Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Job Story - Part 1

I've just started my third week at my new job, and it's going swimmingly. But first, let back up to how it all came about.

A couple of months ago, I interviewed with my now boss, M. I had submitted my resume for a different position, but the HR director saw my skill set better matched M's department, so she passed it to him for review. His right-hand man, S, called to see if I would be interested in interviewing with their department instead. Yes, please - all interviews are welcome!

I met with M and could tell it would be a great fit. The only snag was that even though there was need for another body in the department, he hadn't gotten official approval from the big guys to create a position. There would be a bit of lag time.

I continued job searching. One place that contacted me to come in had an intense screening process. The first appointment was a test that all employees take regardless of the position they are applying for, from VP to mail room. It had questions on it regarding proofreading, editing, proper customer service response, etc. The second was an interview with the HR director. That went well, so they had me do the third step, a personality test. The fourth and final piece of the puzzle was a panel interview with the CEO, COO and CFO. It was a 10-minute, rapid-fire question and answer session. The HR director likened it to speed dating. It also reminded me of sorority rush.

I did very well. The CEO told me I scored exceptionally high on the editing portion of the first test. He asked the question "What job would you do if you could do any job in the world?" I answered "Travel writer." I later found out he used to be a travel writer. Sucking up accidentally helped, I'm sure.

I left the interview confident they were going to offer me the job. At every stage of the process, I was repeatedly told that they were a very structured company, and if I wasn't comfortable with that, it would not be a good fit. I like certain things structured, so I thought it might be ok, but I sensed that since they felt the need to keep reiterating it, it might be more than I'd like. But having been unemployed for a couple of months and knowing my husband was about to be laid off, I didn't have much choice.

I got the call that afternoon. It was a great offer. I accepted. I would start about a week later, after they completed a background screening. 

The Friday before I was to start working on Monday, I got an email from M saying he'd gotten the green light to create the position we had discussed. He asked if I was still interested and if I could interview with him and S. I agonized over what to do. Is it unethical to accept a job and then agree to interview with another company? What if I got another offer, switched jobs and regretted it? I prayed about it all weekend. Finally, I emailed M back Sunday night and told him I would like to meet with him and asked if we could do it at 5:45 on Monday or Tuesday since that would work best with my current schedule. Then I prayed that there would be some sign to let me know what would be the right decision.

I went to work Monday morning. It's a medium-sized corporation, a couple hundred employees, a self-contained building with security badges and a security desk at the front entrance. Everything is top-of-the-line and in pristine condition. But they weren't kidding about being very structured. Or as I would call it, militantly rigid. The phone ringer cannot be changed; the ringer volume cannot be changed; the font used in emails cannot be changed; you may hang a limited number of persona items in your cubicle but they must be approved; you may only drink from company-approved containers at your desk; you may not use your cell phone or text; you are expected to be at your desk by 8:20am to begin working by 8:30am. Hello, giant, neon sign.

By the time I left for lunch, I felt like I was suffocating with all the rules. I couldn't understand how they could possibly have found any designers who could work in that creativity-stifling atmosphere. (Later when I explained this to my friends of corporate America, they thought a few things were too much, but overall it was pretty standard. Coming from small business experiences, it was a huge paradigm shift.

I went home for lunch and checked my email (no personal Internet usage at the office). M had responded back that Tuesday at 5:45 would be fine, and since it was after hours, how about we meet at the bar and grill nearby instead of at the office? That neon sign started flashing.

I went back to the office and gave my best effort. Just because I had another interview, didn't mean I was leaving. I needed to stay focused and positive in case this was my new home for awhile. (Though by this point, I had already decided that if the interview with M didn't pan out, I would keep job searching since I couldn't see myself staying there long.)
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