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What Meryl Streep, Salsa Dancing, and the Circus Have in Common

16 Jun

damn damn damn damn


My internship ended this week and that means a lot of crazy mixed emotions started bubbling inside me. But instead of crowing about my temporary freedom or waxing whiny about finding a job, I thought I’d get one last work anecdote out.

I was asked to write a profile–a blurb, really–about a client who requested that my writing tone be “fun, exciting, sophisticated, and direct.” A few emails later, the client added “chic” to the list of stylistic demands.

You should also know that the company I interned for aims for a writing tone that is friendly/informal and engaging.

Hokay. So. my poor little words needed to suit up and be fun, friendly, exciting, sophisticated, direct, and chic? I don’t even know how to make my writing chic (unless I put it into French, for which I would need le google translate) let alone have it encompass all of those descriptive terms. There are a lot of exclamation points in the articles on my work’s website. It’s sort of an unwritten company policy to use them generously, and I suppose it goes with the vibe they’re trying to create. For this client, though, even one exclamation point seemed to spit in the face of “chic” and “sophisticated.” On the other hand, “fun” and “exciting” almost demand exclamation.

I sat for far too long, trying to come up with an opening sentence for this mountain of a molehill. Blink blink blink went the cursor. Curse curse curse went my mouth. Who were these people, to want my words to conform to these labels? Did they have split personality disorder? Were they testing me? Was this one of those unsolvable riddles?

To boost my spirits, I started thinking about who or what could be described as fun, friendly, exciting, sophisticated, direct, and chic. Initially, I thought that if I could identify something/someone, using all these words, then I would prove that it was possible and my task would be less daunting. Eventually, however, I just got a kick out of trying to create a list….

  • Meryl Streep
    She can sing ABBA songs as good as any dancing queen, she wears high fashion, she’s earned and won awards. She can act high and mighty and just plain high. She’s brilliant, she’s a chameleon, she’s all of those damn words that the client wanted. Wouldn’t it be funny if, for the client profile, I just wrote MERYL STREEP in a larger than life font?  And then pulled an Emperor’s New Clothes and acted like that was perfectly reasonable and anyone who thought otherwise was crazy? Not your usual Meryl Streel fantasy, but a good one…
  • Salsa Dancing 
     Well, really, the first descriptive I think of for this dance is sexy…but “exciting,” “sophisticated,” and “fun” work well too. As for “direct” and “friendly,” well, if you’ve ever watched two people salsa you’ll know that the graceful touching, twisting, stroking, is beyond friendly and pretty much cuts to the chemistry chase.
  •  The Circus
    Clowns. Fire. Animals. Acrobats on high-wires and other twisty people. Ladies wearing feathers and leotards and long eyelashes.
    I’ve been to the traditional circus once, when I was little. (And I was slightly scarred by the protesters outside yelling about animal cruelty and other grown-up concepts.) I saw a Cirque du Soleil show once, when I was a brand new teenager. (Impressive, but a little above my head.) It seems like either could be described using the aforementioned list of words. 

That’s all I got. It’s hard coming up with fun, friendly, sophisticated, exciting, direct, and chic examples! (Can you think of any more?) You want to know the ending of this story? How I possibly managed to adhere to the client’s wishes and produce the ideal requested material?

I ignored the adjectives that were inconvenient to me (chic? what the heck?) and just directed my words to be the best they could be. The customer is always right….except when they’re oh-so-wrong and weigh you down with unhelpful labels. No word back yet on whether they were satisfied with what I wrote, but I happen to think it’s pretty good. Although, since I’m not working there anymore, I probably won’t get notice of their approval. That’s probably just as well. If they had major problems with the blurb I turned in, my mind would probably churn with a few choice words for them–they wouldn’t be fun, friendly, sophisticated, or chic……but they’d sure be direct.



Oh, For Pete’s Sake

26 May

Well, I got some bad news about that thing that happened a few weeks ago. Now that the universe doesn’t depend on my silence, I think it’s safe to say that the thing was a job interview and the bad news was a polite no. Though I was not exactly surprised, the news that they had “opted to pursue another candidate” was still a downer. It was the first job I’d been excited about in a long time and oh, how I wanted to be pursued.

My reaction to the rejection included an unusually emotional response to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the consumption of a (mostly) Gin and (very little) Tonic, and then the obligatory oh-God-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life panic. And I baked. I baked a lot.

