I tried something different in a job interview today: I went as myself.
Now, you may ask, aren’t you always yourself? Maybe other people are, but not me. I’ve had this awareness over the past year or more that I’ve cut off my real voice and hidden the real me for so long that I’m not 100 percent sure I can even get it back. I’m not even 100 percent sure who the real me is though I’m gradually getting clearer.
Since my previous job search attempts kept getting through multiple interviews and then nothing–if I was even lucky enough to get an interview at all–I was starting to really doubt myself. Maybe I was too old, my experience too irrelevant, maybe I’m too fat. So I said screw it, I’m trying a totally different approach this time.
(And I should just make it clear here that no, this is not leading up to me announcing that I got an offer yet. I’m still in the horrible waiting period.)
Instead of making myself into the candidate I thought employers wanted, with well-rehearsed answers and an uncomfortable outfit and a stiff nervousness, I was doing something different.
I left my nose ring in, which I have never ever done for any other interview, even though I’ve had my nose pierced for about 13 years. I got a different dress than my usual interview dress, which was certainly motivated by superstition, because I was starting to feel like my standard Interview Dress was cursed. I went in there with the attitude that I was a great candidate, but if they didn’t see that then screw ’em.
It ended up being the only time I can ever remember actually having fun at an interview. I actually ended up getting the people I was interviewing with on kind of unrelated tangents about some of our personal interests (particularly the person who would be my peer, with whom I’d have to closely collaborate.)
I made jokes, sometimes at my own expense (definitely not at theirs!) I was open, talkative, not at all nervous. I asked really thoughtful questions about their business and gave answers about my goals that the prospective boss said were really good. Somehow I ended up being there an hour and a half. I didn’t feel self-conscious at all about my age or my weight or any of the things I usually obsess over.
Later in the afternoon, I sent the prospective boss a note thanking him for our meeting. An hour later, he replied saying that he and the other person I interviewed with definitely want to move forward with me in the interview process. About five minutes later, their HR rep asked for my availability to meet next week. And she sent me a personality test to fill out, the thought of which made me nervous because I always “fail” personality tests like at retail jobs.
But when I finished the test and saw my results, I realized it was actually a variant of the Myers-Briggs test, and I found the results super interesting. I came out as ENFJ, when I have usually scored INFJ most of my adult life. (Just case anyone reading doesn’t know, the E stands for extroversion and the I stands for introversion.)
An interesting part of that link about ENFJ, it says there aren’t many stay-at-home parents among this group. That would certainly explain why I’m so unhappy being home. However, some of the other things it said about my “type” were inaccurate, like having high earnings–though I think that’s a flaw with their definition, because some careers they named for my type were low-paying professions like social workers (many of which were careers I considered.)
I’m not a true introvert because being around people energizes me. I’ve taught classes before and I never get nervous before having to give presentations or speak in front of a crowd. But I think that in truth I’m only mildly extroverted; I am also comfortable being alone and often enjoy it.
Still, the takeaway for me is what it said about leadership. I’ve always felt that I had the capacity for leadership, but my previous job roles have not allowed for it. I think it’s interesting because my oldest child (who’s 20) shows similar leadership characteristics at his job and he’s being noticed for it. I’d like to have a role where I can work toward that.
But the shadow side of this is what made me score as INFJ so many times, and that’s depression. Dealing with depression makes me feel unwanted by others, unworthy of being around them, like I have nothing to offer. I’ve been depressed for most of the past 20 years. Although I’ve recently become aware of my role in this and tried to work on it, depression makes me kind of a crappy and self-centered friend. It makes me function as though I’m an introvert, reclusive and shy. I expect rejection so I don’t put myself out there.
But I don’t believe I’m naturally introverted because I don’t like retreating from people when I’m depressed. Even when depressed, I still need to get out of the house and walk around among other people, even if I don’t talk to them. Though I’ve been depressed a lot in recent months, I still look forward to grocery shopping just because it gets me out around people.
When I have hope, that gives me the more confident mindset that brings the extroverted side out of me to play.
This provides several clear answers to things I haven’t previously understood, like why I seemed almost like a different person when I first moved down here.
I wore brighter colors. I paid more attention to my appearance. I naturally lost a little weight effortlessly. I was more optimistic and happy (which is still a relative measure, of course.) I was more talkative at work. I didn’t make close friends there, but I at least had some people who would sit with me on breaks and suggest we hang out after work.
Then after that, my son got in his accident and I quit that job. I never really made a lot of friends at the job after it, probably because my attitude sucked so bad in general and also it was a crappy place to work.
I admit, I’ve wondered more than a few times if that anomaly of being so happy when I first moved here was because I was by myself. I tried to push those thoughts away because that leads to big unpleasant questions.
But then today, just feeling hopeful and positive again made me feel that same warm glow, the same happy feeling I had when I moved down here. I realized my happiness was not because I was alone.
Then I remembered the other time in my life when I was similarly happy, and it was when I had this job at a TV listings company when my firstborn was about 18 months old. I loved that job so much. I made more friends there than I ever have at any other job, one of whom is still a friend I dearly love. (She even drove my kids to and from school my first year back here because I couldn’t find anyone else, even though she has no kids of her own and didn’t even live that close to me.)
I loved that job so much that I didn’t even use all my vacation time because I preferred to be at work. I honestly thought that was gone forever, a lucky experience I had once and never would again.
I felt a glimmer of that old feeling while in the interview today. Not that this will be the job for me and maybe not that I will make friends with my coworkers like I did at that job. But for the first time in like 18 years, I actually feel like that’s possible again. (Maybe the common thread is that my best-job-ever was a creative job and that’s what I’m pursuing now? Perhaps I’m just not cut out for call centers or software companies and those aren’t “my people.”)
Like if I find the right employer and the right coworkers, I could be likable and have friends and love going to work again. And then I can work on being a better friend, make more connections with people, work toward some career achievement someday. I would regain my confidence, which would have a whole spiral of other positive effects.
I’m kind of curious to see who I’ll be and what my life will look like when I find the right place for me. Regardless of whether this particular job is it or not (I’m trying to remain unattached to the outcome because of how devastated I’ll be if I don’t get it, even though my feelings are obvious) I actually have hope, in a way that I haven’t in four years. That feels really good.
At the very least, I learned something super valuable about the importance of being my true self.