Note: The dialogue in this post is not verbatim. For one thing, my memory isn't word-perfect. For another, it would delight me if people actually read this, and I like to think that my edited version of the conversation, which catches the key points, entertains better than a transcript version.
That could have gone better.
Today, I had my first interview since I graduated. I took a few weeks off from job-hunting after graduation, as I was in the middle of travel and a move, and I had some difficulty ensuring that my body, a reliable method of real-time communication, and my computer would all be in the same place at a scheduled time. Once I finished moving and could guarantee my presence at a telephone or in-person interview, I started applying again.
Finally, I thought, today marks the beginning of the next phase of my job search. I felt pretty optimistic right up until the phone rang. Then, the nerves hit.
First, the interviewer expressed surprise when I clarified that my experience has been all part-time or short-term and that my title when I work at the preschool is "Teacher's Aide", not "Teacher". I had thought that the dates on my resume made it clear that the work experience I've gained has been during periods of higher education.
"You've graduated now, right? What have you been doing since?"
"Mostly, I've been looking for a job," I said.
"Is that it?" she asked.
"I'm also back working part-time and short-term at the preschool to keep myself busy while staying able to focus on my career development."
"How are you finding the job market?" the interviewer asked.
"It's a little bit rough," I told her, "but I was getting a pretty good response during my finals week, even though there was a lull in June."
When asked which engineering area I'd studied, I explained a little bit more about the interdisciplinary nature of my degree, which always make me feel awkward, like the employer thinks I've misrepresented myself. I don't claim to be an engineer, I claim to have an interdisciplinary degree that includes the core engineering curriculum.
After about ten minutes on the phone, the interviewer explained that this concluded the initial phone screening, thanked me for my time, and told me I should hear about next steps in a week or so. I smiled, said good-bye, and hung up with the distinct impression that she thought I had misrepresented myself on my resume and wondering what, other than looking for jobs, I was supposed to have been doing since my graduation (which was barely two months ago).
I have been trying very hard to do All The Right Things with my transition to a role in adult society. (While college is part of the transition, it definitely doesn't count as part of adult society.) In this particular instance, I have spent time in crafting a resume that paints my experiences in the best possible light while still presenting a factually accurate picture of my talents. I don't think my resume overstates my accomplishments: in school, I have worked hard and achieved well; in the workplace, I have done good work and made at least some impact in at least three of the four places I've worked*.
K has pointed out that I may be reading too much into the interview because I'm nervous and because the job market is so frightening, and I hope he's right. However, his sensible response does not dispel my low-level urge to break down and beg interviewers to just tell me what more they want me to do before they hire me so that I can go out and do it. It's hard for me to stay reasonable in an environment where I know people will consider me lazier and more inadequate the longer I am unemployed or underemployed.
Still, assuming that I do hear back when expected, I should know in about a week if my fears are unfounded. Until then, I'm going to do my best put the worry away and keep looking.
*I tried to make an impact at the minimum-wage retail job, too, but my opportunities to do so there were limited.