How to Land the Job of Your Dreams: The Arbitrary Interview Process

interview_blogI have been working at Beyond Spots & Dots for two full months. It feels like a lifetime. How did I get so lucky, when some people struggle to find a job they love?

I have been thinking  lately that the whole job search process is a blend of luck and strategy and wit and formula–therefore it is entirely and completely random. There is no “process.” No one is right or wrong, no one has the advantage. It’s everyone for themselves. Yet we try to help each other out by doling out these rules and say that they will work if you follow them to a T.

Like little robots, college students come out of graduation with resumes and cover letters in hand, and carefully practiced answers to interview questions. With a degree, some activities and an internship, they all look the same on paper. What it comes down to must be the interview. Continue reading

Choosing to Face the Ocean

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There were two ways my life could’ve gone. Be comfortable and complacent, taking the easy, known road, however unhappy I may be. Or step out of that comfort zone and dive into completely new waters, struggle through the unknown to discover something I love. I hope you can guess which one I chose. Continue reading

Welcome to film camp, everybody.

On the set of "The Curse of Mokato" at the Joey Travolta Film Camp

On the set of “The Curse of Mokato” at the Joey Travolta Film Camp

On July 15th, I started working with the Joey Travolta Film Camp as part of my job at Steeltown. Steeltown’s Youth and Media program had partnered with the director of the camp, Carolyn Hare, and for the past two years, staff and interns have had the opportunity to work at the camp and act as “aides” for the kids.

If you are unfamiliar with the Joey Travolta Film Camp, as I’m sure many of you are, it is a two-week summer camp for kids and young adults on the autism spectrum. Joey Travolta himself (brother of John Travolta) directs the camp and has held similar programs in other cities for the past eight years. This is the third time that Carolyn has brought Joey and his team to the Burgh.

You can read more about the camp in my article on Steeltown’s website.

But I want to tell you the real story. Not that the article on Steeltown’s site isn’t true. I know it is because I wrote it. But this is my story and the kids’ story. This is behind the scenes. This is the heart of the camp. Continue reading

Everything Must Go

Moving_Boxes_right_topIf you have never packed up an entire company and multiple offices worth of files, supplies, and knick-knacks, and moved it all to a new office space across town, in the span of about two to three weeks, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Moving is all at once frustrating, confusing, irritating, time-consuming, tedious, and above all liberating. It is like doing laundry, or cleaning the bathrooms–you don’t want to do it, but it must be done, and when it is, the result is worth the effort.

The nonprofit organization that I work for, Steeltown Entertainment Project, has recently moved to a new office building. This move has come with all of the trials and tribulations a move can come with, and then some. But didn’t someone famous once say, the greater the effort, the greater the reward?

Moving a business or company is not like moving your family to a new house. When your family moves, the stuff is yours. It is stuff that you bought, you own, you live with and you love. You want to take care of it and cautiously move it from its cherished location in home #1 to a new cherished location in home #2. When people move their place of work, the things are not household things, you don’t live with them and you probably didn’t purchase them. You certainly don’t love those dusty old files and office supplies that someone forgot about and now must be organized, packed, and relocated. 

Keep in mind that Steeltown is a relatively small nonprofit that was founded in 2003. It is not very old, nor does it have very many employees, when compared with large businesses or corporations. Three offices can’t possibly hold that much stuff, can it?

But the mantra for our two-week packing spree should have been, “Everything must go” because that about sums it up. We packed up boxes and boxes and boxes of old files to be archived. We taped them up securely because they will rarely be accessed. We packed boxes and boxes of filing supplies and offices supplies. Just when we taped a box shut, we found a whole stash of the same thing hidden somewhere else. We packed up boxes of computer equipment, software, editing equipment, tapes, DVD’s, VHS’s. There were kitchen-y supplies. And more files which were being actively used. Everything had to go.