I like baking when I’m upset. I can get frustration out through the aggressive whisking of ingredients, or during a forceful round with a rolling pin and some dough. Or, I can be calmed by the careful cracking of eggs, the familiar comfort of recipe cards written by my aunt, my grandma, my mom’s cousins. There’s something satisfying about gently measuring sugar, but I also like to pretend I’m as good a cook as my mom and grandma and eyeball things as they’re poured into our big red bowl. That looks like a cup, I think. Or , That was about a tablespoon. Breezy. Confident. And then at the end of it all, you’re rewarded with something good to eat. I can think of no better therapy.

So, the day after the job letdown, I baked. I made candied nuts, and mercilessly picked apart my interview as the walnuts bubbled and became glittery, crusted vanilla and sugar fossils. I had been nervous, my voice a little higher than usual. I had rambled while answering one question, hadn’t responded long enough during another. My outfit was boring. My shoes were too big. Maybe I should have bragged a little more? I stirred up Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip muffins (more like cupcakes without the frosting) and, spooning the batter into cupcake wrappers, thought about fate and signs and doors that open and close. The recipe should make a dozen muffins—I got eighteen and had to fetch another pan for my runovers.

I zested lemon for my version of Lemon Sugar Cookies (similar to the recipe found on the wonderful blog Let’s Talk Cookies) and the kitchen immediately radiated a crisp citrus smell. I considered making a Lemon Pudding Cake, a favorite of my family’s. Stirring vigorously, I accidentally sloshed some of the liquid onto the counter. I scooped dough onto sheets and growled to the dogs, always hopeful kitchen helpers, to get out of the way.

Then, I dropped an egg. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal—but it threw me off my game, disrupted my rhythm. I grabbed paper towels violently, and swore louder than necessary. For the first time in hours, I sat and broke into a muffin. I crunched a few nuts and waited for the cookies to turn golden.

In the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, the main character can taste the emotions in everything she eats. They are the emotions of the person who made the food, and upon the first bite she immediately knows all the intimate feelings that swirled during the stirring, measuring, heating, kneading. My candied walnuts and Raspberry White Chocolate muffins didn’t taste like any emotion, but imagine if they did. No amount of sugar would cover those insecure nuts. And I definitely wouldn’t want to sample the feelings in those muffins.

I gave half of my baking results away, some to my grandma and some to her neighbor Pete. I feel a little protective of Pete. His wife died recently, and you can see how it weighs on him. Last week, Pete gave me a ride to pick up my car at the garage where it was being serviced. I felt badly, taking him away on an errand (and a little embarrassed that my grandma had roped him into it), so when I thanked him for the lift, I really meant it. “No, thank you,” he said. “Thank you for saving me from a lonely afternoon.” There was silence for a few seconds, then he said quietly, “I’m lonely most of the time, these days.”

So when I was done with my cathartic cooking, I made sure to give Pete a pretty little jar of nuts and an assorted plate of muffins and cookies. Out of a job disappointment, I got tasty gifts for a sweet, lonely senior who, luckily, won’t taste any turbulent emotions in them. I’m not sure if that’s a silver (cupcake) lining, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment.

Looking for some similar kitchen therapy? Scroll this way……

Stop Acting So Candied Nuts
a.k.a Bavarian Sugar Almonds/Candied Nuts from My Baking Addiction.

Ingredients
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (1 tsp. of vanilla extract if you are using regular granulated sugar instead of vanilla sugar)
1 tablespoon water
1 pound nuts (normally like to use almonds or pecans, but this time all I had was walnuts–still good!)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar, or regular granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons of fine grain salt (or vanilla fleur de sel, if you’re the type that would have it)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
2. In a large bowl, combine egg white, vanilla extract, and water. Beat mixture until frothy. Stir in nuts and mix to coat.
3. Gently combine sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt and stir into nut mixture, thoroughly coating all nuts.
4. Evenly spread nuts onto prepared baking sheet and place in oven.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring/shifting nuts every 15 minutes. (The stirring part is very important, otherwise the nuts will stick together into one brittle mess.)
6. When cool, pack in an airtight jar. They will keep at room temperature for about 2 weeks.

