Contemplating The U.S. Navel

Me, Chicago, Hollywood and The Federal Government

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate
Chicago, Illinois, USA
December 31
Communications Manager
Insurance Brokerage
I am about as liberal as they come, and please don't expect to change me, though I do sometimes sneak up on you with a surprise (pro-death penalty, for instance). Although gainfully employed as a full-time Marketing Manager, I keep my toes in the freelance pool as a journalist, theater critic, blogger and proud President of the Illinois Woman's Press Association. To read my work on this page is to find vignettes about Chicago, Hollywood, my own turbulent life, and of course, my number one passion: local and national politics.


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NOVEMBER 9, 2010 5:08PM

The Bipolar Job Seeker

Rate: 23 Flag



Yesterday, after four straight weeks of sending out oodles of resumes, using networking contacts, and applying for low paying internships without so much as a blip of interest from any employer, I scored a potential hit. Realizing that four weeks in this DOA job market isn't a long wait, I immediately celebrated my good fortune. The position, a 6-12 month contracting role in internal corporate communications for a large firm in the Chicago suburbs, manages to marry several attractive elements at once.


In the first place, it's a paid writing gig and when I found myself laid off almost two months ago, I didn't set the bar for my next role any higher than that. But in addition the pay is good, the company is doing well, and I even like the transient nature of the position. One of the many reasons I have failed to succeed long term in the corporate world is the tendency to feel trapped and helpless at around the two year mark in a given situation. Once I have mastered my work, I want more, but the cubicle environment is famous for stifling ambition. However, were I fortunate enough to be offered this contract, the fear of claustrophobia is inherently removed.


At 5 PM yesterday, after I set up a time for a phone interview and logged off the computer, I decided to treat myself to a glass of wine. I knew better than to count my chickens. I hadn't been hired yet. But the opening up of the employment channels at all was a vindication of sorts: my decision to invest fully in a writing career, rather than clinging to operations or administration (the old safe standbys) would eventually pay off. I am good enough, smart enough and doggone it, at least Erin, the recruiter who found my resume on CareerBuilder, likes me.


Therefore, as close to buoyant in mood as I ever get, I waited for my husband Eddie to come home so I could share the good news: plan my interview outfit, strategize about what experiences I should highlight with my interlocutors and which I should save for second string. Though the looming threat of disappointment always hangs around the edges of an interview experience, it is important to enjoy that sweet spot, the precious moments before the interrogation when anything seems possible. You are your smartest, most capable, most positive self. There is so much that is debilitating about the unemployment cycle, so it is vital to enjoy these fleeting moments.


And so it was that when my husband's first piece of interview advice turned out to be "don't fuck it up," I crashed as quickly as I had ascended the emotional heights. Disbelieving my ears and wanting very badly for him to vindicate himself, I asked if he believed this was the right choice of words for instilling confidence. His reply: "well, it's a genuine concern."


I have written honestly, and at length about my battles with social awkwardness and volatile self-esteem. I am well aware that I do not always perform as I wish in front of a crowd. However, when it comes to interviews, and anything related to survival, like landing a job, evading police or patching up drunken injuries without a trip to the emergency room, my success ratio is darned close to impeccable. As we writers are sensitive types, is there anything more painful than hearing our deepest fears verbalized by a loved one? I had managed in the last month, to lull myself into the secure state of belief that if I could just secure a face to face interview, I'd be unstoppable. Yet here was my own spouse disclosing the uncertainty that I might screw myself out of opportunity by being a nervous loose canon.


Upon reflection after an evening spent wounded on my part, and groveling on my husband's, it is apparent that Eddie stepped in a pile of unintended verbal diarrhea. Somewhere in my heart I know that he was awkwardly trying to advise me not to let nerves get the better of me, to have the confidence in myself that he has, to understand that I am qualified for this role, and even if I don't get it, another like it will come my way. I just wish he would have stayed quiet until he knew better how to frame the discussion. Red wine doesn't go very well with tears.

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Hm. This was tough to read. At our most vulnerable points, we want someone we can count on to encourage us and help us see the light instead of the dark. I'm sure as you said, he didn't intend it as it came out, but I hope history doesn't repeat itself.
As the former owner of an employment agency, I'd like to give you one of the secrets of doing "the interview" successfully. This works with all interviews at any level.

First, think of the setting of the interview. The interviewer is at his/her desk. He has your resume in front of him. He is making notes during the interview (usually).
HE WILL ALSO MAKE NOTES IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE INTERVIEW!! This is important. It is also forgotten by 99% of those "experts" who train people for interviews or who write advice for doing them.

