Times being what they are, I decided it would be a good idea to look into getting a part-time job. The Las Vegas recession-depression has hit most people I know really hard. My household is no exception. My husband’s construction-dependent trucking business has fallen to levels unlike anything we’ve previously seen. I’ve been self-employed as a writer for eight years, but freelancing can be unstable—and that was true even before so many publications started going out of business. When I saw a CraigsList ad for an evening or weekend receptionist at a retirement community, I applied. I manned a front desk for over ten years when I worked for Metro (and managed front counters and offices for another five years), and a great deal of my work as a freelancer is done on the phone. My writing group is composed of senior citizens, and I’ve been meeting with them once a week for seven years. I felt completely qualified for this job.
I know that to many people, “freelance writer” is synonymous with “creatively unemployed,” or to paraphrase one writer I heard speak, “another mother with a computer.” That’s why in addition to filling out an application, I’d also attached a resume and cover letter about what I’d been doing for the past eight years, with a specifics about my writing business. I’m not sure what the woman who interviewed me thought, but I got the impression she didn’t quite believe I’d written articles and press releases, despite my attachments. She asked me perfunctory questions about my writing, skimming over the first page of my application with a puzzled look and a disbelieving tone to her questions. She asked not a single question about my decades with the police department. She went all the way back to my college education. I last attended college in about 1992, 17 years ago. In my adult life after 21, I’ve had two employers: the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and myself. I thought I was a pretty stable-looking candidate. Of course, if she thought I was lying, that surely eroded the pleasant, experienced image I was hoping to convey.
“So, I see you were a Communications major. What happened there?” I was a bit taken aback by her question. We were going to discuss why I left college almost 20 years ago? What was next, questions about high school? Had she honestly not noticed all those years working for the police department? Perhaps she didn’t believe that, either. I told her that during my last year of college I was caring for an elderly parent and working full time, which had changed my priorities. She asked why I left my last job, and I told her it was to have work that was more flexible, since I’d had a small child at home (given that I was a Communications major, I thought it was obvious why I chose freelance writing). She looked at me disapprovingly, perhaps disbelievingly, kind of like I had just said that I left my last job to join the circus as a fire eater.
“Do you have any experience working with seniors other than your writing group?”
Other than leading a once-a-week writing group for seniors for the past seven years, which included helping three of them write books? Seriously? I smiled and politely said, “That would be the bulk of my experience.”
She had a lot to say about the importance of professional appearance, so much so that I wondered if I had something hanging out that I didn’t know about. The interviewee ahead of me had been wearing a denim skirt and hooker heels, and I was wearing a navy blue suit and white blouse. I thought I did look professional. Maybe Ms. Interviewer assumed that when I wasn’t out trying to deceive innocent retirement home directors, I wore Daisy Dukes and neglected to brush my hair.
I was doing my utmost to be honest, and since things seemed to be going so oddly (okay, badly), I freely admitted that it had been awhile since I’d been on a job interview. “My skills are a little rusty, I’m sure,” I admitted.
“The most important thing is to be yourself,” she said. Who else did she think I was being? That seemed to be the crux of the problem. Maybe she thought I was dishonest, or perhaps over-qualified, but whatever it was, I didn’t get a second interview.
The interviewer told me she had over 60 applications for her two positions, one full-time and one part-time. Apparently, I’m not the only Las Vegan out there looking for a little more stability these day.
Image courtesy of Sundeip Arora at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1055976