Shared Joy is Doubled Joy, Shared Sorrow is Half a Sorrow Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip Muffins
a.k.a  Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins from one of my favorite cookbooks, Peace Meals

Ingredients
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pint raspberries

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray, or line with wrappers.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the yogurt, then the white chocolate chips.
4. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt (the batter will be stiff). Overmixing the batter makes muffins tough, so use only 10-15 strokes to incorporate the dry ingredients.
5. Gently fold in the raspberries. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin cups.
6. Bake for 22-24 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Sugar Cookies
a.k.a the cousin of The “Can’t Eat Just One” Lemon Sugar Cookie
Here, I adapted the recipe from Let’s Talk Cookies.  Once I figure out how I merged the LTC recipe with another one I had, I’ll type it out and share. The problem with merging/experimenting is trying to get the same result a second time!

Don’t Ask Me, I Can’t Talk About It

11 Apr

Something happened today, but I can’t tell you about it. I might jinx it. Apparently, I’m very superstitious when it comes to things like what happened today. I had to wear a ring from my grandma and a necklace from my aunt to the thing that happened today, with the theory that they’d act as comforting, powerful talismans. (Hey, just because I’m not a hobbit, doesn’t mean my life can’t be influenced by magical  jewelry.) I had to drink from my lucky cup–an oversize teacup with Monet’s Red Poppies at Argenteuil–before I went to the thing that happened today. But I couldn’t have coffee, because that would only mess with my nerves before the thing that happened today, so I had nice, hydrating water. I had to listen to You Make My Dreams, by Hall & Oates, and Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough before going to the thing that happened today. That’s what I listened to the last time I went to something like what happened today, and it was really great pump-me-up, here-I-come music. Plus, these songs make me think of the funny Chris Tucker and a happy, sexually-satisfied Joseph Gordon Levitt. (If that sounds creepy, I beg you to extend your movie-watching to include Jackie Chan buddy flicks and indie films.)

I took the ferry boat to go to San Francisco, where the thing that happened today happened. I couldn’t sit backwards on the ferry, because it would be bad symbolism to go towards your potential future, backwards. (You can take the girl out of the English classes…) I had to sit on the right side of the boat, because on that side you can watch as the city by the bay gets closer and closer. Again…lucky symbolism. As the heroine of this story that is my life, I figure good symbolism can’t hurt. The thing that happened today might benefit from some symbolism–who knows?

Don’t ask me, because I can’t say any more about the thing that happened today. Maybe it had something to do with watched pots and boiling lives, maybe it didn’t. Maybe I’m DYING for a positive outcome, after the thing that happened today. Maybe I spent the whole ferry ride back thinking this-is-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life thoughts.

Maybe.

But I can’t talk about it.

A Watched Life Doesn’t Boil and Other Grandma Trickery

29 Mar

A watched pot never boils!

I recently completed the second stage of applying for a job that I really want and waiting for a response has been agonizing. It’s probably totally unrealistic to expect a reply this soon, but that didn’t keep me from staring at my gmail this morning, willing the number of messages in my inbox to change. Instead, I had to suffer through several fake-out false alarms–I have never hated spam more, or hit the delete button with such vengeful force. I talked to my grandma on the phone around lunchtime and she was not on board with my immobile waiting. “How about coming over and doing my laundry?” she suggested. “I’ve got a big grocery list, you could go to the store for me. A watched life doesn’t boil, you know.”

“Pot, grandma. A watched pot doesn’t boil.”

“Oh, whatever.”

I went over and took her laundry up to her community laundry room. Even as I was pouring detergent though, my mind was employed by thoughts of employment. “There are at least two people applying for the job,” I speculated when I got back to grandma’s house. “But actually, there are probably a lot more.”

Grandma was unimpressed. “Psh. There’s going to be a lot of people applying to any job. Here, this is my grocery list. Don’t forget the yogurt, I really need it. And I want English Breakfast tea or Earl Grey, none of that fruity tooty stuff.”

“Maybe I haven’t heard back from them because there’s THAT many people applying. Maybe they have to comb through a zillion applicants.”

“Well then, they’ll get to you, won’t they? …Are you leaving, or not?

I went to the grocery store and wandered around. When I’m grocery shopping by myself and don’t have something I need to get home to right away, I tend to take my time to look at things and explore. The odd thing is that I’m also a fast walker, even when I’m relaxed, so my wandering never has the appearance of aimlessness. I did slow for the ice cream aisle, though. I take my ice cream selection process very seriously. You have to consider cost, size, long term flavor enjoyment, what you already have at home, what you’ve been craving. It’s very scientific, really.

