Friday, October 23, 2015

The things I wish I'd had the confidence to say in my first interviews

I sat in the interview for the major publication — a big newspaper for a big city and its big surrounding metro.

I was a 22 year old college senior, desperate for a place to go and write when I was finished with school, but with no real experience besides a handful of unpaid internships and an editorial position at an online student publication.

I didn't even want to write for this newspaper. I wanted to be a copywriter. But I suppose I figured I'd take this interview to get practice.

The editor sat across from me at a giant metal desk that took up two-thirds of the tiny, bare bones room they'd given him for the day to conduct interviews.

He'd come all this way to do some recruiting at our j-school. So there I was.

I shared with him some clips and attempted to charm (aka bullshit) the crap out of the editor.

"Well, unfortunately, we have all of our entry writing positions filled," he said, "And, we actually only hire Yale grads."

"Then why are you here?" I said.

"Why are you wasting my time?"

"Why are you wasting your time?"

Only I didn't say that. I didn't say any of that.

What I did say was nothing. Nothing memorable. I shrank into the itchy, woven chair I was sitting in that demanded slouching. The little confidence I did have deflated like a sad balloon.


I've heard horror stories about insane questions and hoop jumps interviewers ask of applicants. I guess It's not unusual that people holding interviews come across kind of … douchey.

But what I think interviewers forget is that just as they're interviewing an applicant for a right fit, applicants are also interviewing a job, a company, a culture, a boss.

But when you're 22 and the economy's in the toilet — especially the economy that hires WRITERS... with ZERO experience — you tend to lose sight of that fact. You put up with a douche bag or two.

I had seven interviews for a job once. Six on the phone. And for the seventh, they flew me down to meet the team. I left at 6am. The cab dropped me a mile away from the office. I walked to their high rise in 100 degree Texas heat in the middle of July.

I interviewed with the team for eight hours. They told me they liked me. They seemed cool. The work was copywriting. It wasn't the sexiest copywriting. But it was a start.

And in the final hour, the whole team and I met in a conference room for rapid fire insanity. "Do you ever cry at work?" "Are you scared of moving away from Ohio?" "Do you clash with people?"... DO I CLASH WITH PEOPLE? Like, if I did, I wouldn't tell you anyways.

You'd think I was going for a C-level gig. I wasn't.

I'd wished I'd had the cajones to tell them their interviewing was ridiculous. That they should know by now if they liked me or not. I wished I'd had the walk-away power to, well, walk away.

But I had no confidence.


Yet, I did have work ethic. And I had proof from keeping a minimum wage job for seven years. I had an auto-sorting brain that created outlines as stories unfolded. I had a ginormous heart. And spirit. And I also had drive.

If I could do it all over, I'd forget the bullshit. Because that's all it is … bullshit.

I'd tell them straight up, "look, I don't have experience. But I can promise you that I will work my ass off. And I won't settle for good work. I won't stop until I've done great work. And I can't prove that until you give me a chance to."

And if it was a company who decided they'd want to string me along for seven interviews and ask me questions about how likely I was to cry at the office, I'd walk away.

Imagine my surprise when I interviewed at my current company and they were interested in my heart. And my years spent volunteering. And they were excited to invest in me as a writer. And show me what kind of stuff we'd be doing as a team.

Our graphic designer and my now great friend applied to a position at our company right out of college that required 5-10 years of experience. In her interview she was honest and passionate (and had a kick ass portfolio which helped.) She told us straight up, "Obviously I don't have ten years of experience, but I do have raw talent. And I know I'll do great work."

And we were sold. Our CEO and creative team created a position for her. And now she's kickin ass.

Honesty in interviews, imagine that. That's no bullshit.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

No judgment. No problem.

As I stood there waiting to hand my ID and boarding pass over for the TSA agent to scan, he looked down at my shirt. 

It was a white Nike tank with a pinkish filtered photo of stairs on it. "No Gym. No problem," it said.

"That's my motto," the TSA agent said.

I looked at his heavy build. He was big — at least 300 pounds. He stood at the counter, his chair a good foot away from him, but I immediately thought his comment to be sarcastic. I thought thoughts no one should think. I questioned my purchasing the shirt, not realizing no gym, no problem could also be interpreted as, "I'm fine just never going to the gym" or "I'm fine just sitting on my ass all day and never doing any physical activity. No gym? No problem. Fine by me!"

All those thoughts pouring in a matter of milliseconds.

I snapped out of confusion as he scanned my information and I gave him a smile, thinking about how much of a smart ass he was for that comment.

"It's that very logic that's gotten me to where I am today," he said, "I used to be twice this size."


He continued, "It's that kind of thinking — that the world is your gym — that's gotten me moving, and has kept me going."

"Wow!" I exploded. "That is so awesome! Keep up the good work!" I was so inspired.

But in my head I felt so ashamed, for immediately jumping to "he must be using sarcasm."

I have always had a strict no judgment rule when at the gym or on a track or in a race — or when just generally seeing a person who was working on their health. Because you can't see an overweight person going on a walk and think, "they should really do something about that overweight problem," obviously, because they are.

But why stop there? That's total bullshit. Because we don't know everybody's stories. We really don't know where they are or what they've been through.

If I had lost 200 pounds, but still had work to go, I'd want everybody to know. I'd shout it from the rooftops, "I KNOW IT ISN'T OBVIOUS BUT I'VE COME SO FAR!"

But at the same time, I would have grown so much patience, and quiet confidence and perseverance. Things I often struggle with.

I could have hugged that man that day. I can't imagine the kind of pride he must have, and I think about him often. No gym no problem likely saved his life.

When I think I'm in a rut, or I'm not noticing any differences in my speed or weight lifted or ability, I think about him.

When an athlete I look up to breaks a PR and I know I will never have that kind of speed, I think about him.

When the people I love finally understand what I mean when they experience a new level of health, I think about him.

Everybody's journey looks different, but most people never know how good their bodies were made to feel. He's on his way there. And he's proud.

We were meant to find our own gyms. And they don't all look the same. Fitness isn't the same for everyone. Perfect form is relative.

There's another great Nike line: There is no finish line.

Great, because the finish line is always moving forward with you. It's dynamic and different for every person.

No gym. No problem.
Just freaking do it.