You already know to make a good first impression. You know to have some serious questions written down (so you don't forget them and to impress the interviewer with how well organized you are).

Now the secret: Do a good exit.

That interviewer will make his notes on you the instant you leave his office. The LAST impression is just as important as the first impression - maybe even more so.

As the interview ends you will be picking up your things, standing, and shaking hands with the interviewer. Firm handshake, of course, and a final question from you. A "simple to answer" question so that the interviewer can answer it as you are making your exit. People LOVE to be asked questions that they can appear clever for answering so keep it an easy one. As he sits down to write his notes after you leave, he will still have the "glow" of satisfaction he got from answering your simple question. His notes will come from his own ego being stroked and be great!!

This is a "smooth exit".........

You can also develop your own. It is pretty easy to do and you might prefer a different method. Just make sure it is smooth and, if possible, strokes his/her ego without seeming to do so.
And I forgot. Good luck with the interview! Congratulations on that accomplishment.
Congratulations on landing the interview! Writing jobs are hard to come by, so you must have really impressed them. I'll bet you'll do fine in the interview. Sometimes things just "click". Sending good wishes and crossing my fingers for you!
That really had to suck, Becky. You're a great writer and a great talent. A savvy interviewer will be able to see through that. When I did interviews, I would try to elicit a few responses that were "tells" about personal interests that might put the candidate at ease. Once at ease the real probing could begin. Sometimes hard hitting if thinking the candidate was BSing, but other times to just get the person to speak to their passion. After a while the listening would stop as they went on, and I would be trying to figure out if that passion was something which would work for me in the position I needed to fill.

You are quite clearly passionate about writing. Speak to that and its many forms. Speak to the various styles and how they fit within the function. Speak to knowledge of the ways in which technology changes that dynamic in ways not yet fully comprehended. Show you are peering around the corner as disruptive technologies alter the function you seek to fill.

You'll ace it if you just stay true to yourself. You are an incredibly good and clear writer. It jumps out off the page.
Hi Becky,

My first response was to think your hubby was being a jerk, but your last paragraph reminded me of something I learned from my sweetie, which would have been helpful to know a long time ago. People who are very familiar with words (like writers) have no trouble saying exactly the thing they want to say in the very instant that they want to say it. We access the word bank in our head and *poof* there it is. And we assume it's like that for everybody. Here's the thing though-- it's not. For some people, the search for the right words/phrases is so slow and difficult that they learn to half-ass it; they say something that comes fairly close to what they want to convey, and hope it does the trick. When I found this out, I was like, "no way!" It seems almost like a disability to me-- to not be able to say what you want to say, when you want to say it. (By the way, this came up when I was telling him about my bad day, and he asked, "What do you want me to say, when you tell me stuff like this?" And I said, "Well, something like, "That sounds tough. I'm sorry you had to go through that." And he said, "Okay. 'Cause my first response to it is to say, "Sucks to be you." (!) And that's really not the kind of guy he is, and that's when I found out about the whole, "saying something that's vaguely in the area of what I want to convey, since I know I won't be able to find the exact right words."

Sorry this is so long, but I just thought that last paragraph was exactly right, and how empathetic of you to see it, even through your own (*totally justified*) pissed-offness (and insecurity). I think a decent translation of his "don't fuck it up" statement is "I'm rooting for you." (And I am too! Good luck! Knock 'em dead!)
Congratulations on the interview. Got to say though everybody knows that tears need a fortified wine, a port perhaps or a nice bottle of Mogen David 20/20 to compliment the saltiness.
Just realized I left off the close-parenthesis (I hate that!). Also, didn't mean to say your insecurity was "justified" (ha! 'cause you SO SUCK!!) no no no-- meant to say your pissed-offness was justified, and feeling insecure before a job interview is (a) normal and (b) undeserving of comments like the one he made.

And good luck, again, with the job interview. Eye contact! Firm handshake! You rule! They'd be lucky to get you! :)
Congratulations on getting the call for an interview! Corporate communications is a job that could benefit from the skills of a good writer. Your job will be to take stuff that is important to the organization and make it intelligible and interesting to your audience. Not everyone can do this job well, but a person (you) with a conversational voice and the ability to make people care about your cause will be successful. It's the day job of many a born-writer and you would be a natural at it. Good luck!
Yes, he surely stepped in it. Do let us know how it turns out.
"Though the looming threat of disappointment always hangs around the edges of an interview experience, it is important to enjoy that sweet spot, the precious moments before the interrogation when anything seems possible."


