updates: I’m too good at interviewing, suggesting an interviewer hire my friend, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. I’m too good at interviewing — and get offered jobs I can’t do

Nearly 2 years ago, I wrote to you about being too good at interviews and getting offers for jobs I’m not qualified for.

At the time, I had interviewed for a communications associate position at a small/mid-size media agency in my city. When the job offer came through, it was for communications director—a position I was in no way qualified for at the time.

When my letter was published, I’d already declined the director position but failed to ask why they thought I’d be a good fit AND for them to consider me for the position I applied for. I think I was feeling a little…embarrassed? Maybe that’s not the right word. But in my mind, telling them I couldn’t do the job they thought I could felt a little humiliating. Ah, well.

However…being offered a bigger job happened AGAIN (at my current company, in fact—more on that later), and I was much more prepared to find out why this was happening not only thanks to your advice, but advice from the commentariat as well! How lucky are we to be able to glean insight from absolute strangers.

In particular, one comment really stuck out to me and sent me down a long and painful road of self-reflection that helped me on a path that better aligned with my goals (thank you, Annie!): “I am very aware though of the many facets of privilege that play into this – like for me at least ‘inexplicable charisma’ is part of the story but being white, educated, tall, and attractive are all relevant. Charisma is confident happiness and confident happiness doesn’t just spring into being – it’s reflective of a life of being approved of and having your individuality treasured and encouraged.”

I’m a recovering “entitled conservative white girl” and that comment made me take a hard look at how my privilege was shaping my career trajectory. In my mind, if I had such success with interviewing and getting jobs in this field, why should I change anything?

And not to discount my experience, because I have built an impressive resume—but going into these interviews being white, educated, tall, conventionally attractive, AND confident in my own “inexplicable charisma” probably unfairly opened up a lot of doors for me. Would someone with similar experience but of a different race be given the opportunities I was offered without trying? Maybe…but also maybe not. And that “maybe not” really didn’t sit right with me.

Learning to understand the privilege I’d always had that developed my “inexplicable charisma” helped me realize that I didn’t like the superficial field I was working in, so about a year ago I switched industries. I’m still in the communications “world” but working for a company with an ethos that better fits my worldview. It’s been life-changing, to say the least! My company is actively working to make the world more inclusive, and I’ve never been happier to finally be using my privilege powers for good!

Call me a sappy bitch, but I wouldn’t be where I’m at without all of you and I feel such a fondness for this blog and this community. So thank all of you for being here.

2. I don’t want an elaborate going-away party (#5 at the link)

I was very firm and reiterated to my management that I did not want a party and was uncomfortable being put on the spot. I suggested that I instead bring in donuts and pastries for my last day in the office, and people could stop by and say goodbye to me individually.

Unfortunately my management really, REALLY likes doing these awkward going away parties so my suggestion wasn’t acceptable. We came to a semi-compromise: there would be an office potluck to celebrate the end of our busy season (which had just wrapped up), employees celebrating birthdays in the quarter, and my going away, all lumped in together. This sounded acceptable to me as the focus would be shifted off of me somewhat.

I met with my coworker who had been tasked with planning the potluck, and told him that I do not want any speeches and (please please please) no Goodbye Song. (By the way, it is not from Sound of Music or any other songs guessed in the comments. It is in a foreign language that about a fifth of the employees speak, and the non-speakers get printouts of the lyrics written phonetically.)

As I’m heading into the conference room for the potluck, I see the aforementioned lyric printouts being passed out. There were no speeches luckily, but I couldn’t escape without one more rendition of The Goodbye Song.

But honestly it wasn’t that bad. It was as strange as it always is, and of course frustrating that my request wasn’t taken seriously, but that’s kind of a reflection of my whole experience working there. On to better things in my new job!

3. Can I suggest my interviewer hire my friend instead? (#4 at the link)

I woke up on the morning of the interview to not one but two sick children. Given the ongoing pandemic, I sent a quick email asking if they still wanted to meet, and we decided that interviewing on zoom would be the best option.

What I learned in the interview was that the job would actually be a great fit for my skillset, but we had very different understandings of what “part time” looked like. I am hoping to find something 10-15 hours a week at this point, and they wanted someone to start at 20-25 and ramp up to full time over the next 18 months or so.

Obviously that wasn’t going to work, so the next day I sent them an email thanking them for their time and withdrawing my application. I explained my reason, and attached my friend’s cover letter and resume with an note that I thought she’d be great.

She starts today! 🙂

Thank you all again for helping me navigate this in the most professional way possible.