As a recent hoarding convert, this appalled me. When I was younger I liked to keep everything, until I pulled it out 15 years later and realized it really didn’t have any value, sentimental or otherwise. I’ve become in recent months a firm believer of throwing things out that you no longer use- such as clothes, shoes, receipts, etc., as hard as it may seem at the time. So here I was, packing up things that had not been touched in years simply because they were forgotten about. If no one knew they were there, how could they be missed if they were thrown out? And yet, they were boxed and packed. Never to be seen again. The only thing I was really permitted to throw away was expired food. And some of the food I found had expired as long ago as 2009. No one was going to argue me on that one.

The hardest part about moving offices for me came from being the newest staff member. I didn’t know where things were kept or how they were organized or how they were planned to be organized later. I didn’t know where things came from, why we were keeping it, or why we had it in the first place. I found things that were so seemingly random that I kept a box that I called “Random Things to be Sorted Later.” That box quickly became five.

The packing seemed long and tedious. The boxes seemed endless. All of the packed boxes were going down to the basement of the building to await Moving Day, but it seemed as soon as we’d packed them and stored them there, we needed something that was in there. A business has to keep running, after all, even while it’s packing.

Finally, the offices were empty, the last boxes taped shut. I didn’t have to partake in Moving Day, but the day after, there everything was, all the boxes in their new separate offices, waiting to be unpacked and sorted yet again.

But I’ve always liked unpacking better than packing. I can put things where I want them, organize them how I like, and I know exactly where everything is.

Now, day three in the new office and (almost) everything has a place. And I can finally look up from the boxes and take stock of my upgrade– from sitting on a hard plastic chair, sandwiched between two or three other people in the same room, with my laptop balancing precariously on a bookshelf, to my new comfortable office chair with my own desk, soon to be my own computer, in my own office. Never was a moment so gratifying.

Moving offices means more than just packing stuff up and putting it in a new place. It means the company is expanding. It means better working conditions, where employees are more efficient. It means making a bigger impact, being a bigger presence in the city of Pittsburgh. This is the liberating feeling of progress.

Oh and that famous person’s quote?

“The greater the effort, the greater the glory.”  -Pierre Corneille, French playwright. With all the effort we put in, Steeltown better be headed for glory…

(photo via)

First Day, First Job, Big Sigh of Relief

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Someday I will be able to look back on the time I spent post-graduation running around tables with martini shakers in both hands and ketchup splatters on a starched white shirt, and I’ll laugh. Someday I’ll think back on the time I spent shivering in a swimming pool trying to get a little girl to put her head under the water, and it will be a pleasant memory. Someday I’ll remember the days that I put in four or eight or twelve hours of work and didn’t make a dime, and I’ll be able to better appreciate it.

But today, on the first day of my first real job, all I’m doing is breathing a sigh of relief. Today, all of the temporary jobs and short-term internships and sporadic hours are too recent. The six months I spent in frustration and bewilderment after I graduated without a job are too fresh in my mind. So today, after my first day, all I’ll do is breathe. And someday six months will seem like nothing. The jobs I worked will seem so distant. Someday it will be funnier.

Today I started my job as an Administrative Assistant for Steeltown Entertainment Project, here in Pittsburgh, PA. After interning with this nonprofit organization for several months, the position opened up and was offered to me a few weeks ago. This was the first of hopefully many good days.

On the mountain that is life, I am at the bottom. I haven’t seen much of the world, I haven’t met many people, I haven’t climbed very high. But I have big plans for myself. I have things to do, places to go. I am happy to have this opportunity to take my first step.

I may not have gone very far yet, but I couldn’t have made it here, and I wouldn’t be who I am, without some really great people in my life. My parents are my rock and my home and they let me move back. Jim believed in me more than I believed in myself. Hannah is my therapy, with hour and half phone conversations every week, the best friend I could ask for. Some really awesome PR pros (hopefully you know who you are) served as my role models and social media guides. And some great friends, new and old, were the best distraction.

