Friday was a big day: I had a job interview! At eight o’clock in the morning! Thirty-one miles away! And I don’t have a car!
So I asked one of my friends at the shelter if I could impose for a ride. The answer was yes — until about three o’clock Thursday afternoon, when said friend had to bow out because of a doctor’s appointment that hadn’t made it onto the calendar. (Boo from my admittedly selfish viewpoint, but hurrah for reminder calls!) And no one who had the means and the desire to provide me a ride was able to do so, due to prior commitments.
Here follows An Adventure in Public Transportation, and How I Did in My Interview.
I’d actually thought long and hard about asking for a ride in the first place. It’s a huge imposition, especially considering how early we’d have had to leave — plus the fact the interview would last at least three hours, according to the confirmation email the company sent me, so if my friend had chosen to wait for me…well, let’s just say I recommended bringing a good book. 🙂 So I had spent time checking into my public transit options first.
The route that would have taken the least time (just over two hours, portal to portal) had me hotfooting it three-quarters of a mile (in those same damned dress shoes) to a stop for a special commuter bus, which would take me to a station where I could pick up another bus, which would take me to yet another stop for a third bus — and then I would have had to hotfoot it another three-quarters of a mile to reach the office. And it only left me a five-minute cushion at the arrival end, and frankly, that plus the risk of being a sweating mess by the time I walked in the door? Very scary.
On the other hand, the route that gave me the most time (half an hour) at the other end, and dropped me off across the street?
It put me on my first train at 4:45 AM.
Guess which one I picked?
I asked one of the shelter’s night staff for a 4:00 AM wake-up call. But as I got ready for bed, I got paranoid about the chance I wouldn’t hear the staff member come in. So I left out my earplugs. Which made sure I was awake on time. And several other times. Basically, not much sleep. Very little sleep. Very little. I did successfully get dressed, get my stuff into my locker and get out of the dorm without waking anybody up, though, so yay me! And things worked as planned, travel-wise, for three out of four legs of the trip: caught Train 1 on time, ditto Train 2 and Bus 1.
Bus 2 threw in a wrench about the size of the Empire State Building. Or the wrench might have been Bus 1; maybe it was more than eight minutes late making it to the stop where I was supposed to catch Bus 2. ***does research online for a few minutes*** Or maybe the problem is that the recent schedule changes for Bus 2 got missed by my #@$%&(*) search engine when it calculated my routes, so it missed a better choice for Bus 1. Either way, instead of boarding Bus 2 at 6:34, it didn’t even arrive at the stop until about 7:10. And per the schedule I just found, it wasn’t supposed to have gotten there until 6:59 in the first place, so there’s no way it would have gotten me to my interview on time.
That’s right. I was late. Ten minutes late. But as I sat on the bus and came to the horrified conclusion that interview lateness was in my future, I called and told them I was running late. Something, apparently, that doesn’t always happen, so even though I was late, I got points for calling!
The receptionist took me to a conference room where I saw one other in-person candidate and a laptop representing a candidate interviewing via the Web. In-person candidate was busily working on the skills assessment test that began promptly at 8:00 (and that I would do in between one interview and another, per the receptionist), so I just sat and chilled for a few minutes.
The receptionist came back long enough to collect In-person’s test, then someone — either the company founder or one of the head honchos, I decided — came in to give us a brief presentation about the company and an equally brief tour of the facility. The latter included a description of their business model and the primary staff departmental breakouts; he told us that part of what would happen was a determination of which department(s) might make good fits for our skills so that we could interview with those department heads. It’s quite a fascinating company, with a solid quarter-century history and an outlook on life and business responsibility that I like a lot. Then it was time for me to take the assessment.
This turned out to be ten problems in logic and/or eighth-grade math. Eighth grade was a looooong time ago, said my brain, so I left at least one question blank and made educated guesses about another couple. Shortly after I finished, I had my first interview of the day: with Founder.
I’m not sure how I did. I was still stressed out about arriving late, and I knew I’d done poorly on the assessment, plus I was in over-answer mode, as Founder pointed out, nicely, but still: “Please listen to the question: how many do you think you got right, out of ten?” Deep breath instead of babbling about having left something blank, etc. “No more than six.”
