaneously under deadline pressure," allow for snow days, sick kids, cancelled bus service, and counseling appointments? Furthermore, can my life handle any more multi-tasking-under-pressure?

Still, the benefits are pretty amazing. And if I start a graduate program next fall at the UI, I could get up to four semester hours paid for--making a dent in my tuition costs.

Now I'm back to all-out aggression: I want the job! With six candidates, that gives me a 15% shot of getting it. One of my friends said, with so much faith, "But you're best one!" A kind friend, certainly. Am I the best one? This city is full of educated people who probably want (and possibly need) this job way worse than I do, and I wonder if they aren't are a hell of a lot smarter than me about journalistic style, list-serves, and web maintenance.

My last meditation on the upcoming interview stems from my reading of Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book about white collar unemployment and how damn hard it is to get a job in spite of an investment of time and money in career-coaches, job fairs, and image consultants. In regard to the latter, she learned she needed a fitted suit in the right color, new makeup, and a small gold chain necklace to look the part. In her reading research, she gained the advice that it was unwise to look "too feminine" because men won't think you're up for a challenge. Contrarily, she shouldn't look "too masculine." Masculinity in a woman is perceived as a threat.

I've been asking myself: So what should I wear? But perhaps I shouldn't be asking. After all, Ehrenreich spent thousands and thousands on travel and coaches and seminars and a nice honey-toned suit from Ann Taylor. The best job she was offered was AFLAC sales representative, a position that provided no office, no benefits, and no actual salary.

No comments: