Today, I went to my first large group interview. There were 19 of us, all sitting in a circle around a big room, with the staff of the organization interspersed. We did activities and exercises instead of answering questions put to us by an interviewer. It was all very progressive and impressive. Everyone else in the room had a couple of years on me at least, and plenty more experience. I did my best to distinguish myself without looking like that was my intention, which is what everyone else in the room was doing.
Somewhere during the introductions, I stopped worrying so much. If I made it to the next round of interviews, fine. But I decided to give up the posturing, buzzwords and strategic self-promotion. I smiled at my competitors. I asked genuine questions, of the other candidates and the staff. I answered questions based on the truth, not what would sound best to get me the job. (The organization is in the education field. When they asked what social issue I was most involved in, I could have said education, but I said homelessness because that’s the truth, and there’s no getting around that. Of course, I tied the issues together, because they’re extremely interrelated.) I didn’t give up my pursuit of the job, and I still jumped on opportunities to ask questions or mention my experiences. But I stopped playing games.
Very little was positive about the two-hour-long process. I felt young, inexperienced and out of place in a swanky downtown office building. The large group dynamic was disconcerting and discouraging. And I didn’t get called back for the second round.
Yet, in spite of everything, I feel encouraged.
Not encouraged that I’m going to find employment any time soon, maybe. But encouraged that I can put myself out there, take a defeat, and keep on keeping on. Encouraged that I can put a smile on my face and mean it even when the situation is difficult. Encouraged that I know who I am, what I believe in, and what I am passionate about.
And, let’s be honest: encouraged that I can wear my Big Girl Shoes and not once (not once!) trip or stumble.