Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.
Second editor’s note: The alternative title for this post could be “MediaJobsDaily Costs Caitlin A Job.” Crap.
The summer’s almost over and I’m glad. The job market should pick up a little bit in the fall, when everyone is back in the groove. Or so I hope.
It only takes me a hot minute to get over the fiasco with my ex at the recording studio. I very quickly press on.
I’ve been answering help wanted ads on craigslist for months to no avail. I remember the days when craigslist was a great place to find a job, now it’s full of unpaid internships for mid-level people. A few weeks ago, though, I applied to a paid position at a very well-known, elite “country” club (located in the city — name withheld) and got a call back. The position was for someone to lay out their uppity in-house magazine using Quark Express and InDesign, skills that I picked up at “Snapshot” magazine.
I put on my Sunday best (black pants, button down, sweater vest — I decide that a suit is not necessary) and head uptown for the interview. It’s clear almost immediately that my outfit choice is far too hot for the 90-degree day. (Why do I always do that?) So by the time I get there, I’m sweating buckets — but I duck into a Cosi for a half hour and dry off in the A.C.
I get to the country club five minutes early. The interview is on the 9th floor and I want to give myself plenty of time to get up there in case of a crowded elevator or trouble with security. (I’m really anal retentive about being on time — not just to interviews, but everywhere.)
The club lobby is huge, dark and uninviting. There are Victorian-style white couches and chaise lounges cordoned off with violet-colored velvet ropes. Paintings of past club presidents executed in dark greens and grays adorn the walls. Massive marble columns from floor to ceiling punctuate the overly-air conditioned room.
I realize pretty quickly that I am completely underdressed — the vest-and-slacks combo that I felt so snazzy in when I left the house isn’t going to cut it, I don’t think. There are ancient-looking leathery gentlemen with canes coming into the building, watch chains twinkling on their three-piece suits. And I’m standing there in my J.Crew ensemble.
There is a sign: “Ladies and gentlemen must be properly dressed before entering the club.” Now, this could mean anything from “no bathing suits allowed” to “suits and ties only.” I quickly gather that it’s the latter. Oops.
I press on anyway and tell the security guard who I am. He looks me up and down, asks my name (Miss Jobless, of course — don’t you know me?) and tells me to take a seat on one of those (uninviting)Victorian couches, which I do. Within seconds, I am beckoned back to the security desk and given a building pass.
First stop: Human Resources. Which looks like a Lord & Taylor ladies lounge, if you’ve ever seen one — it looks like no one’s bothered to update or change anything for decades. And there’s not a soul in sight — it’s like the Bates Country Club. A glass cabinet houses a sign with details about minimum wage and work discrimination. Finally, another person arrives: a young man in a three-piece grey flannel suit, who sits next to me and asks to borrow my pen. (Really? You came to an interview without a pen? Idiot.) A few minutes later I get called into a small office and forget to get my pen back — so I am the idiot on the job interview without a pen.
The woman who beckons me into her office fits in with the decor completely because she looks like she just stepped out of a Good Housekeeping magazine. I shake her cold, clammy hand and have a seat — which is sort of hard to find since her office is overflowing with books, papers and strange artifacts.
“Hi, I’m Elaine,” she goes. “Tell me your name again, I can’t seem to pull up your email on this computer.” (Which looks as ancient as an Atari, by the way.)
“Oh! Caitlin,” she smiles. “A friend of mine has a granddaughter named Caitlin, but she spells it with a K, I think. K-a-i-t-l-a-n-d.”
“Well, there are so many different ways to spell it,” I go, half biting my tongue, half smiling to myself because I know that my spelling is the “real” spelling.
“Okay, first I need you to fill out some paperwork — it’s just routine. Do you have a pen?”
“No, I’m sorry — I actually lent it to –”
“Here,” she goes. “Just fill that out and I’ll be right back.”
The pen, which is probably as old as she is, seems to be out of ink. I grab another one off of her desk when I am certain she’s gone and replace it with the defective pen.
The “application” is standard — and annoying. No matter how hard you work on your resume, they always ask you to write in your last three employers. I usually write “see attached resume”, but more often than not, they want you to list the jobs anyway. So I do.
“Sesame Workshop, Parade, Snapshot, Fox….” Reasons for leaving? Er… Supervisors? Er…. May we contact your previous employers? Please don’t…. Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Does my DUI count? (So kidding.) So I fill out all of that and wait for ‘Elaine’ to come back. (We’re on a first name basis.)
“Are you done? Okay, good. Now why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself.”
“Would love to.” I have this answer down pat — God knows I’ve practiced it enough. “I’m a seasoned writer and editor with many years of print, TV and online experience. I’m freelancing at the moment — I’m developing a TV series — which means long hours working alone. But I’m a team player at heart and I would really like to be in an office environment and grow with the right company.”
“Very well,” she goes, “now I’m going to take you in to the newsroom to see the editor of the magazine, Mr. Bond.”