Posts Tagged ‘rejection’

My father tells two stories about his experience with flying, one haunting, the other horrific.

In the first, he’s on a DC3 headed for Springfield, Missouri in a thunderstorm when he looks out the window and sees the engine is on fire. The pilot shuts it down and with one remaining engine, looks for a break in the clouds so he can land. Spotting one, he banks sharply, dropping so low to the ground that in the glow of the landing lights, my father can see a herd of horses running across a field below. They’re so close that he can count 10 of them.

In the second, he’s on a 737 landing at the Kansas City Airport. My father and his co-worker have just come down the stairway in the tail of the plane and are walking across the tarmac to the terminal when the tail blows up. The explosion knocks them to the ground.

My father is not a fan of flying. Unfortunately, I inherited that gene. And Tuesday, it cost me my dream job.

For the past several weeks I’ve been a finalist for a marketing director position with a small publishing company. Despite the fact that the job came with a substantial cut in pay and benefits, I wanted it. It also involved a fair amount of travel and upon inquiring of the interviewer as to what made them reluctant to hire me (you should always ask), the flying issue is what did me in.

I recall the brief conversation during the third and final interview in which I commented that while large planes don’t bother me, small aircraft, the kind that hold 20 passengers or less, do. In the city where I live, small planes are the only means available to get you to a hub airport.

I made the admission because when I got the job, I would be traveling with this person and I wanted to be upfront about it. I imagined the scenario if I wasn’t: we’re on our first flight together, she strikes up a pleasant conversation and through clenched teeth, I say, “I don’t mean to be rude but right now I’m concentrating on not running down that narrow aisle and flinging myself out the emergency exit. So if you can please wait until we get on the big plane, I promise I will talk your ear off.”

I thought being honest was the right thing to do. It wasn’t.

I have a history of plane problems. When I was a baby, my family was on a 737 leaving Ashville, NC. The plane’s front wheels were just lifting off when its middle engine blew up. We dropped like a rock, bouncing and skidding on the runway, the plane stopping about 100 feet from the end. I don’t remember that. But my father does.

As an adult, my dicey track record with the unfriendly skies continued: planes struck by lightning, planes that caught fire, planes that tried to land during tornados. And the usual travel annoyances like lost luggage and having coffee spilled down my back by a stewardess who tried pouring during turbulence.

During my previous career, I traveled often, many times by myself, usually by plane or car. I’ve got the driving skills of an over the road trucker; I can knock off 800 to 1,000 miles behind the wheel in one sitting with no problem. Sometimes to avoid flying the small planes, I’ve just driven to the hub and caught the larger one. It’s never been a big deal for my travel companions, if I had any.

In rejecting me for my dream job this week, the interviewer noted that the position needed to travel the country “in the most efficient way without having to be directed to do so” and that it would have been a problem to “insist that someone overcome their hesitations in that respect.” That’s a very nice way to put it but it’s still a rejection. And I never said I wouldn’t fly, just that sometimes it’s not my favorite way to travel.

Do I wish I’d kept my mouth shut? Absolutely. Next time will I? You better believe it.

Have you ever been honest about something in a job interview and it cost you the job? If you had the chance to take it back, would you?

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The question has been asked and answered, to and by someone who is not me. She said yes, which is good. Because if I’d been asked, I’d have said no. Which is also good. For me.

I like blogging because it makes me think, not only about what I want to say, but sometimes simply about what I WANT, period.  Back when I posted “20 Questions”, I wasn’t sure if the job I had interviewed for was something I really wanted. It had some definite pluses: travel, public speaking, chance to work with old friends, and (this is a HUGE one for me), no more “Director on Call” duties one week a month. But it also had one glaring minus: the lack of creative opportunity.

That was the first thing one of the interviewers mentioned when she stopped by my office today to tell me I didn’t get the job. “J” was my previous supervisor for 12 years and she wanted to break the news to me in person for two reasons: to explain why I didn’t get it and to ask what my answer would have been had they offered it.  It came down to creativity, in both cases. Having the chance to be creative every day is like having air to breathe – I need it. They knew that, and they also knew I wouldn’t get it in that job. The position is 20% creative, 80% administrative. In a typical 40-hour work week, that’s one day of inhaling deeply and four days of holding your breath. “J” said they had no doubt I could do the job but that the day-to-day “drudgery” of it would have done me in. Left me gasping for that creative air. She asked if I’d thought of that. I had, which confirmed for her that had they asked, I’d have declined.