Thank you to everyone who gave me advice, everyone who taught me anything, and anyone who had to put up with my incessant lament, “why, oh why can’t I get a job?

Now I can stop being stressed and frustrated. I can breathe a sigh of relief and let it all soak in. This is the start of something big, I can feel it.

 

(photo via)

The Things I Do as a Production Assistant

I spent the past three weekends in September working on the set of a small movie being shot here in Pittsburgh. I was an unpaid production assistant, trying out something new and looking to gain some experience.

As a production assistant, people tell you what to do and you do it as quickly and efficiently as you can. When they don’t tell you what to do, you should be paying attention to what’s going on so that if someone mutters something under their breath, you can then do it before they actually ask. Production assistants carry things and move things and get people things. They stand in the rain and direct traffic and drive the transport van back and forth from the parking lot. They make runs to Starbucks for coffee and for snacks and for hardware and nails and for sunscreen. Production assistants ask people to be quiet and then they yell loudly for people to be quiet. They keep the talent hydrated and fed and amused. They hold the slate or wrangle cords or bring apple boxes then take apple boxes away. They stand in for talent so the camera can set up the shot or so the current actor knows where their eye line should be. They pose as extras if needed and sometimes their backs are used for over-the-shoulder shots. They use the walkie talkie all day every day  and if all of this is understood, they say “copy that.”  That’s just the basics.

I knew all of this. I’ve been a production assistant before. I have the production assistant handbook. But it was a little different trying to jump into all of this with a small group of people I’d never met, asking me to do more than just refill coolers. I should be happy. I should be glad that they needed me to do some real production things like set up lights or hold an iPad for them. On a bigger production, I hadn’t been allowed to touch anything technical. So this was pretty cool. But it took me a little while to get into the swing of it. Luckily some of these great crew members were willing to be patient and teach me a few things.

I would say I felt much more useful by the end of the shoot and I can definitely say I learned a lot. By the last day, I was able to set up a branch in a C stand by myself to make it look like a tree outside the window. I was able to set up flags and put silks on frames. People could ask me for gels or scrims or a combo or a lolli and I knew what those things were.

These were some long days, but they were worth it.

And hopefully no one recognizes the awkward girl in the background of some scenes. Because that would be me and that would be embarrassing.

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To read more about my experiences on the set of “Lemonade” check out my guest post on the Hollyburgh blog: The Real Meaning of “Lights, Camera, Action”

It’s the People at the Restaurant, Not the Tips

There are a lot of things I could say about working in a restaurant, and things that I already have.  Most things you notice about restaurants, whether you eat at them or work in them, are obvious. The food, the service, the tips, busy nights and slow nights and late nights. There is good service and bad service. People leave good tips for good service, or bad tips because they were never taught otherwise. Or no tips, I get those too. But I don’t want to tell you about tips. I want to tell you about people.

Servers are there to make money. Let’s not step around that fact. We are there for the tips. The good ones, that is. But sometimes, every once in awhile, you get a chance to slow down a little, you step out of the kitchen and away from the computer. Your tables are happy and no one needs anything. And when you look around you, you get a chance to see the moments of other people’s lives. You get a glimpse into other people’s worlds. You can see what other people are going through, or you can imagine what their lives might be like when they get home to their kids. And this is something that I have found spectacular about working in a restaurant. You see so many kinds of different people, so many people, all the people. You say a few words to these people and watch them for a few seconds. You see them eat food for a few minutes and a whole world opens up behind them.

On busy days, there isn’t much time for people-watching, but sometimes there is the rare day when it’s a slow afternoon and at several tables are seated just the most intriguing human beings.

