I put off sitting down to start drafting my letter to you this month in the hope that my first sentences could be in celebration of a new job. One that would hopefully both excite and fulfil you, and return to you the feelings of self-worth that I have seen disappearing slowly over the last month. It seems that we are yet to be blessed however with a legitimate offer of employment for you. There was the familial offer of a potential position without start date or defined salary (which is also currently being performed by another) but in the whole scheme of things, it wasn’t an offer you could call firm and it is really not going to help pay the bills next month. So you braved numerous interviews, the most promising of which is still yet to offer feedback.
It is both a positive and negative that you have been to quite a number of interviews over the past couple of weeks. It is comforting on one hand to know that you are appealing enough on paper for employers and agents to seek you out and further ascertain your suitability for their job. This is a lot more than some people experience and as they say, practice makes perfect. It is depressing however for you to meet the same people again and again who show little sign of possessing any original thought or keen intellect. People who routinely ask asinine questions before deciding that you are a great candidate but you’re just not passionate enough about the job. To be fair, not all your interviews have been like this. Some have been with people who are talented at their job but many have been with people who support the argument that evolution has gone as far as it can and we are now making the return journey.
I think one of the highlights of the month would have to be Three Strike Sally, who is named Sally purely for the convenience of the story. I recall that Sally didn’t particularly impress you with her recruitment consulting skills when she rushed you into an interview at the agency – with someone else as she was too busy to do it herself. It seemed unusual for the consultant responsible for the job in question not to be the one to meet you face to face but I guess we were meant to assume that this happens all the time. She also did not in any way endear herself to you when it became evident that your appointment had been double booked along side an internal meeting which left you waiting. Where Sally really went wrong however was when she rang you up to criticise you. Sally (or one of her minions) apparently went ahead and both booked and confirmed an interview time with the employer without consulting you at all. She was then extremely put out to discover that you had made a prior commitment and would be unable to arrive at the appointed time. You very politely advised that you would be happy to attend an interview at alternate time since you had already promised yourself elsewhere and she very impolitely tried to pressure you into doing precisely what she wanted so she could save face and not look like an idiot in front of her client. Apparently it completely escapes Sally’s notice that both employer and employee are her clients and she cannot get one without the other but we can’t all have an IQ above 10 now can we?
The other outstanding player this month was not so much a single person but a string of interview questions guaranteed to reveal extremely little about the subject they were supposed to illuminate, ie. you. Tell me what attracted you about this position? When “um…you were hiring” does not really cut it you are left with variations of “I thought I could actually do the job” to, as someone most inappropriately put it, “allow me to rephrase your question, ‘Please spend the next few minutes complimenting me and gargling my company’s balls’” before proceeding to do just that. Then there were the clichéd requests such as “tell me why we should pick you over the other candidates” which on the surface would seem an exercise in futility. After all, how are you supposed to make a comparative assessment on people you know nothing about in relation to a specific job and work environment you have never experienced? In the end its not an exercise in open and honest interaction but in who’s bullshit sounds better. Especially when it comes to “what is your biggest weakness?”.
What do employers really expect you to say here? My biggest weakness is I’m a workaholic? I try too hard? I’m such a perfectionist? My biggest weakness is ironically enough a cunning disguise for my biggest strength? How about I am impervious to the slings and arrows of others unless you happen to puncture my heel. Or as I read somewhere “I have two. One, I have an aversion to Kryptonite but it doesn’t normally affect my work, and two, you really don’t want me to work overtime during a full moon. Seriously.”. I think people lie as much in order to answer this question as they do when they hear “tell me about a time when…”. What they want to know from these sorts of questions I suppose is what your attitude is towards adverse situations or how you tend to approach difficult circumstances but what they get is resentment so that were they were to ask you to recount a professional conflict and how you resolved it, you might want to provide one of my favourite answers to this type of dumb interview question – “one time, during an interview, someone kept asking me really stupid questions that did nothing but force me to feed them rubbish for an hour, so I resolved it by urinating in my pants. Operation Peepee Storm was a huge success”.
So this month for you has been one filled with stupid questions for seemingly no real gain whatsoever. Hopefully things turn around soon and we can move on from this current hiccup in our lives. It will certainly help that you are no longer sick. Despite receiving the flu shot this year, you managed to contract the latest strain doing the rounds which floored you for about a week and a half. You were a moaning and miserable patient and you very nearly lost your voice which made a few of your interviews rather interesting. Although I must say that it was kind of handy that you contracted the virus when you did have the time to stay home and sleep all day. The flu managed to miss me but I did catch a cold at the same time which always complicates matters because invariably when you want more comfort and company because you are sick, I want less for exactly the same reason but this passed and we are both well again.