On the drive home, Dancing in the Moonlight came on the radio. That’s one of my favorite songs to sing along to–you can’t listen and stay uptight, it’s a supernatural delight! It was unusually warm today, so I had all the car windows rolled down and the music blasting. It was a very spring-y, happy moment.

I got home, put the groceries away, and turned to look at Grandma playing solitaire at the kitchen table. “They probably won’t get back to me for a while. Maybe next week, maybe I won’t hear from them until next week.”
 
 “Go up and get my laundry,” she said as she moved a stack of cards. “It’s done by now.”
 
“I think one of the other applicants has a lot of writing experience.” I mentioned casually later, as I was folding grandma’s shirts.
 
 “Good for her,” she said, and refolded the top I had just placed aside. Apparently I’ve been folding shirts wrong for years. “Hang up my hummingbird feeder, would you? Those birds have been bugging me all week–they’re hungry.”
 
 “I’ll bet all that writing experience is really desirable. It probably looks really good.” Some of the sugar water spilled on me as I hung the feeder up.
 
 “Mmmm. If you’re going to wash your arm off, you could do those couple of dishes in the sink. You know I can never see if I’ve gotten all the food stuffs off.”
 
 I scrubbed a crusty dish for a good ten minutes and wondered aloud if I’d at least get an interview. “Unless they think my writing really sucks, I would hope they’d want to meet me after all this. But then, maybe there are too many applicants for that.”
 
 “I spilled orange juice on the kitchen floor yesterday and it’s still sticky–see if you can clean up some more, would you?”
 
 I mopped her floor, dusted her blinds, fixed the time on her clock, changed her hearing aid batteries, figured out that the funny smell in the fridge was from moldy cheese, and got the mail. I moved her reading chair three inches to the left, found the necklace she’s been hunting for a week, and put pretty patterned paper in the back of her breakfront. I’m thinking Grandma was reenacting her own version of If You Give a Moose a Muffin…something like, If You Distract a Granddaughter With Chores. I’m also pretty sure Mr. Feeny did this exact thing to Cory on one of the early episodes of Boy Meets World. Or maybe it was Eric, and a high school episode. Anyway, I think grandma pulled a Mr. Feeny on me. (Which is actually sort of exciting, since I’ve always wanted my life to resemble Boy Meets World.)
 
When I got home and logged into my email, I still didn’t have any new messages. So I guess an unwatched life doesn’t boil, either. Or, I didn’t not watch long enough. Grandma may have expertly gotten all her chores done, but I think Mr. Feeny’s moral would me more clear…

 

Someday, Chuck, we'll both get mail.

When Your Soul and Your Foot Fall Asleep

21 Mar

My right foot and my soul fell asleep at work today. Boring, hope-sucking projects will do that. Here’s what I did to wake them up:

  • I stomped on the floor several times, really hard (with my foot, not my soul–ouch), like a horse trying to communicate. This made one of my coworkers look over curiously. Interestingly, this is the same co-worker with whom I have a secret work language. “How are you?” we ask each other. We actually mean “How do you feel about work right now?” Accordingly, the responses range from “I’m pretty good” to “Need. Chocolate. Now.” and untranslatable noises. So when she looked over at me and my stomping foot, I’m afraid she may have thought that I had upped our language to the next level–morse code. I hope I haven’t established a new precedence, because I’d hate to have to learn how to stomp “chocolate” or “help” or “tell me it’s not Monday.”
  • I ate my emergency candy. This chocolate was only to be eaten in cases of extreme crisis, and after much consideration and careful thought, I ripped into that sucker like the tasmanian devil. My soul needed that chocolate fix! After the initial taste, I tried to be like Charlie (of Willy Wonka fame) and only eat a little bit every once in awhile–to preserve the chocolately goodness and stretch the enjoyment out. But my self-control is minimal when it comes to chocolate. I’ve now decided that your name must be Charlie and your grandparents must all sleep in the same bed if you hope to achieve true chocolate rationing. 
  • I worked on a different assignment for a little while. In theory, this was a great idea–a way to avoid work, but still get work done. But my distraction turned out to be an article on bakeries that needed fact-checked and edited. This meant looking at pictures of  gorgeous, scrumptious cakes and reading mouth-watering descriptions of baked goods. Since my last bit of work chocolate was now a distant memory, this was cruel…cruel indeed.  
  • I took a ten minute break and walked around the outside of the building. It was pouring rain and I had no umbrella, so I mean I actually walked the outside of the building, following it’s shape and staying under the two-foot eave all the way around. It was nice to breathe a little fresh air (it’s a small office with, shall we say, unique smells) and look at natural light instead of computer light. But I felt a little like a crazy person, following the outline of the building and muttering to myself. (Did I mention that I was muttering? I’m telling you, it was that kind of project.) There aren’t too many other tenants in this office space, but I did pass a few who happened to be sitting right at their windows. Maybe they, too, were bored to the point of physical and emotional (spiritual?) paralysis. If so, I’d like to think that I provided a brief distraction–maybe even a wake-up call. At the very least, they could watch me hobble past and think “At least I’m not an intern.”
  • I thought about the project and my foot and my soul and decided yeah, I can blog about this.