There’s the e-Harmony date. A man and a woman walk in and sit at a table near the bar. They sit across from each other and order a bottle of red wine at 12:30pm. The woman is rather loud, the man is more soft-spoken, with a kind face. They’re leaning in to each other and laughing a lot throughout their conversation. It’s probably a good date, maybe there will be a second. They sit there until 5pm, three bottles of wine later. Definitely a good date. She had mentioned several bad first dates she had been on, so maybe that’s a good sign. Maybe she’ll go home after the date and call up her girl friend and talk all about the kind, gentle guy she’d gone out with and how he’s completely different from the other guys she’s dated and she’ll talk about possibilities. Maybe he’ll go home and Google-search her for a third time. Make sure she’s not too good to be true. Or maybe not. But I saw that they were on a date and enjoying each other’s company.

There is a table with a very young couple. Probably about 17– at least driving age. At first the boy looks mad; it looks like they’re fighting. The host told me he had slammed the car door shut and walked in about 10 feet in front of her. But then they’re at the table and while we’re speculating what the fight is about, he starts crying. Maybe his uncle was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe his grandmother died. His girlfriend is comforting him as best she can and they are clearly not fighting. They have a quick lunch and leave together. Just a glimpse into someone’s life while they eat.

At another table sits an older couple. It’s the end of the night, the crowd has died down and they’re sitting next to each other in a rounded booth, clearly still in love after 40, 50, 60 years but quiet, as if maybe they’ve said all they needed to say out loud over the years and now words aren’t needed. So when I greet them they are anxious to talk and they tell me about their lives. The man told me that they were from Delaware, since I’d mentioned that I just graduated from school there. He said he went to school at Duquesne and it took him thirteen years to graduate, taking night classes, because he was already married with kids and working a full-time job. But he did graduate and he is still with his Mrs. having dinner.

Every table has a story. But as waiters and waitresses, all we see are the minutes when they’re sitting at the table and all we can do is speculate. But each table, each snapshot is unique. Each family looks different and acts differently. Some families are loud and messy, with lots of children. Their lives are probably hectic and they probably don’t get out to eat very often. Maybe they’re like my family and celebrating a good report card. Other families are quiet. The kids are older and don’t want to be seen with their parents but their parents love them anyways. Some tables contain old friends that haven’t seen in each other in years. They order a drink and wait hours to order their meal, just to make the time pass more slowly. They pay the check and sit for a few more hours, their glasses of water all but empty. Maybe they were college roommates, or maybe they both got screwed over by the same guy and found a common bond that lasted all their lives.

These are the moments that make up these lives. Their trip to the restaurant might become part of the story they tell their grandkids. Their moments are special and brief, for us, but maybe for a few minutes I can live vicariously through them. I can be at their business meeting or their jewelry party and be part of that moment. I can take a picture of the old friends and I can make small talk and smile. I can give them that because they all have given me these small glimpses into their lives.

Maybe this is what makes people like working in a restuarant so much. Seeing a moment of another person’s life, speculating what the rest of it might look like. It’s just a snapshot, but sometimes, a picture equals a thousand words.

My name is Meg and I’ll be your server this evening…

It’s the job you get during college, to make money for weekend fun and to stock up on Easy Mac. It’s the job you get because your parents want you out of the house during the summer. It’s the job you get because you spent all your money on weekend fun and now real life is glaring right in front of you after graduation. And then it’s the job you get because the real job seems to be eluding you, the unemployment rate is rising ever higher and you can’t stand one more day in your parents’ house.

Waitress. Server. Restaurant work. Busboy. Server’s assistant. Runner. Cook. Dishwasher. Whatever you want to call it. You’re working in a restaurant because it’s probably the one job where the unemployment rate is practically 0%. Restaurants are constantly turning over employees, whether they lose them to high school or college, or people leave for their real jobs, or they show up late and hungover one too many times. And if one certain restaurant doesn’t seem to be having any of those problems then there are a hundred others within a 20 minute radius of your house that would take you.

Restaurant work is not very difficult. It’s repetitive. Table sits. Greet, drinks, take orders, serve food, refill drinks, offer dessert, check. Goodbye, next table please.

