April 15, 2013 2 Comments
Last week I came the closest in a while to getting a proper job again. It was a job working in a technology firm of the kind I have worked both in and with before. My skills and experience were directly relevant. There were two jobs on offer. I made it to a second interview, after which I found out from the clipped, no-nonsense recruitment consultant, that at this stage there were three of us going for two jobs.
Returning to the world of regular office-hours employment feels like a surrender and defeat after trying to haul my business through the wreckage of losing its primary client and revenue-driver, adding in a service which I am genuinely passionate about. I have been getting scraps of work and feel like my tentacles are slowly spreading out further (I said tentacles, potty mind). Sadly nothing is sustainable and it’s all month by nervous month.
As a result I remain generally worried, always have a wary eye on my bank balance, wonder if or when I should dip into my savings again, eat boringly, live modestly and deeply resent being able to plan nothing. I would love a holiday, an adventure somewhere.
Hence I am applying for jobs.
In the previous interview stage I had met my competitors. We’d done exercises, sat in the waiting room, made nervous small-talk and endured some painful silences together. The whole process was conducted keenly as if the recruitment agency was rather eager to justify their fat retainer, and as if they’d been watching too much of The Apprentice. Having met and worked with my competitors, and knowing all of the above, I’ll admit that ok, yes, I fancied my chances of getting an offer.
But I didn’t get an offer. I was the one to miss out.
This brought a mixture of feelings. However many interviews you attend, or crap first dates you go on, rejection always smarts. It almost smarts increasingly badly because you think you should grow hardened to it now. But it’s still essentially someone weighing you up and, after all due consideration, telling you to fuck off. Call me oversensitive; maybe I am; it still smarts.
On leaving the second interview, when I didn’t know the outcome, I was full of equally mixed feelings. In the process of being thanked and told I could go, I realised I hadn’t been given the chance to ask any questions. When a sales guy – in his 40s, a flowery creative shirt, sharp designer spectacles, badly wanted to be in Mad Men – tried to wrap things up, I asked if I could ask some questions. He fell back to his seat and laughed, embarrassed at his oversight.
My main question was for the main boss guy. This main boss guy hadn’t even been present when I entered and began my presentation – ‘fighting a fire in another office’, which could have suggested he wasn’t keen, knew already that he didn’t want to offer me a job. So why invite me back? Throughout the process he had revealed little about himself, been fairly contained and a little distant. He’d asked what motivated me in the previous stage, I wanted to ask him the same thing. A business has to sell itself to potential candidates too. This one barely tried.
My question about him and his business offered the chance for him to wax lyrical in typical tech firm CEO manner, about how his work and the company was his life; how he didn’t understand ‘work-to-live’ people at all; how people could have lives outside of work (early 40s, he wore no ring); how he would call his tech guy at 11.30pm for an update; how some of his team didn’t like him because he changed his mind so much and he didn’t care. The man freewheeled with supreme confidence, almost as if he was trying to appear a complete prick. There wasn’t much I could say in return.
He reminded me of the idiot I’d spent the best part of my freelance life working for. These CEOs admirably built something at a ripe technological time based on their skills and expertise, but were also more than likely dealt large slices of luck along the way. Oblivious to luck and chance and the possibility that things could have turned out differently, they transform into monsters, psychopaths often devoid of any empathy, not terribly pleasant people.
You understand my mixed feelings when I left, thinking I stood a reasonable chance. Could I work so directly to such a man again? It remains an important question, to which I don’t know the answer.
While I like to think I’m independent-minded and can fend for myself in the world of work, I remain a slave to the pound. With still dwindling resources and only scraps of money coming in, I have never been more aware of it. I want relative comfort, the relative comfort I’ve been accustomed to. And more than that, I want to be able to take holidays, to stop and disconnect myself entirely. This is something I’ve barely been able to do at all in the last few years. Nothing more than long weekends. Is it too much to ask?
Being permanently connected, even when you probably don’t need to be, even if you just feel obliged, just because you can and because, you never know, it might lead to an opportunity: this is a new thing our generation is having to handle, a new thing I sense isn’t always appreciated by older generations. It’s really fucking exhausting.
And the beat goes on.