 And that’s when I started to feel tingles in my foot and my soul.

I’ve Got The To-Do Blues

17 Feb

 

It’s one of those days. It’s pouring rain, and while it’s no snowpocalypse, it is the California version of a bitch slap from Mother Nature. It’s 11 a.m and I’m still in my fluffy bathrobe (no work today), and I’m sitting in between three dogs. I didn’t call any of them to me, they all just gravitated over, instinctively knowing that we could all find a cozy level of bliss by snuggling.

Now I ask you, how can I leave the couch under these circumstances? There’s a lot I could (should) be doing right now. Laundry, for one. It would take very little time and energy to get up and turn the machine on. My mom and I have been trying to clean out the house’s spare room for about 3 weeks–I could work on it and surprise her with an HGTV-like vision. Or I could tidy up elsewhere in the house. Just past my laptop’s screen, there’s a pile of jackets that are demanding to be hanged up. I have a bad habit of coming home and just dropping my jacket wherever I take it off. It’s dramatic (picture me throwing the frock over a chair and flopping down, back-of-hand to forehead), and it’s lazy (if I go out again, the jacket’s right there), and I’m working on correcting it.  There’s about a cup and a half of coffee left in the pot–I could go heat it up, have a cookie. I could get dressed, brush my hair, read the newspaper, repair the 3 broken necklaces sitting on my dresser, make cookies, read a book, write a letter, or get back to the soul-sucking job hunt.

I like making To-Do lists. I made them all the time at school and sometimes my To-Do lists even had sub-lists, steps within steps. I know people who hate To-Do lists because seeing everything laid out in black-and-white (or purple, I like to write in purple) is overwhelming and intimidating and depressing. I like it. I live for crossing things off my lists–it’s satisfying and thrilling and motivating.

This morning, when it was raining so hard that it felt like I was in a bunker, I realized I haven’t made a To-Do list in a long time. There’s clearly something wrong here. I know that it was probably more necessary when I was in school and had, in addition to other work, four or more essays to write at any given time. I’m aware that my current internship is only part-time and is not all that demanding. But still, my To-Do list epiphany was a little sad.

So now you’re thinking that I must have made it my new mission to find more things to do, to feel more fulfilled. You would think so, wouldn’t you? But it’s still raining. And I’m still squeezed between snoring dogs.  And Say Yes To the Dress just came on tv. In a little while I’ll put a load of laundry in, and I’ll probably worry some more about the state of my life while I’m sorting whites from colors. But you know what? I won’t worry too much. I think my To-Do blues will all come out in the wash.

I know. That was terrible, I’m sorry. I’ll put “work on puns” and “write better endings to blog posts” on my next To-Do list.

H-A-P-P-Why?

1 Oct

Happy people confuse me. That sounds bad, but I hope you’ll take my words for it that I’m neither a bitter old woman nor theposter-child for depression. I wouldn’t describe myself as an unhappy person. I like musicals and babies and puppies. I smile regularly enough. I sing to myself for no reason. Let’s be clear–I do not wish unhappiness on anyone.

Still, in the interest of being clear, I feel obligated to repeat: happy people confuse me. 