Man Child can't change that, no matter how clumsy his expression of 'support'.
Good Luck Becky! The worst that can happen is you'll have a great story....
ow, just ow. I hope the interview goes wonderfully and you can look him straight in the eye and say "I didn't fuck it up" and smile sweetly. I know it wasn't his intention to be mean, but that was very cruel of him.
Good luck with the interview. You are not alone. Your situation is mirrored by many, though this doesn't help your personal angst, maybe you can take it less personally. I am not going to jump on your husband's case, sometimes a spouse needs a little more time to process something. If you can't give your partner the benefit of the doubt, who can you give it? You are a very skilled person, you will give it your best, and I am confident in you. R for persistance.
Reading this felt as if I were reading about myself. I could really feel the insecurity and sense of failure that comes from being unemployed. I, too, am unemployed at the moment and have been so many times in my life. I know what it's like to desperately want and need a job. I know that high when you finally get an interview after sending so many resumes and that hurt and anger you feel when you don't get a job you believe you were perfect for.

Like you, I've also been told not to "fuck it up" in an interview or even once I've landed a job. Very upsetting. When you talk about struggles with social awkwardness, I completely relate as I have been battling this for years. I so often feel out of place and, even though I have a good vocabulary and love to write, I almost always say the wrong thing.

Wishing you all the very best at the interview. Remember to stay positive about yourself, ask a thoughtful questions and make sure to show them how much you can offer them as a person and as a writer. Also very important: remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. It's mutual.
It's yours, this job it yours. Such fine writing as this post tells me this is so. Congratulations.
Buck up sweetie, men aren't sensitive like women...they're sensitive like men.
That's just something you'd say to a buddy in the same situation, and take it from me - he meant well..
And what skypixeo said, only in show-biz they call it "always finish BIG!".
I've got to admit, I might say something exactly like that to my wife, just as a sort of reverse-psychology sort of attempt to try and jog her out of any nervousness. You know, say something obviously "rude" in order to make her laugh and relax a bit. Either way, good luck!
Oh that's did sound as if he wanted to spare you pain, but that's an unfortunate choice of words...
..shake it off and good luck with the interview!!
First of all, good luck tommorow. Of course you'll knock 'em dead. Supreme confidence...there's no other way to walk into an interview. Indeed, we are kindred spirits. I started my first day of training for my new job today, and right as I was leaving my husband said something, uh, insensitive. It took the whole commuting time to reclaim my mojo.

Do your thing gurl...all the best!!
I know so well your feelings about this. I am job searching, too. What must be remembered that whether the interview gets f----- up is not totally a matter of you; you are 50% of the equation. We can only control what WE do.
Yikes. I know we men are capable of the most tactless, oblivious, offensive comments at the most inopportune times but geez, "Don't fuck it up" goes well beyond "Break a leg".

One tip I learned in my two lengthy spells of unemployment concerns phone interviews. Stand up. Apparently talking while standing up instills confidence and assertiveness while sitting down encourages lassitude. I sure hope it comes through for you.
Ouch! I'm sure he didn't mean it the way it sounded. Good luck to you anyway.
Interesting to watch you go through the process--unemployed >unemployable feeling; interviewee>maybe, just maybe; loved one's faux pas>pits; pits>big girl pants. Well done and break a leg. Rated
I wish human beings came equipped with a five-second delay button on our tongues, complete with a Cancel option. I could feel the wind coming out of your sails as I read this.

Forget all that and just let your phenomenal talent shine through. Best of luck, Becky.

I'm late to this post but I truly feel your pain... the pain that comes with wavering self-esteem. All I can say is best of luck!!
Oh man! That's a tough one. I've been there...both sides. You must have been so frustrated on top of everything else you were dealing with. Wonderful post!

On another note, I totally relate to your restlessness.
Yeesh, that actually didn't sound like something he'd say. He must have had a hard day and his filters were malfunctioning. Still, that is no excuse.

Our hubbies are delightful these days, aren't they?
I hate in persons but dont mind phone interviews. Phone interviews revolve around skill, verbal adeptness. In person, your hair, handshake, eye contact, grooming. Ugg. I'm a programer not a GQ model. If I shave properly its a major accomplishment. Good luck, though. It sounds like they already like you, so as ill formed as your husbands sentiment, there is some truth to it. Just follow through, without screwing the pooch in the last 30 seconds, like I have an uncanny tendency towards. In the end we're all whores, so dress nice.