Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Job Interview And The Aftermath

On Monday I traveled to our state capitol to interview for a job. It was an entry level political analyst job for a political party. The job was for assisting State Representatives draft and pass legislation.  It seemed dream job.

The funny thing is that I didn't even know this was my dream job until I came upon the job posting last week. I had never really considered any legal work outside of litigation. When I saw this job posting and read through the description, it was like I had discovered the last missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I have always been passionate for public policy and political science but I didn't know what I could ever do with that major (hence my foray into law). During law school, I took the only job opportunities that materialized-- litigation. While I enjoy litigation, I have always had the sense that I'm missing something. The more I looked for jobs outside of litigation, the more I realized that I was absolutely unqualified to do anything else, beyond entry level work. This was depressing.

The idea that you can do anything with a law degree is a total sham (probably concocted by law schools!). The only thing you can do with a law degree is practice law. If you want to do something other than that, your past experience is pretty much the only thing that will get you there. The law degree will just serve as pretty wrapping for your resume.

Despite my lack of experience in public policy and committee specific issues, I landed an interview for my dream job. I showed up, smiled, played nice, and tried my best to impress. The entire time I felt like a conwoman. How can I take my completely unrelated experience and skills and make them seem transferrable? How can I talk my way into this job? I was very nervous but I thought it went pretty well.

I wanted the job so badly that I was almost too afraid to let myself hope for it. I held my breath all week, my heart pounded every time my phone rang. I remember feeling completely helpless as I realized that the thing that could finally change my career around, the thing that I wanted a little too much, was at the complete whim of a stranger. There was nothing more I could do. This is pretty much the worst feeling. It's better to have something be within your control and fail to achieve it than to have something be at the arbitrary fancy of another person. I felt like I was living in a horrible career purgatory. Part of me wanted to hope, the other part of me wanted to brace for the worst.

Then on Friday, an email came. From the interviewer. He initially set up my interview through e-mail so the fact that he was e-mailing did not tip me off on the outcome. This was it! Had I made it to the second round of interviews? I read the first sentence and immediately knew that it was a rejection. "I would like to thank you very much...blah, blah, blah."

I was sitting at my desk, in my office. The second I read those words, my shoulders slumped and my entire body immediately went slack. I processed it for a second and then the reality hit me. It felt like that moment after Christmas morning when all the presents had already been unwrapped. Major letdown. I could feel pressure building up behind my eyes and I tried to hard to stifle tears. A few slipped out as I turned my chair, rolled up to my window, and peered out. I remember watching the faint outline of rain fall and feeling that the weather was expressing my very feelings. I sat there kind of numb for a while and tried to figure out what I should think and what I should do next. What does this mean? No immediate escape from the billable hour. No new office. No new commute. No change to add some excitement to my life.

Since then, I haven't been able to shake this deflated feeling. Sometimes I am mad at myself because I know it is a tough job market out there and I understand that I should be grateful to have any job at all. But mostly, I am numb, apathetic. I'm not happy but not sure how to fix it. Is it the work? The billable hours? The commute? Is it because my paycheck is so small and barely covers our bills? Is it because I desperately want another baby (which has been veto-ed by my husband without any discussion whatsoever). Is it because somewhere deeply buried (behind the practical worries of future employment and the harsh sting of reality and a mountain full of debt) is the desire to be home with my babies. Is it because I'm not making the "difference" that I so passionately planned to do as an idealistic young adult? Sidenote: at 29, am I still a "young adult?"

I can sense that I am about to come upon a deep pit of depression. I don't know how to ward it off. I don't know how to make things not suck. I think I had hoped that a new job would fix all my sadness. And I'm pretty sure that getting that job of my dreams would have fixed a good 1/3 of it. But where do I go from here? Is telling myself repeatedly that I am lucky and happy enough to make it so? Maybe I really am happy and just going through a temporary rough spot. Then again, maybe it's time to take new risks.

There is another part of me (the more consistent and reliable part of me) that is taking this rejection very well. That part of me firmly believes that everything just works out. That part of my knows that there is nothing I can't handle and is not daunted by "worst-case-scenarios." That part of me believes that I did not get this job because there is a different job out there for me. It also believes that I am flexible, durable, and strong. This part of me is never worried or anxious and is acutely aware of the transience of life and the Important Things In Life.

Gee, I sure wish THAT part would take over right about now.


  1. Sorry the job didn't work out :( One takeaway might be that you've figured out what your dream job is or looks like. As someone who doesn''t even have a handle on that part of the equation, I think it's cool that you've figured it out! Now you can think about whether there's anything you can do to beef up your resume or feel like less of a conwoman the next time you interview for that sort of job?

    And about Baby3, is your husband giving an unqualified no? As you point out, you're only 29. Maybe once the financial situation gets more comfortable he would be more open to the idea of Baby3? Just thinking out loud.

    In any event, sorry about the tough week :(

  2. So sorry about the way it turned out. I hate times like you describe--times when you are left kind of numb, looking around, and wondering, "now what?" But, I agree with Paragon that this could eventually be an exciting turning point in your professional life, the time when you figured out what you want to be and started putting the pieces in place to accomplish that. Now, you can visualize the dream.

    However, for right now, this moment, trying to figure it all out, and for the longing for baby three, {hugs!}

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living
    Kate’s genealogical newspaper stories from Iowa in 1870s@Finding Their Stories

  3. My experience with applying for jobs on and off over the past three years has been that most of the opportunities are OK or worse but about once a year, something that feels like a "dream job" comes along. And, especially if you allow yourself to get excited about it to the point where you're mentally taking a step away from your current job, it can take a little while to recover and recommit if the new opportunity doesn't work out. But I have faith that something else will come along. And as P2P points out, if you're sure this is the direction you want to go, now you know where to build your network.

  4. Ugh. Just... ugh. I know this feeling. I'm with CM, getting excited and making plans (I do the same thing) makes everything harder when it doesn't work out. You'll bounce back, though, and hit your stride again while you work on the Next Thing (or figuring out what the Next Thing is, exactly... a project in itself).

  5. What a good job interview! very|i actually} enjoyed reading to a small degree a lot of concerning the mythology because i believe that is what really sets this book except others. i can not wait to browse Secrets and Shadows!