Hello again. Sorry about my absence last week from these pages. I was at a golf tournament in Portugal with a couple of people from work and didn’t have time to post anything. I had thought of writing something beforehand, but didn’t do it, and even if I did, I forgot my work laptop at the office anyway so I wouldn’t have any means to upload it anyway (I have a desktop iMac at home that I love but it doesn’t travel well). The trip was wonderful, thank you. And I’m not even a very good golfer! But that is not what I wanted to write about today. Today I will write about something that had me worried for several days when I was out of college (the time I actually graduated) and looking for work in what would become my chosen profession.
I’m bringing this up now because I just applied for two jobs last night. I’m not really looking for new work, and I still like Dubai, but one must keep his options open. One of these new jobs is based in Stockholm, Sweden. The other, and probably the one I’m most qualified for, is in Nice, France, on the French Riviera. That would be ideal as the weather wouldn’t be too drastic a change from Dubai, the beaches are better, and I’d still feel poor as all the European billionaires drive their Ferraris up and down the twisting seaside roads. Fingers crossed, I’ll be getting a call or email about an interview with one of these companies. And the interview, because of my stutter, used to scare the pants off me.
I had been to many interviews before, but those ones were different. Those were for jobs as a waiter, in retail, a laborer, etc. I was about to go to my first interview for a job as a writer, a communicator. What if I couldn’t communicate properly verbally? Wouldn’t that be the most ironic thing ever?
I arrive at the international airport in my hometown. I was applying for a communications position within the Airport Group, based at the international airport. I love watching planes take off and land. And nowadays, I’m a much better flyer than I was before. Used to be very paranoid about flying. Not so much now. I’m in a navy blue suit with light brown shoes. I doll up well. I’m also not one of those people who feels uncomfortable in a suit. Quite the opposite. I’m feeling sensational.
I meet the manager of the department, and then the other two women who will sit in on the interview with her. All three of them with more than a decade experience and the epitome of professional. I can feel my palms start to sweat. As I wait in the lobby, flipping through my work samples, my head feels ready to explode with all the hypothetical questions I’m prepared for them to ask me. My mind is my best and worst enemy at times. The questions I was coming up with were absurd, but that’s just how I roll. And as each second passes, the nerves build up. I need this work placement to attain my degree. This was my first interview. Other students had had several of them by this stage. Some even had jobs secured months before. The number of positions on offer were dwindling. I was up against 4 other students for the position, each of them probably more qualified and much better at verbalizing than I was. And I knew only too well that when my nerves go up, my chances of stuttering increase. My deep breathing turns to rapid unsteady gulps. I’m called in to sit in front of them.
I’m asked all the small talk questions first – about my drive to the airport, what the roads are like as the snow returned that morning, whether I wanted coffee, water, tea, anything. These questions don’t bother me and require no thinking whatsoever. I’m good. But these questions also help build my confidence that I am here because I was recommended by my program to be here. And as the confidence grows in other areas, my confidence that I can communicate clearly grows as well. My breathing deepens. I wouldn’t say I found a state of Zen, but possibly the adjoining state, and the freeway between them is paved and clear.
By the time the testing questions come I’m swinging away like Sammy Sosa against a little league pitcher. They’re lobbing the questions up and I’m hitting them out of the park. But then they throw a curve ball. I’m asked, not a writing or school question, but a question about my scariest travel experience. At that point in time, I hadn’t really had a scary travel experience. I’ve had plenty since (robbed in three different countries). I ask if I can tell an awe-inspiring one instead, and they agree. And as they listen, the passion for the tale oozing from my voice, my hands conducting the scene with the skill of a surgeon, my excitement grows and want to tell the story too fast. Again, that is a sure-fire way for me to stutter. I trip up; the odd word stumbled over killing the momentum of the story. Not an eyelid flutters, nary a facial expression change to signal my defeat. I press on, having come way too far to stop here. I reach the high point of the story, my face red with glee (I can feel its heat), and despite another couple of slips along the way, I end on a high, three smiling faces sitting across from me.
They close their folders and slide me a laptop. I have one hour to produce a promotional piece about a fictitious hotel and casino being built near the airport. I am free to make things up, as this hotel isn’t real. They just want to see if I can write under a time limit and if my prose is any good. I’m done in 45 minutes. I nailed their 600 word limit on the nose too.
I say goodbye and they tell me they’ll contact me regardless of getting the job or not. There’s only 5 of us to call. Two days later I get a phone call offering me the job. I’m told my piece was the best one they read. None of the others realized that the new professional caliber links-style golf course at the airport would be a major attraction to business and casual travelers alike. I toast my own genius. About a month into my placement, I’m told by one of the interviewers that although my writing was the best, my travel story also swayed them. The picked up the stutter, which wasn’t a problem. In fact, she said it showed the passion I had for the story. And that passion was evident in the written I provided as well.
No doubt if I get offered an interview with one of these new jobs I’ll be nervous as Hell and the stutter will return. And that’s okay. Out here in the real world, more times than not, it has never been seen as anything other than just part of who I am. And quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine myself without it.