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Fix It Or Forget It?

October 17th, 2012

Job hunting is an uphill climb already, but there are times during the process when the odds truly seem stacked against you. When this happens, it can be very tempting to throw in the towel. See what Tina* and Ulysses* did.

When Tina* approached me about beginning her job search, she was wary and explained that she didn’t like the process of looking for a job.  This wasn’t so unusual, and I tried to discover which part she found difficult:  Crafting her resume?  The interview?  Selecting positions to apply for?  Getting her to respond to my questions turned out to be the hard part, and took more investigation than usual.

It turned out that what was really the most difficult part of job interviewing for Tina was dealing with her sister throughout the process.  Whenever she had decided in the past to conduct a job search, Tina found that her sister’s remarks were so negative, critical and hurtful, that she ended up taking the first thing she could – simply to be done with everything.

“This time,” Tina explained, “I’d like to take the best offer – not the first offer.  But I’m not sure how I can hold out, with my sister’s constant criticism.”

Although my first suggestion was that Tina simply not tell her sister that she was conducting a job search at all, this wasn’t feasible, since she would probably need to ask for her help with babysitting during some interviews.  However, we did decide to delay mentioning the job search until at least the first interview, and downplay everything as much as possible.

In the past, Tina would share her excitement – and disappointment – each time.  This time, her sister wouldn’t have the opportunity to elaborate on anything.

When Tina’s sister finally became aware that she was interviewing and began engaging in her familiar patterns, asking for details, Tina responded as we had rehearsed, by providing very minimal details, with as little description as possible:  “Oh, it’s hard to say.”  “We’ll see.”  “You never know.”  “I’m just going to give it a try.”

When prodding her for further information didn’t work, Tina’s sister attempted to provoke her, as she expected: “Well, when you’re ready to hear the truth, you let me know!”

Tina was prepared this time, and refused to engage in these battles, keeping her eye on the ball.  “Uh, huh.  Gotta go now.  Talk to you later.”

Spending more time and energy on her job search – and less effort fighting with her sister – allowed Tina to select the right job, as she wanted, and not merely the first job that came along.  It took nearly a year, but she is much happier not only with how she was able to Fix It! with her new position, but also in how she now stands up to her sister.

Ulysses* had gotten an interview with an organization he would be pleased to work for in a neighboring city.  He was also impressed, because, although it was a nonprofit, they had offered to pay for his travel expenses.  He hadn’t seen this offer made before at the middle management level, merely for interviews, and figured it was a designation of professionalism that marked this organization as being special.

The first interview went well, as Ulysses met with a couple of people on the development staff.  In addition to the typical interview questions, they asked him specific questions about how he would conduct campaigns for the organization, and handed him their latest direct mail piece, wanting to know his specific opinions about it.

Ulysses, eager to impress his potential employer with his skills, rattled off a variety of items that were good, as well as several that could be improved, and noticed that the assistant director was taking notes furiously.

Later, he was called back for a second interview, which included meeting several more staff members.  Ulysses was pleased that his previous performance put him into the final cut, and planned on showing more of his talents, in the hope of being selected as their newest staff member.

His final meeting of the day was with the Director of Development, who made a point of sharing with him some very specific (and “proprietary”) budget figures, and asking him to strategize – given that “this is our current situation,” where they should focus their efforts next.

Ulysses was quite excited, thinking that surely he was going to be hired, because this type of information was not really something to be shared with a candidate, but really with an internal employee!  If the director is seeking his expertise, he must have already decided to hire him!

Ulysses responded to the question about where the next campaign strategy should focus, as well as some other thoughts, and then finished the rest of the interview.  He went home feeling quite good.

Then a week passed.  Then another week passed – and no word from the organization came.  At all.

Finally, the HR Director contacted Ulysses and told him that the Director of Development had done some “further research” on him and concluded that he really wasn’t “at the level” of fundraising that they needed, and that they were going to open up their search once again.

Adding insult to injury, she said, “So, you don’t need to apply.”

Ulysses felt very deceived!

“For one thing,” he said, “I don’t know what ‘further research’ they’re talking about, because he didn’t speak to any of my references.  They would have told me.  For another, the Director knew ‘at what level’ of funds I’d raised before I had my first interview from my resume, so that wasn’t a surprise.”

Ulysses suspected that there was no job at all, and that the organization was merely “interviewing” candidates for free consulting services.  He particularly believed this because his set of interviews was the second round of interviews.

“I don’t think the HR Director realized that I knew they had already ‘opened up the search again.’” Ulysses told me.

Looking back, Ulysses postulates that their “travel reimbursement” was merely a type of protection, should anyone figure out that they are engaging in this type of behavior, so they can technically say that they are “paying people” for their time.

Although he knows he can Forget It! with respect to this job, Ulysses is carefully considering how to position his expertise for future interviews.  On the one hand, he wants to demonstrate how knowledgeable he is; on the other, it’s a fine line that needs to be walked.  He won’t make the same mistake of giving away everything during the interview again.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Leslie* and Kirk* have different interview difficulties

Noah* and Odelia* learn the power of networking

Blanche* and Arthur* face discrimination

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