I know the woman they hired and she’ll do a fantastic job. They’re lucky to be getting her and I told “J” as much. As for me, while the job I have now isn’t perfect (no job ever is, no matter how great it sounds), I get to do something creative EVERY DAY and that makes it worth showing up for, even on the worst of days. So tonight, I’m hoisting a glass of my favorite red wine and nibbling a bit of L’Artigiano chocolate (courtesy of my friend, Lynnette, over at Wordtabulous. You were right – it’s fabulous) in celebration of my NOT getting the job. So raise a glass with me, friends…to opportunities best missed. SALUT!

I had a job interview this week, my first one in years. I should have been more nervous, I suppose, but interviewing is like second nature to me. In my current full-time job, I get interviewed all the time although it’s about what I know not who I am. And for many years, I’ve been an interviewer – on the air, for a story, doing sales, hiring people.

Questions and answers. That’s all an interview is. What makes it so tricky is which one you’re doing and how much it matters to you. Few interviews are a matter of life and death – unless you’re asked to donate a kidney, you’re trying to adopt, or someone is holding a gun to your head demanding that you give up classified information. The rest of the time, it’s just plain old Q&A.

I’ve had job interviews when I was unemployed and desperate, when I was employed and restless, and a couple of times, when I wasn’t even looking.  A few from the highlight reel…

Most embarrassing interview moment: Breaking my ankle leaving an interview with an advocacy program for the handicapped (ah, the irony). It was already sprained but I’d worn heels anyway because they went with the power suit I had on. (I know, ME in a power suit? It was the 90’s and all chicks in charge were wearing them. I had the required shoulder pads and big hair, too.) I stood up at the end of the interview and SNAP! The ankle went and I hit the floor, powerfully (must have been the suit). I should mention most of the board members interviewing me had wheelchairs or arm crutches. One of them loaned me his crutches so I could hobble to the parking lot. I didn’t get the job.

Most truthful interview response: While interviewing for a job I wasn’t sure I wanted or could even do, I was asked why they should hire me.  I replied, “Some of these things I can do, some of them I can’t. If you’ve got instructions for the things I can’t do, I’ll figure it out. If I have questions, I’ll ask. If I have problems with someone, I’ll tell them. If you have problems with me, tell me. If you yell at me, I won’t listen.  Don’t look over my shoulder while I’m working and don’t feel like you have to pat me on the back if I’m doing a good job. Keep the paycheck coming and I’ll keep showing up.” I got the job…at twice what I had been making.

Dumbest interview question I’ve ever been asked: “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” Here are my suggested answers, in case you’re ever hit with this one. When you want the job: “I’d be an evergreen because they’re hardy, work well in any environment, and always portray a positive image.” When you don’t want the job: “I’d be a stump because they maintain a low profile, don’t do anything but sit there, and can’t be easily removed.” The response I gave: “That is the dumbest question I’ve ever been asked.” Yeah, that response can also fall under the “When you don’t want the job” category.

Best interview advice I’ve ever been given: from a hippie DJ I worked with at a radio station over 20 years ago. He said, “Just be who you are, man. Don’t waste your energy pretending to be something you’re not. They always find out the truth.” Straight-up solid advice.

This week’s interview was O.K. as far as interviews go, and I think my chances at the job are about as good as anybody’s.  I’ve settled in for the Big Wait and after the holidays, it comes down to one more question and answer – will they be asking and what will I say if they do?

Me on the job, late 1980's

It’s over. I should have seen it coming. We’d first met a couple of weeks ago, just sort of bumped into each other while I was out walking one morning. There was a little harmless flirting, then the casual “getting to know you” thing, and then early in the morning of November 1, when this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge (http://nanowrimo.org/) kicked off, my novel and I officially became a couple.

Its name was “Damn Happy Place’ and in the beginning we were SO happy. Like skipping around singing Disney tunes, having your favorite ice cream for every meal, winning the Powerball jackpot happy. Well, I thought we were. Then two days in to our perfect relationship, Damn Happy dumped me.