Apart from the job hunting and getting sick, the other major variation this last month which differentiates it from the rest of the minutiae of day to day living, was the weekend full of family and the dinner party. Two separate subjects which had nothing to do with each other although we might have had a better time if we’d gone to dinner with the family instead or had family at the dinner party which we attended. Through no fault at all from our hosts that evening, I must say that it was probably the first time that both you and I have felt so uncomfortable and like fish out of water simultaneously. You who normally finds it frighteningly easy to strike up a conversation with anybody found yourself struggling for something worthwhile today and I felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time because its certainly the first time in a while that I have actually felt old. Old and boring. And probably a little bit conceited too. It is embarrassing to admit but I found myself comparing the evening to my expectation of what I thought a planned dinner party amongst double income married couples with no small children should be like. What they are like for my parents now that my sister and I are all grown up. In my head, there was a very clear distinction between being invited to dine and asked if I wanted to drop by for tea and I thought the evening in question should have been the former but was more of the latter. When did I become so much of a stuck up snob!?! Was it just because I felt a little out of my depth the whole night when a lot of the popular culture references were seemingly flying over my head? Was it because of the history of why the dinner party was a dinner party and not a weekend away? Or was I just overtired from all my family being around?
After all my immediate family declined the invitation to our housewarming, something which actually quite upset me at the time, they all seemed to decide with rather short notice that they were going to descend for a weekend. Which normally wouldn’t be a problem for me because I do really enjoy having them here. Since we only have one spare mattress however, my sister and her partner came for the Friday night and then swapped with my parents who arrived for the Saturday night. When we already had plans. As you know, I love my family dearly but in hindsight it may have been better to try and find a time when I could have hung out with them a little more. Or maybe separately or something. And preferably without food being involved in my sister’s case because that seems to put a spanner in the works quite frequently. And trying to make everyone happy is downright exhausting.
On the Friday afternoon my sister and her partner arrived at our house. It made sense to do it that way because then you could all head into the city together to meet me after work. I was disappointed that I was unable to be there the first time she saw the house but it seems no one else found particular worth in that concept except me. Anyway, you all arrived in the city eventually and we went down to the harbour to take photos of the Opera House. The Vivid festival had come round again and the photographer in me got excited by the possibility for some new night photography shots. Stupidly however, my excitement overcame whatever commonsense I might have had to suggest that we eat dinner before Circular Quay was filled with thousands of people who had come out for either the shows or just because it was Friday night. Because sure enough, by the time we were ready to finish freezing our fingers off and put the cameras away, there was nowhere close to sit down for a quick, easy and cheap meal that was going to satisfy everyone. Everyone was cranky and frustrated and when we finally found somewhere to eat, the meal took ages as the kitchen was running behind. The next day was little better.
I know you valiantly tried to give me some personal time with my sister by suggesting that her partner might want to grab a coffee with you but they do seem permanently joined at the hip sometimes and apparently didn’t want to split up. So I stayed home to clean in a pissy mood over something or other while you all went out for a sort of brunch and coffee where you felt a bit like a third wheel and were apparently equally as miserable as I was. After my parents eventually arrived, we tried to find lunch together but that was another awkward experience. Apart from the fact that they ran out of what I wanted to order, there was nothing my sister really wanted on the menu, the drink she did order was not what she expected at all and wasn’t actually to her taste and the vibrations in the floorboards were giving her flashbacks to the earthquake she experienced in Vanuatu! Since you and I also seem to find it difficult to share meals other than take out with her in our home, I have come to the conclusion that food is really not our friend! My parents are somewhat easier but when it came to dinner that Saturday night, they all ended up at my aunt and uncle’s place anyway because we had made prior plans.
So all in all, it was a rather long weekend. We came out of it at the end with new curtains in the living room though which as far as I am concerned was definitely a plus. And that is all I can think to write to you at the moment. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing (when is it ever?) but neither has it been a bad month even though you were job searching. If nothing else, since we have moved out West, we have been building our relationship as a couple with the neighbours who have known you as a bachelor for years. It seems that they have also adopted me now though as we have over the weeks spent hours with them and their kids. It seems to be a friendship that doesn’t stand on ceremony and we can be ourselves in their company which is definitely a refreshing change. A friendship where the conversation is not completely made up of recounting our days for a topic of conversation or exhausting all common ground but where there are stories and ideas and talk over life in general. I do feel a bit guilty about how many times they have fed us since it has been easier for us land on their doorstep at a moments notice (and stay) than it has been for them to pick up two children and land on ours but I’m sure we will work out a fair trade – I think we will have to start bringing more food with us!
Your Loving Wife
* Photo taken of the Opera House during the Vivid festival.