I had a job interview last month. I didn't write about it, or really even tell anyone about it, because it was kind of out of the blue and I didn't really know what to make of it.
It all started at the beginning of January. Every once in a while I will peruse the part time job listings for local universities in my area. I don't know why, I have this glorified view of academia and think it would be so cool if I could teach and be surrounded by students and be all "collegial" like and get my summers off. It seems like a great career for a mom, and it also would allow me to continue freelancing through my gig with Montage. Reality or not, I found a job listing at a nearby university that seemed perfect for me - part time faculty (20 hours a week), and working mostly from home.
Ah yes! I thought. This is where all roads have led! This is what is meant to be!
True, I have no teaching experience. But it was in a legalesque field, so I figured I had a shot at it. I applied online one night, weeks passed, and I almost forgot about it. Then, at the beginning of February I received word that they wanted to conduct a phone interview. I did. Then I received word that they wanted me to come in for the next round of interviews.
Do you know how long it has been since I have done a formal interview? Long enough that my suit (which I had to retrieve from the attic) was so ill fitting that the waste fell about six inches above my belly button (I like to think it is just my childbearing hips, but really, it's the ever increasing muffin top). Long enough that when I fished my interview binder out of storage, the piece of paper that fell out of it was my interview schedule at Dickstein, circa 2007. Long enough that I actually found myself googling "interview etiquette."
I'm not going to lie - I felt a bit out of my element.
I thought the interview went okay. Not great, but okay. I was honest, I was outgoing, I was eager (maybe too eager). I found myself rambling a bit about I'm not even sure what, and then apologizing for doing so (on God, the memory itself pains me). They told me they would get back to me "within a week or so." I left feeling nervous, uncertain, and wanting the job. Badly.
The contrast to my former self was stark. Way back when, in the earliest days of my legal career, I interviewed like a pro. In law school I endured nearly thirty on campus interviews, a week of back to back call back interviews, and then went through the whole process again a few years later when I lateraled to another firm. It was a different era when interviews, and jobs, were plentiful. And I have to say, I rocked them. I was confident, I was poised, and I knew exactly what to, and what not to, say (I even wrote an article about it). I received an offer for nearly every firm I interviewed with, whether I wanted it or not. (Someday perhaps I will write about my interview at Mayer Brown where I was so hungover, I nearly had to run to the bathroom mid interview question. But not today).
Maybe I am just out of practice, or maybe my break from professionalism has changed me. But it felt different this time. That confidence was gone.
Weeks passed and then a month, and I assumed by that point that it wasn't going to happen. My husband kept urging me to email them to follow up, to which I responded : What do you think is going to happen? I'll email them, remind them of my existence, and then they'll say, "Oh, that's right, we'd like to hire you!" There really seemed to be no point. But eventually, my patience got the best of me. I emailed my contact, with the generic interview formalities:
"I hope all is well with you. It was great to meet you last month. I just wanted to follow up on the part time position I interviewed for. I'm not sure if you have made a decision yet, but I am definitely still interested - let me know if you need any further information from me."
I sent it. I waited. And a few days later, I got the response I had ultimately expected:
"Thank you so much for your email and interest. There were some really outstanding candidates, including you. Eventually, we have decided to go with another candidate.... "
I knew it was coming, but it didn't stop that sinking feeling in my stomach from emerging as I read it. It was a feeling I hadn't felt in a while. It was the feeling of failure.
When I was working in a law firm I had a constant fear of failure. It consumed me, kept me up at night, and I think ultimately, made me a better lawyer. I was so scared of not succeeding and letting people down - the client, the partner, the court - that I went above and beyond the call of duty, driving myself to the brink of sanity in the process. And the rare times that I did fail - that I did mess up - it was hard to forgive myself. Why couldn't I do better? How could I be so stupid?
One nice thing about being out of the professional game is that I haven't felt that failure sentiment in a while. Sure, I'm not always the most patient mother, and I am certainly not a great cook, homemaker, cleaner, etc. But I am a good mother. I am a good wife. And most days, I feel satisfied and confident in what I do. The stress that once overwhelmed me - that fear of failure - is gone. And when I do delve back into professional life, mostly through freelancing, I always allow myself time and space and have managed to keep the stress at bay.
So for the first time, in a long time, I had to stare rejection straight in the face. My credentials were good enough to get me the interview. But once they met me, they didn't want me. Denied, rejected, rebuffed.
I'm over it now, and there are truly no hard feelings. At the end of the day, I probably wasn't the best person for the job. And between being a mom and freelancing and carpooling and traveling and my husband's hours and managing my obnoxious dog and all the other things that make my life hectic, working 20 hours a week would have been hard. Everything happens for a reason right?
But the whole experience made me realize how out of the game I am. Really, really out of the game.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing.