So I’m moving to Austin when my lease is up in July, hard details pending.
I had a job interview in Austin this past Monday (well, 2, but I am only talking about 1 here), and I didn’t get the job.
I was really excited about the potential of working for these people, and hence, really nervous. I think I psyched myself out.
It didn’t help that I was supposed to chat with the recruiter to prepare for the interview but because of personal issues she didn’t call me until 30 minutes before I had to leave to drive over there. So then I spent 30 minutes frantically trying to prepare to answer questions that I didn’t end up actually getting asked.
But even if I’d had no expectations for the interview, I’m just not that good at selling myself.
Which seems bizarre to people who know that I’m an actor.
I can’t explain how or why it’s different.
I just know it is.
In acting, I’m supposed to put on a persona for auditions, and creating a character for a job that’s about creating characters makes more sense to me than doing it for a job where they’re supposedly just hiring “me” (whatever that means since identity is always a performance anyway).
I was painfully aware of my nervousness expressing itself non-verbally during the interview but I just couldn’t seem to shake the headspace I was in with the two of them staring me down.
I don’t know how to answer the questions they ask during job interviews.
Questions like, “Tell me a time when you’ve failed.”
Okay. Well, first of all, I don’t think failure is a useful rubric for defining our actions. Things don’t always go the way we plan, but if you keep trying, I don’t consider it failure. The closest thing to failure is giving up – and I don’t give up. If you’ve learned something and can do better next time, you haven’t failed. And if you’re so afraid of making a mistake that you never try something new, you aren’t ever going to learn or grow.
Apparently, as my friends told me later that evening, this was, in fact, the answer I should have given in the interview.
But I didn’t know I could say all that.
I didn’t know I could disagree with the question.
So in the moment, I panicked. “I don’t think I’ve ever failed at anything,” (see above) I said to myself, “but if I say that it will seem like a cop-out so think of something quick! … And do they want an example from my current job? They must want an example from my current job since that’s closest to what I will be doing here.”
In the end, I think I made it seem like I couldn’t do my job very well when really, I just don’t know how to answer negative interview questions because I don’t tend to view my accomplishments that way. I’d rather take what I can learn from negative experiences rather than dwelling on them or describing them in detail. (That’s what therapy is for, right? Not interviewing.)
In the arts, accepting constructive criticism and an honest evaluation of our work are key concepts and without them, making good art is really almost impossible.
So it isn’t that I have an inflated self-concept or anything.
But I think saying, “what did I try to achive, what actually happened, what can I learn from that, and how can I make the first two line up more closely the next time” is better than thinking about things in terms of failure or what was my worst experience.
In a weird way, the rules were more clear in theatre. You know when you’re wearing a mask and when you’re not. People are either super honest or literally playing a role.
I have a harder time in the “real” world (or the world of business, I suppose) differentiating between when I’m supposed to be truly honest and when I’m supposed to be putting on a persona.
And I don’t know what that persona would even be.
If I’d had time to think or write out responses instead of sitting in a room with them I would have done better.
I didn’t own my space or give myself permission to slow down, take a breath, and really come up with a good answer.
I was too busy thinking about what they were thinking and how they were judging me for staring at them blankly after they asked a question.
Interviewing is a skill, and apparently I need a lot of practice.
Auditioning is its own animal. But there you’ve had the chance to prepare a monologue in advance. And if it’s improvisational or reading a scene you’ve never seen before, you know the people watching you just want to see that you’re willing to commit to a big action and take creative risks. The rest can be sorted out in rehearsal.
I think part of the problem is that in applying for “real” jobs, I have no conception of what the people across the table want from me.
“Tell me a time you’ve failed” is a trap if I don’t know that I’m allowed to challenge the assumptions behind the question.
I don’t know how to get a job in some ways because the job I have now is the first job really where it wasn’t work study or a summer internship or a food service job where they knew I was in school.
And for my current job I didn’t do an interview – just assessments and they talked to us in a big group.
I know that I’m smart and capable. I’m just not good at convincing other people of it when the pressure is on. I’d rather let my work speak for itself.
In theatre we talked about never believing your own press. You don’t even read the review because it doesn’t matter whether people thought it was good or bad; it matters that you show up and do the work.
I show up and do the work.
Saying anything else feels like buying into my own reviews to me.
I also don’t know how to answer the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Again, never had a job where they expected I’d be there that long.
And I really don’t know.
I don’t know if I will still be in this state in five years.
I would like to be on my way to being a playwright and director in five years, maybe getting paid for some of my artistic work.
But what lies am I supposed to make up to get hired at a job so I can pay the rent now?
See, it’s just gross.
I feel trapped into a situation where I’m lying to get a job I don’t even really want (but which is one of the better jobs I feel I am qualified to do, anyway) so that I can pay to live somewhere and do what I actually care about in my free time until I am good enough at it to get paid for that instead.
And how am I supposed to be confident and sell myself when what I want out of my life doesn’t have anything to do with this company? When they seem cool and ethical and like I wouldn’t hate it there but I don’t want to be tied down anywhere for five years.
I need help figuring out how to market myself better for the business world, except I guess deep down I resent having to even be a part of that world.
If only there were jobs out there that aligned with my actual vocational aspirations.
Then I’d be set.
A girl can dream, can’t she?