When you make everything awkward, searching for a job is painful. My anxiety cripples me by making me worry about small things and preventing me from focusing on the big picture. Don’t even get me started on the job interview. My go-to outfit must include a turtleneck in a color that is forgiving about showing sweat stains. Job interviews require you to be prepared for any question and think quickly. Give me time, and I’ll write you a beautiful, thoughtful essay. Catch me off guard in an interview, I’ll stutter, and stammer, and stare blankly. I was once asked, “Why do you want to work here?” I didn’t have an answer for them. I most likely recited a long monologue full of clichés. They guessed I didn’t really want to work there. Maybe they were right, but I struggle to answer a question from the person taking my order. Wait, “Do I really want whole grain or white?” Want to strike fear in me? Tell me, “We’re currently out of that item. Is there something else you would like?”
You must think and speak highly of yourself to impress people. For most, it’s a learned skill to put away your flaws and differentiate yourself. Most of the time, I catch myself highlighting the fact that I have a very specific set of skills that only apply to a previous job or that I, along with the Boomers before me, know how to operate the Microsoft Office suite. With my degree in English, I didn’t have a specific career path. The world is my oyster. I don’t eat oysters. Don’t get me wrong. I loved studying English, and I would do it all again. No, seriously, I would go back to school right now if it was free. Instead, I gotta make that money.
Like every other college senior English major, I was finishing my last semester looking for work. I graduated a semester early in December of 2008 with a degree in English. My lease wasn’t up until May, so I stayed in College Station for a semester after graduation. I was asked by my family what was next. My uncle knew a few people in New York and was happy to make introductions. His colleague encouraged me to apply to a prestigious literary magazine for their coveted paid fall internship at their office in New York. I sent my newly edited resume. As an English major, my resume was my pride and joy. I made my entire family read it after every edit. I sent it. The magazine requested a phone interview. I dressed for success, even though it was a phone call without video. We started with basic interview questions. I had done research about the magazine, so I answered those smoothly. After I had talked about my previous employment and creative writing studies, the interviewer asked, “You must be interested in applying for our spring internship that would start in February of next year?” I was puzzled. “No, I was hoping for a spot for the fall internship,” I replied. “Your resume says won’t graduate until December of 2009,” the interviewer stated. My heart sank so low, I felt like I was standing on it. I stuttered the correction, “I graduated in December of 2008.” The interviewer paused and made note. The interview came to end about a minute later. I did the equivalent of, “I’ll let myself out,” over the phone. I was embarrassed, especially after family and friends had been so thoughtful and recommended me.
My uncle’s company offered paid internships, so I edited my resume to show the correct graduation year and sent it. I did a quick phone interview and was selected for an internship. I finished my summer internship. They asked me to stay on as an account coordinator. I moved to New York for a couple years. When my sister and her now-husband got engaged, the timing worked for me to move back and help plan the wedding. I moved back to Texas with big plans to help my grandpa write his biography.
I also wanted to have a part-time job to save some money and move to Austin. Lauren and Brian graciously let me live with them, but the time came when I wanted to have an apartment of my own . . . with a roommate. It’s rent in Austin; who am I kidding? In January of 2012, after skimming Craigslist jobs, I applied at a dog daycare. They called me in for a working interview. After talking for a bit, the interviewer discovered that my high school classmate previously worked for them. They had many candidates apply but they told me they would let me know as soon as possible. I immediately messaged my former classmate on Facebook after the interview to tell him about the coincidence. He messaged back two days later. He raved about the people and how he loved them dearly and said he’d be happy to message them to check in. Thirty minutes after I messaged him, the dog daycare called to say they were going with someone else. Head, meet hands. I messaged my former classmate to tell him I didn’t get it and thanked him for checking in. Fast forward to a month a half later. The dog daycare called to say they kept my resume on file and were hiring again. They offered me a position. Yay! I again messaged my former classmate to tell him the good news. His advice was, “Don’t be shy or afraid to talk shit.” Oh, god. Luckily, the people of the dog daycare easily pried me open. I would work there to do this day if I could pay rent. I’m happy to say I did open up and even earned a certificate for my highest achievement. I may not have talked much shit, but I did take one at work. Our only bathroom led right out to our reception area. Your bathroom habits were on full display for everyone, as there was always a manager manning the front desk.
