Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Yesterday was a Big Day ...

For a start, I had to drive myself to Warwick University. Now, I can drive. I’ve been driving since I was 20. But I've not driven much recently. I’ve always been a cautious driver, very much aware of how a car can be a lethal weapon in careless hands. I’d driven around the block a couple of weeks ago, and that gave me some confidence, but the thought of the drive to Warwick was causing me almost as much anxiety as the interview.

So, at 1.20 – allowing myself an extra hour – I packed my interview survival kit into the car. Jacket, still in its dry-cleaning cover, hung at the back. Briefcase, smart shoes, emergency packet of nuts, bottle of water stashed on the back seat. And finally, I got into the driver’s seat.

I was fine until I got onto the M1. Then I started to feel quite nervous, as many drivers zipped about, seemingly just avoiding each other. I kept repeating to myself “I am a good driver, I can do this,” and telling myself that I just needed to take it steady and get myself there.

Which I did! I was so relieved as I pulled into the car park that I almost forgot I had an interview to go to.

However, I was about 50 minutes early. It was far too cold to sit in the car, so I made my way to reception. The receptionist was ever so kind; she could obviously tell I was nervous. (Although my excuse is that I was shaking from the cold.) She directed me to the atrium, an open area adjacent to the café, with tables and chairs. I sat down and ran through my presentation, which suddenly seemed like it had been written by someone else, in Dutch, about quantum mechanics. I put it back in my briefcase in disgust.

At 3.15, I reported to the career services reception and was directed to a squashy sofa. There was a careers supplement on the table, which I scanned, amused to read an article about people taking their dogs to work. Apparently this is becoming normal practice in some companies, including Amazon. A quote from someone said, “Sometimes you hear a bark, but this is very rare!”

3.30 came and went. I suddenly decided I hated my suit, which is several years old, and now hopelessly out of fashion.

After what seemed like a lifetime (but was only ten minutes beyond my scheduled time of 3.30), Gill, the recruiting manager, appeared. She whispered something to the receptionist (I’m still dying to know what!) then came over to say hello before leading me into a huge room towards the rear of the building. My back was to the presentation screen as I went to greet the interview panel. Meanwhile, Gill took my disk with the presentation on, and disappeared behind me to set it up while the panel introduced themselves.

Introductions made, they invited me to get my presentation out of the way. I turned around and just laughed. The screen was the size of a small cinema screen, and towered over us all. “Wow! All that, just for the four of you!” I exclaimed. Which at least broke the ice.

I ran through the presentation pretty smoothly, encountering lots of nods, especially from Gill, which boosted my confidence. Thereafter, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. There was an odd mix of questions, some that I had already been asked in the first interview, all of which I answered easily. I stood by my principles to be myself, and be honest, sharing my concerns and things I had found difficult as well as successes and so on. I wanted to be sure that they knew what they’d be getting, and that I would be supported in the areas where I would need it. I was reassured on that point.

We over-ran slightly, and Kate who I think was in the chair, suddenly concluded with a brisk “Anyway!” which made all of us jump. “Well,” she said, “this is all getting very operational, and time’s getting on.” We had been enjoying a chat about whether I wanted the job, when I could start, what days I’d like to work, how the post holder would be measured, and so on. All purely hypothetical, of course.

I walked out into the dark, not really knowing what the outcome would be, and not wanting to think about it, as I now had the drive home to concentrate on. Strangely, although I hate driving in the dark, the drive home was easier. I tucked in behind a nice slow lorry, and took my time. And soon I was home, and very pleased with myself for having made it there and back.

But then, of course, came the big wait for the Phone Call. I’d been told that Gill would phone in the evening, but part of me couldn’t quite believe that she would. I’ve been let down so many times in the past by such promises. Seven o’clock came and went. Rick poured me a gin and tonic and we sat and talked about other things. I drained my glass. Rick poured me another. The phone watched silently.

Halfway down my second G&T, it finally rang. Gill’s voice sounded tired on the other end, and quite low as she apologised for phoning so late, “domestics and all that,” she said. I had thought this might be the case, as I know she has a young child. But her subdued tone of voice didn’t quite prepare me for when she then said, “we were really impressed … like to offer you the job … really hope you’ll accept.”

“Yes, please!” I didn’t hesitate.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

How long does it take to write a 5 minute presentation?

A LONG time. That's all I've been doing since I got the letter.

Actually, I lie. Last weekend, we went to Derbyshire to treat ourselves to a weekend of walking. We stayed at the Lathkill Hotel at Over Haddon. Very friendly place, I'd definitely recommend it. Nice food and awesome view across Lathkill Dale. Two longish walks tired me out nicely, and Sunday in particular was a perfect day for walking - clear and crisp with a low sun that picked out shadows across the bumpy limestone pastureland. Bliss.

But now I'm back here, in front of my PC, worrying about my presentation, knowing that I've got to go and rehearse it. I always feel slightly ridiculous, sitting on my own and spouting to the wall. Still, better get on with it.

Friday, December 03, 2004

What a morning

Earlier this morning, I was sitting in bed with a cup of coffee, watching the family of four magpies chattering around the trees outside.

Then I heard the clatter of the letterbox, the scrumbling of letters being forced through, the thud as they landed on the doormat. The thud seemed to land somewhere in my stomach and pins and needles spread out from my centre to my finger tips. I sent Rick to get the post.

He handed me a brown envelope with the red Warwick postmark on it. My hands were shaking as I held it, then started to rip it open. I pulled out the contents, revealing the reverse of an expense claim form. Was this their way of saying “thanks but no thanks, and here’s an expense claim form for your trouble”? Unfolding it, I found a letter tucked inside. The words blurred in front of me, I couldn’t read it.

Then Rick hugged me and said “well done!” at which point my eyes focused again and I managed to read, “I am pleased to be inviting you to a panel interview at 3.30 pm on Monday 13th December”. Oddly I felt tearful, the adrenaline turning to nausea in my stomach as it started to flood away again.

An hour or so later, and I’m excited. I have to give a 5 minute (!) presentation on the topic of “Online careers provision for graduates: pitfalls and potential”. I feel confident; this is something I can think about and research easily. And I’m OK with panel interviews, they are just people, after all. Phew. Here we go again.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Well, thank goodness that's over!

I've been busy. Monday afternoon and all of Tuesday were spent preparing for my interview. It is amazing how much preparation I felt I needed to do for one 30 minute interview. However, by Tuesday evening, I felt ready for anything, and actually had a good night's sleep.

Yesterday morning, though, the adrenaline kicked in. You know, that horrible feeling that sits in your stomach, refuses food, and makes your hands shake pathetically. Although I was not consciously worrying about the interview, I was a physical wreck.

However, as soon as I walked into the reception area and started to meet people, I was absolutely fine. I met two other candidates who both seemed really nice people, enjoyed meeting the interviewers, felt interested and enthusastic about the job, and just had a good conversation really. There was a written exercise which I, once again, found my creative writing skills helped me with. Just knowing what to do with a blank sheet of paper was very helpful. I just started to write, wrote pages and pages, and then honed my final answer. No problem.

So now I'm waiting. For a phone call. I hate the way the phone dominates when I am waiting for a call. It seems to grow bigger, to fill the room with its silence. Perhaps I'll go for a walk, that's what answerphones were invented for.