At work, there is one other intern besides me–let’s call her Joy. When I was hired, I didn’t know that they had accepted any other interns, so it was a surprise (and a bit of a relief) when I met my one and only peer.  Joy is a very sweet person. We haven’t gotten a lot of chances to chat and bond since we’re each given different projects and we spend our lunch time working but I’ve interacted with her enough to know that she redefines happy. When we were each assigned our own cubicle, she looked at me and squealed “eeeeee!” while shaking her fists like maracas. When we got to sit in on an editorial staff meeting she skipped to down the hall to the room. On our first day, she asked our bosses if it would be okay if she brought cookies or baked goods to work. (The only thing she likes more than baking is sharing goodies with others!) We had to take a proof-reading test on our second day. It took me 3 1/2 hours to finish and I still missed a lot of mistakes. Afterwards, I was sitting there feeling slightly miserable when Joy plopped down next to me with her lunch (which consisted, suspiciously, of all the major food groups). “Wasn’t that fun?” she asked. Big smile. Contented sigh. I started to feel like I was playing Captain Von Trapp to her Maria. And how do you solve a problem like that?

I’ve discovered that I don’t know how to act around super perky, perpetually cheerful, prone-to-squealing people. Have you ever watched someone who’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable with children when he/she is around a kid? There could be amused bafflement, mindless panic, painful formality. Well, it’s like that when I’m around a super perky, hyper-happy person. My personality doesn’t know what to do with itself. My close friends will tell you that my sense of humor tends to include a lot of sarcasm and facial expressions–neither of which seem appropriate when faced with a Mary Sunshine type.   

It would be fairly easy (and maybe a little satisfying in a petty sort of way) to hate her. It just dawned on me today who she really reminds me of–okay, I’ve likened her to everyone from Pollyanna to Julie Andrews but to really get where I’m coming from there’s only one pop culture icon you should bring to mind… 

Progressive lost me as a potential customer the second they signed on the spokeswoman from the planet Perky

There’s a catch though. I think Joy is actually nice, genuinely happy. (Unlike Progressive’s Flo, who couldn’t possibly be that inspired by car insurance. She’s probably got a flask hidden in that hair.) If Joy was faking the perkiness, if the constant good cheer was some sort of sinister plot to come out on top in the workplace, it would almost be my duty to hate her. But you can’t hate genuine happiness. Or you shouldn’t. You may complain about it to your family and friends. You might make jokes to those same confidants about how sometimes downers are downright necessary. But ultimately, if it is a sincere emotion or personality, you should recognize the value of that. Somewhat ironically, ehow.com has instructions on how to love and appreciate positive people. Number one, for those of you who are interested, is take a good look at yourself.

 Think about why you find perky people so annoying. Often it’s because you’re not perky yourself. Maybe it seems like things are never going your way, no matter how much you try. Or maybe you think people with such positive attitudes are not being honest with themselves and you resent the phoniness.

Fascinating. More than a little true. I hate syrupy, phony sweetness–probably because I’m not very good at it. Meanwhile, over at The Happiness Project, Gretchin Rubin seeks to undermine the myth that “happy people are annoying and stupid.” Studies show, she says, that “Happy people are viewed as friendlier, smarter, warmer, less selfish, more self-confident, and more socially skilled – even more physically attractive.”
 

 

Well that’s great. No wonder I don’t know how to act around such super-human creatures. It’s a little like the chicken-and-the-egg question, no? Which came first–the happiness or the confidence? The social skills or the fact that people find you physically attractive? The kicker is that it’s hard to maintain a cheerful, happy outlook when you’re not feeling very confident. And that is probably the key. I think I’ve been associating that kind of perky happiness with confidence–and why should Joy be that confident? I was so unsure of myself when I started that my lack of confidence prevented me from doing small, insignificant things like parking in the parking lot or drinking the there-for-everybody coffee in the lounge. Dumb, right? I have a parking pass, but somehow it felt wrong. Did I not deserve to park in the parking lot? I stuck to the street. There’s a never-ending supply of coffee and my boss made sure to let us know that it was up for grabs….and yet I couldn’t bring myself to grab a cup. I alternated between feeling overwhelmed and frustrated–how could I be perky and happy when I couldn’t park my car with confidence?

