every experience is a learning experience…just not always in the way you expect.

if i could tell the interviewers from yesterday what i learned about myself in that three-and-a-half hour marathon of self-promotion, it was this:

i am still learning.

applying for a position with the federales is a lesson in literacies, in thinking on your feet, in self-control.  i’m usually pretty good at reading my environment and between the lines of questions, at compiling answers to what’s implicitly being asked, but yesterday…i didn’t realize until it was too late that the structure of the interview placed the onus on me to put together a coherent picture of my management experience, my professionalism, in only five questions. clever. perfectly fair. but not what i’ve been accustomed to from academia, and perhaps not quite what i delivered, alas.

the old adage goes, every war is fought to win the previous war. i would’ve sailed through my last interview like a hero yesterday…but that interview was two years ago, and for a completely different context. and i got that job anyway.  this one…this one was a learning experience.

all that preparation, and only five questions.  of the five, i blew the second part of the first one utterly…got tangled in the time pressure, the scale of the interview and the work put into preparing, the fact of my own inexperience with the whole process, so when they asked about legislation i drew an utter blank. not because i hadn’t read the info on legislation in this particular department, but because it hadn’t been titled as such and thus i didn’t recognize what they were asking for. and the smallness set in…the terrible, supplicant, bewildered smallness. the feeling – acute and anxious – that one is a sham about to be exposed.

i’ve spent a lot of years putting that feeling behind me.  i realize now that all those years i carried it, it wasn’t deserved…a class marker and the internalized stigma of a growing up poor with a single mother in a small town.  the lingering sense that i was a charity case who needed to be extra-deserving made me my own worst enemy, dragging around an intrinsic certainty that security and stability and success were just a little above my station, inexplicably beyond me.

revisiting those ghosts of insecurities past in the middle of a job interview is NOT high on any top ten lists of success strategies, i suspect.  it was profound, though. i became aware of precisely how i occasionally fail myself when caught off-guard…unfortunately exactly at the moment i was failing myself. o costly knowledge, your price above rubies.  today, instead of merely kicking my behind halfway into next week,  i’m trying to focus on counteracting those old habits, those insecurities that sneak in the back door.  i can chew all the glass i want over the fact that the epiphany cost me interview points, but in the long run…i plan to make it pay me back. it has been warned.

cue Stuart Smalley: you will from here on find me in my mirror five minutes a day with Al Franken glasses on, whispering i’m good enough, i’m smart enough, and by gosh...

i’ll be Sally Field with an Oscar in hand by the time i do another interview.

overall, yesterday wasn’t bad.  the presentation part went reasonably well:  i tried to sell a social media-based strategic plan to government, which was bold at best and possibly crazy…but i got complimented on the content in the end, so…risk worth taking.  the test turned out to be a writing test, o merciful fates, and i humbly submit that i knocked it out of the park.  my answers to most of the interview questions were okay, though had i had a few more minutes to sit down with my actual BRAIN handy and consider the overall picture i was painting, i’d have sharpened my focus and sold myself far more effectively.

i did ask some good questions at close, and got a much more specific sense of what the job will really be as a result…a challenge, a steepish learning curve for whomever takes it, as it’s a newly created role. i want it, no doubt. it’s an opportunity to hone some of my talents into a full-blown profession, which i’ve been searching for since i left the classroom all those years ago, but something i never seized on, partly due to wanderlust and babies and tragedy and partly to that little voice that whispered oh, me? i couldn’t possibly.  but i can, i think. if not this time, soon.

your comments stayed with me, all your help and tips and reminders and support.  particularly your support.

and then i tottered out with my head spinning and my boobs bursting and drove home to discover our computers were all down and the baby had croup. and i said, funny one, scornful gods, and let it go, because what good in feeding the notion that a happy ending is beyond me?

live and learn.

(and give thanks that at least croup waited until after the big day to rear its nasty, up-all-night head. poor small barking Josephine. and me with no Dr. Google in the middle of the night…horrors! i had to dig out the old Brittanica for advice, and spent the rest of the night alternating between standing in the cold porch with her, and steaming up my bathroom. restful, that. any idea how long this lasts? we’re croup virgins here…ever learning, ever eager.)