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What Do You Want? How to Get It: Use What You’ve Got.

My last job was working for my ex-father-in-law. It was very little “work,” and quite a lot of getting managed. He had a consultancy and I was a glorified admin, though I would occasionally help edit and write proposals.

In the years before, I worked as a writer for several now defunct websites in SF, when you could get paid well for content. When that started to dry up, I took my one and only job in sales. After that, I found myself engaged and working for my fiancée’s dad. Soon we had kids and I was out of work, by choice.

Raising the kids was great. It was nuts when they were little and great when they went to school. That’s when my tennis game got a hell of a lot better. My husband supported my not working, for a time. In the marriage, things were fine, until they weren’t. Now, I’m in the middle of a divorce.

In talking with a mom at school, I told her I was going back to work, leaving out the divorce part. She asked what I did. I hadn’t put any thought into it, as this divorce and return to work was sprung on me, I quickly answered, “Freelance Writing.” Never mind that it had been at least 15 years since I’d freelanced.

Next thing I knew, I was sending my resume off to the CEO of a production company that was looking for a writer. They had a proposal for me to write. I looked at many of their successful proposals and wrote for them a winning proposal. It all seemed so doable, and I got it done.

That job paid well but it was a one-off. I needed to find “real” work, and I needed “real” money. I started sending my resume out to any writing and editing job I could find that didn’t require an online portfolio. I made the saddest, two-job portfolio. Only one client was still in business, and I wrote the content for two of their sites.

I identified the job I wanted: Proposal Writer. I had just finished one. It was successful, and I determined I was going to parlay that into full-time work. Little did I know the effort it would take. I sent my resume to quite a few places, and the one I wanted invited me to take their “intelligence” test (what I like to call it) online. I passed and they called me for an interview.

Interviewing was a nightmare for me. I had always easily found work through my family, friends or family friends. So, I am haunted by the one and only interview I completely bombed. I was sitting in a chair that spun around, twisting left to right and back again throughout the entire interview. I must have looked a mess. When I started prepping for this interview, I reminded myself to keep weird body movements to a minimum.

I also really prepared. I read countless articles about interviewing. I read and answered questions that I might be given. I’d write my answer, and then I’d commit it to memory. This was a huge step in the right direction, as I’d only ever winged it. (I’ve always been known to be unprepared.) I also made lists of questions to ask the interviewer. 
 
When I went in for my first interview I was shocked by the softball questions. I hit it off with the two people I’d interviewed with separately. They liked me and wanted me to talk to someone else by phone.

The woman who interviewed me on the phone tossed me a few hardballs. I calmly spoke, hoping she wasn’t catching on to the fact that I was speaking in pointless circles. I hung up thinking that there was no way that I would be offered a job after that call. I was certain I’d sounded like a complete moron, and that it was painfully obvious that I hadn’t had an interview in 15 years.

A few days later I heard from HR. They wanted me to talk to one more person, the fourth at the company to speak with me. I was shocked my phone interview wasn’t a complete bust. It had actually gone well, so I was told by interviewer #4. He also gave me a few “hard” questions and I was sure that by the way he said “thanks for coming in,” and not “we’ll talk soon,” it was a no go. I was wrong. I got an offer two days later and I’m thrilled. I saw what I wanted and I went after it. And I got it.

The difference between this and 15 years ago is confidence. I know myself. I have a level of comfort I didn’t have before. We all know you’ve got to appear confident in an interview, but anyone with half a brain can see through that. My comfort didn’t lie in my knowing that I am great at interviewing (far from it), or that I was even the best fit for the job.

My comfort lies in my ability to be myself. It only took 40 years, but I’m entirely comfortable with myself, and I’m certain that’s what got me the job. You’re probably just as good at being yourself. So, go on, use it, and get what you want.

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