Friday, January 28, 2011

The Seminar

I'm late. Nothing new there. There's a bit of a greatness to my lateness. In this case, five minutes. misjudged the tram and the fact that I had to wear corporate garb - not my favorite mode of dressing - it takes time to look like invisible.

I feel so out of sorts, clad in a grey suit, a new blue shirt that looks not only fashionable, but rather fetching (I love cobalt blue). My sensible heels shoved in a bag and my feet in my comfy flats. I'm not wearing stockings. I don't wear stockings unless their the opaque ones worn in winter. Stockings are a form of corporate torture. My hair has been straightened, I have a light make up mask on, nothing to heavy, just some mineral foundation, a touch of blush, gentle eyeshadow, eyeliner only on the top lid, mascara and some rose pink lip gloss. I don't like wearing that much makeup normally (I'm and eyeliner and mascara girl) but as I have an interview at three, it has to be done.

Wearing a suit makes me feel like a fraud. Corporate wear is just a disguise. And a uniform, I've not worn a suit for the last three years. I can do what I do for a living just as well in a pair of jeans, or  something neat and tidy. Hell, half of my documents written from home were written in my pyjamas and a dressing gown, my feet shoved in the clog slippers (pantoffels) that Glen Waverley and Merijn brought me back from the Netherlands.

Mary, the receptionist at the career consultants, points at me to take a name badge - another major dislike of the corporate world. Give me anonimnity any day. Then, as she placates a person on the end of her bluetooth headset, points me towards the conference room where the seminar has just started.

Interviewing skills.

My career consultant said I should go along.

The ten people around the table look at me. Four men in their late forties/early fifties with mismatching hairlines. A faux bald bloke in t-shirt, shorts and thongs, a bit younger with an easy smile. Four women in standard issue, Millers pull on slacks and Oprah bright shirts. Also there was the the convener, a well turned out woman with a penchant for overusing expensive silver jewellery.

I was in for a fun two hours.

Walking in, the standard corporate seminar technique was taking place. Introduce the person next to you. The others in the room were busy interrogating each other. Thankfully, I would be the odd one out."You'll have to introduce yourself." The convenor told me, silverware clanking. Never to mind. It gave me a few minutes to check my email on my phone.

What surprised me, when the introductions started, was the room was full of senior and middle management. Bankers, lawyers, trainers, Chief Financial Officers - and me - coalface business analyst and word nerd. All but one had been retrenched though corporate restructures. The last one, the guy in the shorts, was on endless gardening leave as the bank for which he worked couldn't find him a position in Melbourne after he returned from one of their European offices. He'd been on gardening leave for four months now.


Without exeption, everybody in the room was used to interviewing people, not being interviewed. Most of the people spoke quietly, some more confident than others. There was a look of defeat in some of their eyes. Others held an indignant anger as they told their stories. Some, like me, saw being retrenched as one of the best things to have ever happened to them. Mr Gardening Leave thought it was great that the bank was paying him his six figure salary to take his kids to school.

As instructed, we had to give examples of positive and negative elements to interviewing.

They got to me last. I still felt fraudulent in my grey suit. I gave my schpeil.

"Hi, I'm Pand. I'm a business analyst in  the test and I.T. space. Business Analyst is just a fancy word for Geek Liaison - I talk to the nerds - I talk to the business - and play translator to both. I'm good at saying,"No, can't have that, because pink isn't a corporate font".  I've only interviewed four people to date because my boss at the time was too lazy to do it. As a contractor, I'm used to being interviewed. I use it as a chance to see if the person I'm possibly working for is a wanker or not. If they're a wanker, I don't take the job - nothing worse than working for a nob. And I trust my instincts.On the good side of interviews, if they show you the tea room, you're in. On the bad side, when you know you don't want to be there, how do you stop yourself fidgetting as you work out how you can get out gracefully. I've only once said,"Look, thanks for seeing me, but I don't think I'm the person you're looking for."

It's often hard being the odd one out at these sorts of things, though this time, being the one who wasn't the manager, wasn't the competition, and also the one in the room who was used to being interviewed, made it a bit easier.

We looked at preparation - things I do before interviews - look over the description, research the company, know where you're going and who you're seeing, make sure your clothes are set out the night before... practical, sensible stuff that I do without fail.

Then we had some interview practice. Looked at how to get around behavioural questions that occassionally trip me up. I got some great feedback from the guys in my team. The head honcho lawyer in our group was very reticent. Gardening Leave and I suggested some acting lessons to loosen up.

The two hours went fairly quickly. On exiting the seminar, after filling out the mandatory feedback sheet, the convener wished me well. "You'll be fine, you know what you're doing."

What was most confronting for me about the session was my other seminar mates. Was this what was to come? Anger, denial, a feeling of hopelessness. Bright over shirts and slacks. That lost look of the great corporate unwanted?

I'm seriously thinking about changing my date of birth. Some of these people were surely about my age. I can't be like them. Most of them were so, so, so suburban. Where did their spark go? Or were they always like this? Desiccated, bitter and lost? And were they like that in their jobs?

I don't want to turn into that sort of mediocrity.

Meeting Alice for lunch after helped sort my head. Alice has a very different slant on everything.

Changing into my sensible heels a few hours later, leaving my flats at the Tin Can, String and Whistle coffee shop,before going to the said interview, I was back to feeling okay.

I was in familiar territory. The people interviewing me were very decent. I got shown where the tea room was from the outside of the building.

I'm on my way.


(p.s. Will get a decision on Monday about the job - references are in - fingers are crossed)


The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Interesting post.

I am one of those guys who is bitter in their job and thinking about an exit.

I'm an IT geek and sick of the corporate crap that accompanies my chosen career. Its all a game, a front and a political nightmare. We lie, we pretend to like people we loathe and unnecessary red tape and political manouvering makes it incredibly difficult to do the job properly. And its getting worse.

I've also interviewed quite a few people and it too is like a game - I hate it. In fact, I actually got told off in an interview by the candidate for daring to ask a technical question - "You didn't give me time to prepare!" he said as he stormed out without shaking my hand.

I just want to depart the rat race really. It's a game I am fed up of playing it to be fair.

Sorry for the mini rant - I shall put my soapbox away now.

Please God can I have that winning lottery ticket this weekend???




Kath Lockett said...

My fingers are crossed for you.

Oh and don't put your birthdate on your CV - it's absolutely irrelevant.

Pandora Behr said...

@ PM - oh how I know what you're feeling - thankfully I'm out of a lot of the crap. You can do it if you beleive.

@ Kath - don't worry, my DOB aint on there, nor my address and a lot of other things. Thanks for the well wishes.