 

I’m just small enough that I would feel immensely better if Joy showed just the slightest chink in her happy armour. Just a sigh and a casual “that was hard” and I’d be set. Then she’d be human, and I wouldn’t be confused by happiness. But make no mistake–I have a certain admiration for her. Oh, I’ll never skip to a conference room or beam after a test or even have all the food groups in my lunch.  But today I parked in the parking lot, in an actual parking space. And that made the start of my day just a little bit happier. 

 

I can only hope I’ll confuse someone someday soon.   

My Greatest Weakness is Kryptonite…

8 Sep

Well my phone interview was this morning and I’m here blogging so you know that I neither died of embarrassment nor succumbed to a tasteful stress attack. 

Who's stressed? I work better with my hands in front of my face, thank you very much

I woke up three and a half hours ahead of time to practice, prepare, and perspire. I had a notepad, a pen, a back-up pen, and a pencil (can’t be too careful). I had my resume, a glass of water, and my trusty dog all within reach.

Who knows if anything will come of it? I would loooooooooooove this internship but I got the impression that there are a lot of other people trying for the two (count ’em, TWO) spots. I’m trying to maintain an emotional position somewhere between hoping against hope and mature realism. We’ll see.

So before the phone call to end all phone calls, I did a lot of research on interviews. My experience is sadly limited so I picked through the internet and interrogated my gainfully employed, gotta-hate-them friends.  Job interviews are interesting, aren’t they? There are social expectations and commonly accepted rules just like any other cultural ritual–bowing, waltzing, texting. When they ask you to “tell me about yourself,” you should not respond with any actual personal details. Instead, you should efficiently brag about where you’ve worked and what you’ve done–things that you will have to repeat later, when you’re asked about your experience and skills. Anyone will tell you to never lie on your resume or in interviews because it’ll come back to haunt you. But you’d also be called a fool by most people (assuming that I’m not the only one who uses the word “fool”) for telling the absolute truth.

“Why are you interested in this job?”  

“I need money and society expects me to get it through professional labor.”

The most bizarre question, to my way of thinking, is “What is your greatest weakness?” I was told over and over, by friends and helpful internet articles, to expect this question so you know that it has successfully spread across the masses. But unless you’re Superman, there’s probably no clear-cut, knee-jerk answer. (Besides, Superman wouldn’t just go around blabbing about his greatest weakness, now would he?)

 Just what is being asked here? You’re supposed to explain your professional weaknesses–that means no mentioning your commitment phobia or tendency to overeat–but nobody is really expecting to hear any deal-breakers. Instead, the typical thing to do is pull out some handy quotations and recite “weaknesses” instead of weaknesses. “Weaknesses” are fake, aw-shucks flaws that make you look like a hard worker and don’t diminish your attractiveness. Based on my flawless research, I’ve concluded that the most popular “weaknesses” are:

  1. Perfectionism  i.e “Sometimes I obsess over making sure every detail is right. I’m only satisfied with my work if I’ve double-checked everything and I spend extra time making sure any project I contribute to is flawless.
  2. Workaholism  i.e “My work is an important part of my life and I’ve been known to devote an unbalanced amount of time to it.”
  3. Eager-to-Please-ism  i.e “It’s hard for me to say no, which means that I end up with a lot on my plate because I want to be as useful as possible.”

People revert to “weaknesses” because nobody wants to sabotage their own opportunity and it seems unnatural to tell a perfect stranger (a perfect stranger who’s judging you) about your faults. The real problem here is this question. I vote for scrapping it because it’s a doomed fishing expedition–you’re not going to come away with anything significant. But if the beaurocratic world simply cannot carry on without inquiring about potential employees weaknesses, then perhaps we could make it an even trade? Like, you mention a professional area in which you’re less than perfect and then I’ll do the same. Wouldn’t that be awesome? You could even bond over a shared hatred for new technology with your possible future boss.  There would be laughter, groans of sympathy, familiarity. This is my dream.

That’s probably my greatest weakness–I dream too big.

I Put the Me in Employment

8 Sep

                       

Phone interview tomorrow today for an internship that sounds fantastic. It’s an unpaid position but the experience would be priceless. (Yes, I mean that cornieness with all of my heart and I’m going to keep the cliches coming.)

More to come, assuming I don’t die of anxiety

I May Be Unemployed, But At Least I’m CRAFTY

1 Sep

Wanna see my latest craft projects? A stamp box, a stamp lamp, a decoupaged table…..