It happened about 2:00 a.m. on Thursday. We’d been on my laptop for hours and hey, I’ll admit there’d been some moments when the conversation was lagging but then out of nowhere, Damn Happy says to me:

“Look, this isn’t working out.”

“What?”

“I don’t want to hurt you. You’re a great girl and everything, really, but I think you should write other novels.” 

“But, but…we’re happy! Aren’t we? Is it me? What am I doing wrong? Just tell me, and I’ll fix it.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you. I’m just in kind of a weird place right now and I need a little time to sort some things out.”

“Maybe I can help. We could try author-novel counseling.  Maybe take a trip? A change of location might be just what our story needs. Ooh, I could kill off a main character or something. That would spice things up a bit. Or I could…”

“Just stop already, O.K.? THAT’S the problem. You’re too controlling, you’re smothering me. Always telling me what to say, what to do, who to be.  I’m tired of being manipulated! We both knew this was probably only going to be a short term fling anyway.”

“But we had some good times, didn’t we? I mean, come on. That scene in the tree house? Pretty hot stuff.”

“I was faking it.”

“What? The WHOLE time? No way.”

“Well, maybe not the first couple of pages but…yeah, pretty much the whole time. So listen, I’m going to go now. I think it’s just better for both of us. I’m not ready for this kind of commitment right now. You’ll find another novel to write, I know you will. Oh, and one more thing: I’m keeping the title.”

“The hell you are. I GAVE you that title. If you’re breaking up with me, I want it back. I might even use it on another story, what do you think of that?”

“Fine, whatever. Don’t call me.”

And that was it. I was sitting at my writing desk, 48 hours in to a 30-day, 50,000 word novel writing challenge with no novel. Despondent, I shut things down and went to bed but I couldn’t sleep. I lay in the darkness, alone, contemplating my newly single status.  Suddenly I recalled another novel idea I’d met last spring. It was a little more serious, a bit more involved, but there’d been a connection, a spark there, that if I had to admit it, hadn’t really existed between Damn and I.

So at 3:00 a.m. I got out of bed, turned on the laptop and called it up. Its name is “Iron Maidens” and turns out, Iron had been hanging out waiting for me to call this whole time. We’ve been inseparable ever since. I know what you’re thinking – these rebound relationships never work out. But we’re going the distance, Iron and me, at least until November 30 and I think maybe longer than that. Because We. Are. In. Love. Really. Oh, and Damn Happy? I was faking it, too.

I’m no stranger to rejection. I went to a high school that held an annual Sadie Hawkins dance which I attended once in four years. When I graduated from college, I sent out 65 resumes and demo reels and got just two job offers amidst a towering stack of “not interested” letters. And then there was the refused wedding proposal. Oh wait, I guess I was the one who refused. O.K., that one probably doesn’t count. But suffice to say I’ve had some experience with the “Nope, don’t want you” scenario.

My last two writing submissions were both recently rejected, but in different ways and under different circumstances. The first was a flash fiction contest entry. At first I received a cheerful email excitedly informing me that I had made it through the first round eliminations. I was cautiously optimistic; I’d been down this road before. While it was great to make the first cut and still be in the running, I wasn’t popping the champagne cork until I knew for sure I was a winner. Which it turned out, I wasn’t. So I filed the email, drowned my sorrows in a glass of wine instead, and began looking for another place to submit that story.

The second rejection was for a 3,000 word fiction piece I submitted to a literary magazine. I was feeling pretty confident going in: the story flowed the way I wanted it to, my trusty group of readers had given it a thumbs up, I was sure I had hit it out of the park with this one. Turns out, I barely made it out of the batter’s box. I was informed by a one-sentence email that they wouldn’t be able to use my submission for their publication. So the search for a new market began.

While I’m familiar with rejection in many facets of my life, it’s still new to me when it comes to writing. It’s not that I’m such a prolific writer that everything I’ve ever submitted until recently has always been accepted. It’s that for the majority of my writing career, I’ve worked on assignment. Any article or radio commercial or publication I’ve written has been at the direction of someone else or my own idea as an editor. But to put yourself out there and share your original ideas is to open yourself up to rejection and every writer goes through it. Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen King, George Orwell, even Dr. Seuss all weathered rejections before achieving success. And to be in company like that is not such a bad place to be at all.