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Featured Stories How We Show Up (July 2019) SEEQ Stories of How We Show Up

A Lesson from a Failed Interview

Community Curator July 25, 2019
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This story was submitted anonymously to the How We Show Up collection as part of the July SEEQ sessions.

Going back to business school was my opportunity to change the course of my future. Graduating with my undergraduate degree at the start of the recession taught me to hustle. I had spent years piecing together a “career” of contract work and part-time job. Going to grad school (specifically business school) would help me acquire more marketable skills and hopefully make more money. My undergraduate degree was in music business and my work experience had all been in the music industry, an industry that tends to pay in perks more so than in dollars. I wanted to make more dollars. Heading into my first year of business school I was contacted by a major corporation in Minneapolis, MN. They wanted to interview me for a summer internship in their marketing department. I was surprised, but I did have marketing experience. My prior experience was in marketing and logistics for concerts, so why couldn’t I apply that knowledge and those skills to a products-based business? Of course, I could. This was my chance to make that “business school money,” which was one of the main reasons I had applied to go back to school in the first place. I made it through the first round of phone interviews and was invited to fly out for an in-person interview at their offices in Minnesota. The interview would be almost a full day in the office. It would consist of a tour of the facilities, a one-on-one interview with my potential future boss, lunch with the other prospects, and finally a group interview with the team I would become a part of. As a person coming from the entertainment industry, “dressing nice” for work consisted of jeans with no rips or tears and a nice blouse. I needed “business attire” so I went to the Kasper Outlet at the suggestion of my mother and purchased a pants suit that supposedly looked professional, but I honestly felt like I was dressing up in someone else’s clothes…someone older. Someone more distinguished. Upon arriving at the offices in Minneapolis, I immediately felt out of place. My only corporate experience before this had been temping as the assistant to the president of large concert promotions company. This was an office in which everyone wore jeans and used scooters to get to meetings more than 5 feet from the edge of their desk. It had walls covered with posters from various concerts (some office appropriate, but some questionably so). The offices I now stood in had no posters. They had almost no colors at all. I remember lots of gray. There was no music playing as there had been at my past jobs, just the sound of silence. I wanted to make the best impression possible, so I attempted to fit into the office culture. I tend to smile…a lot. This did not seem like the office for too much smiling, so I made a conscious effort to keep an interested look on my face which honestly may have been a look of confusion at times. When you try too hard at something, it doesn’t always come out the way you had hoped. I asked very few questions in the group settings for fear of sounding like I didn’t belong. I didn’t want to let on that I already felt out of place. I wanted to play it cool. As I usually strived to stand out in a crowd, this time I just wanted to blend in. The morning interview went well but the afternoon group interview was what I will always remember most. As I was sitting in a chair facing four of my potential future co-workers, I began to make less observations about myself and more observations about the people in front of me. The sat with space between them that could have been walls. Never did one of them cross boundaries into the space of their neighbor. They did not laugh or joke with one another. They did not seem to me like a team but instead just a group of employees. In that moment I thought to myself, “Is this really where you want to work? Is this really a team you can imagine yourself being a part of?” I answered their scenario-based questions… (you know, “tell me about a time…”) as best as I could. I had practiced these answers after all. They were rehearsed. It was more of a performance than an interview. I hoped my nerves weren’t taking center stage. The rest of my time in Minneapolis was wonderful, but after I left I received a nice email stating that I had not been selected for the internship opportunity but they wished me the best and hoped I would stay in touch for employment opportunities after graduation. From the moment I stepped out of those offices following that day of interviews, I knew I would not be back as an employee of the organization, not because I didn’t deserve the opportunity but because it was not the right fit for me. I had spent the day pretending to be someone I wasn’t and just one day was exhausting enough. I wanted to work in environment where my constant stream of smiles were met with the smiles of others; a place where I didn’t need to wear a suit to fit in; a place where co-workers enjoyed work not just because their jobs were interesting but because they also enjoyed the company of the people around them. That experience has really shaped my career and what opportunities I step forward for. If I have to pretend to be someone I’m not to get the job done, then it’s not the job for me. Work is not just a paycheck, it’s the way we all spend the majority of our time. I owe it to myself to spend as much time as I can being comfortable in my own skin.

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