I worked part-time for almost a year before I needed to find a full-time job to pay rent. What to do? My mom’s family owned a service station in a small-town. I worked with my uncle and Grandma during the day, and I would work on the book with my grandpa on the weekends and some nights. I had been occasionally browsing Craigslist.
My sister read about a position for a dog counselor at a local non-profit animal shelter on Craigslist. I jumped at the chance to work with dogs again and immediately applied. They asked for a working interview. I went down with all the knowledge of the average pet owner and dog enthusiast. (I cringe to think about what they thought during the initial interview knowing what I know now about dog behavior.) I didn’t train dogs or own one, but I grew up with them. I had worked for a dog daycare. I figured I had a good shot. I finished the interview and went home, hoping for the best. I resisted checking my email and phone as I waited for a response. I sent a thank-you email the day after my interview. A day later, I had an email in my inbox. I read it and was overjoyed! The email from the manager read, “Thanks Tiffany! We look forward to working with a hardworking, devoted person as well! Welcome to APA! :]” I assumed I had gotten the job. I called my mom and read the email to her. About an hour later, my phone rang. I answered. It was the same manager calling to let me know they decided to go with a more experienced candidate. I was too embarrassed to ask about the email she sent earlier. She said she would keep my resume on file. Sensing a trend, yet? I had to call my mom back to tell her I didn’t get the job. “Well, you probably wouldn’t want to work for them anyway after they did that to you.” How wrong she was. I had my working interview on May 5th, was rejected on May 7th, and then they called back a week later to say they had another opening. They asked if I was still interested and available. I said yes and started as an offsite dog counselor on May 14th, 2015. I worked there for four years and met my wife. I learned much more than I ever wanted to know about dogs and people.
Don’t let rejection make you feel like a failure. It’s awkward, but you’re more awkward! Don’t give up. My wife and I moved to Canada from the United States last June. Getting a Canadian work permit is known to be a long process, especially when you don’t have sponsorship from a company and your English degree does not qualify you to be a highly skilled worker. A huge oversight, I KNOW. We moved to Canada in June. I walked out of an office, work permit in hand, in January. To get paid in Canada, you must have a Social Insurance Number. Deaven and I went to a Service Canada Centre to get our SINs. Paperwork in hand, we waited for 30 minutes to meet with a representative. Once at the desk, the woman behind the counter processed Deaven’s paperwork first. Ten minutes later, she had an SIN. She typed my information in the computer and scanned all my paperwork. As we’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, she tenses her brows and says, “Uh oh.” I take a deep breath in and out through my nose, bracing myself for the bad news I have been waiting to hear. Thanks to my anxiety, expecting the worst is my specialty. She goes on to say, “I’m very sorry but your application has been flagged. We don’t know why it happens. It’s random. We will have to send in hard copies of your paperwork. You should receive your Social Insurance Number within 25 to 30 business days. If you get a job sooner, call this number on the card.” A company could hire me, but I couldn’t legally be paid. I applied for my SIN on February 19th so I expected it to come the week of March 23rd through the 27th. They said it would take a few days to reach the office before they processed it. On March 16th, a week before my SIN is scheduled to arrive in the mail, non-essential Canadian businesses closed their doors.
I had been checking our mailbox a few days a week. Last week, a letter from Service Canada was addressed to me. I grabbed it, sat it on our table outside, sprayed the envelope with bleach, washed my hands, waited twenty minutes, opened the envelope, and washed my hands again. All worth it; my SIN was inside! We are lucky enough to be saving on rent by living with Deaven’s parents. We are thankful because Deaven still has her job. While I search for jobs, I write, do workout videos, read, and walk to keep myself sane. Like the rest of the world, we’re quarantined until further notice. It’s hard a time for many. I’m thankful for the essential workers and happy to follow orders to keep everyone healthy. I’m jobless, like many, but not hopeless. Here’s to many awkward job interview stories to come.