Turns out the question wasn’t really about how I did on the test, but intended to see how realistically I could gauge my performance. As Founder said, “You actually did a little worse than six, but you’re close. Some people say they got nine right when they only got three or four.” At any rate, this interview also included my speaking up about my bankruptcy and being currently car-less: because this company does a lot of work with government contractors, part of my pre-interview paperwork was a form authorizing a full background check, and the application asked specifically whether I’d ever been convicted of a felony (no!) or filed bankruptcy (dammit…). I figured I might as well get my two cents in before they got it in writing without the personal background. And Founder said he appreciated my willingness to speak about a difficult subject.
I just wish I’d been able to do it without starting to tear up, but I haven’t reached that point of emotional balance yet. At least I didn’t break down completely, but still. At any rate, I did the best I could, and then interview 1 was over and Founder said I should go back to the conference room while he determined who would make the best Interviewer 2.
The Director of Business Development and Marketing (DBD for short), as it turned out. He explained the company setup in more nuts-and-bolts detail, and spoke about his department in particular (even though almost all new hires start out doing sales for a month or more, as Founder thinks it’s the best way to understand how the company works). DBD mentioned that he was interested in how I’d decided to jump from profession A to profession B, and said his career path had been equally non-standard, so that was good. When he spoke about the fact that lawyers draw up the more complex contracts, but they have a set of more standard templates as well, I told him I’d done a couple of projects proofing contract templates. I also pitched my experiences as part of a procedure-writing project for my last corporate employer, in case the company might need new or updated procedure manuals, etc., and DBD seemed to like the sound of it.
Cue second discussion of the day about bankruptcy and car-lessness, and add in living in a homeless shelter. Again, if the company doing the background check is worth its salt, they’re gonna know about this stuff anyway, so I might as well demonstrate my willingness to discuss it. When DBD asked if I had any questions for him, I said, “Will the facts that I filed bankruptcy, don’t have a car and am living in a homeless shelter be deal-breakers for a chance at a job here?” He said no. Which gives me hope. This interview, I feel I did quite well.
Back to the conference room for a few minutes, then interview 3, with the head of HR (HHR). HHR asked several questions about why I’d applied there, why I’d applied for the particular position, how open would I be to any other positions, etc. And I told her the truth: that the job had looked interesting, that the requirements and my skills had a good deal of overlap, that I was happy to make a long-term commitment if I got the nod, and so on. I like to think I did better than middling with HHR.
At any rate, HHR did say, in answer to my question, that they tend to make hiring decisions in a timely manner, so unless there was some kind of difficulty with my background check, I would probably hear back from them in a week. And if I’m hired, I’ll start October 1.
Trust me, I’ll be doing more detailed research into those public transit routes. This seems like the kind of company that’s worth a long commute.
I left almost exactly three hours after I arrived…to see the bus I’d planned to take moving gracefully through the intersection and away from my stop. When I reached the stop, I put my stuff down and checked for the next scheduled bus.
It was about an hour away. But I noticed something — there was another bus line listed on the sign at the stop! Why, perhaps that bus could be of use to me! I should check! So I did, and that bus would get to the stop in ten minutes, and would take me to a station where I could catch a limited-stop bus back to the train station to connect to Train 2, thence to the next station to catch Train 1, and voilà, home again in about two hours!
Well, not straight back home. I stopped off for cheap eats because damn, I hadn’t eaten all day! Of course, my cheap eats of choice involved another bus, and on the trip home from there, the bus was late, and the bus before it hadn’t arrived so by the time I got on, it was so crowded I had to hold all my stuff on my lap, and if I hadn’t mentioned it before, being without a car means I have to drag with me everything I think I’ll need for the day and it’s heavy. And cumbersome. And heavy. But I got a seat!
And today, I’m chilling because I woke up feeling like I’d been dragged behind a truck.
I’m wearing flip-flops. I’ll put on real shoes again tomorrow.
Editorial note: yes, I know I’ve mixed written o’clocks and numeric time references. I think it reads better that way. Humor me. 😉