It’s all about what you do to earn that tip. You have to be pleasant, smile, leave your emotions at the door. Forget about the fight you had with your parents, forget about the fact that your girlfriend hasn’t texted you all day–any little sign you show of not wanting to be waiting on that table lowers your tip a little more. Be funny. Tell a little joke that will make the people at your table laugh and distract them from the fight they are having with their spouse. Don’t check on them too often and certainly don’t forget about them. Make them feel like they are the only table you have, even if you are running around like a crazy person and sweat is glistening on your forehead. Just try to wipe the sweat away before you ask them if they are enjoying their meal.

If the people at your table are just not having any of it–the food is wrong no matter how it’s cooked, your service is terrible even though you’ve done nothing wrong, the check is too high even though you rang everything in correctly–then you force that smile to your ears as you say, “Thank you for dining with us today and please have a wonderful evening.” And don’t let them see you slam the kitchen door behind you in utter exasperation.

These are some of the things I’ve learned through working in a few different restaurants. I’m sure other servers will tell you the same thing. Restaurant work is not much different, no matter where you are. Some tables are great and others are frustrating, needy, complaining, and don’t leave good tips. In fact, if you watch the movie Waitingyou’ll get a good idea of what it’s like to be a server (with about 92% accuracy, minus the spitting). But  you might actually have to be a server to think it’s funny.

I started waiting tables in college, after I stopped swimming. I suddenly had an extra 20+ hours of time on my hands and I realized I was out of money. Miraculously, a restaurant that was just an eight minute walk from my house hired me as a server, knowing that the only work experience I’d ever had involved swimsuits and lane lines. But they trained me well, taught me the ten core values, drilled the mission statement into my head and gave me a huge written test involving every topping, dressing, and vegetable in the house. And I had “earned my kilt.” (It was an Irish restaurant and our uniform included a mini-kilt.) I became a great server and I loved the people I worked with. I hated 35 cent wing night, $5 burgers and selling shots, but I made enough money to get me through my senior year.

Last summer, I worked at a small bar and grille that might be considered a step down from the college bar. I got two days of training and then they shoved me at a table, where I proceeded to screw everything up because they hadn’t bothered to let me learn the menu. I hated the people I worked with and hated the hours. But hey, they let me read my book in front of customers when I was bored, so I didn’t complain–much.

And now I’m making a huge step up, I believe. I’m currently waiting–both on real-world jobs and on tables. The restaurant is nicer than one I could afford for dinner and so far, the people I’m working with are great. They trained me well, and it was easier to pick up since I’d already been well-trained before. I made a few flash cards to learn the menu and the manager validated me with confidence.

Those early lessons I learned from my first restaurant at college will always get me through the rough shifts. No one taught them to me, they were lessons that could only truly be learned from experience. “Please” and “Thank you” go a long way– with customers, managers, fellow servers, and cooks and dishwashers. Help bus tables, even if it’s not your table or your job–someone will help you later on when you need it. If you’re not sure about an entree or an ingredient or how to ring something in, ask. It’s worse to completely screw up an order and waste food. And always, always smile. You might make someone’s day. And yes, it’s almost always all about the tip, but you never know what kind of nice, interesting, or wonderful people you might meet.

So, welcome. My name is Meg and I will be your server this evening. (smile)

A Clean Face Means College is Over

Yesterday, I took out my nose ring for good. That tiny little diamond stud curling delicately into the side of my right nostril was the symbol of my youth, my college years, my attempted rebellion. It was the “stupid thing” you’re supposed to do when you’re young that your parents don’t know about, but I made sure my stupidity wasn’t permanent. I didn’t even ever think it was stupid. It was just–me.

In a world of trying to fit in and dress the right way and act like everyone else, I wanted to stand out in one small way. I had to go to every class, get a high GPA and make every swim practice and volunteer and participate in clubs; I was the oldest, the almost-type-A, organized and smart, setting a good example. In high school I felt like there was that small rebel in me just trying to break free. I was the one in the family who never screwed up, never got a detention, never skipped school, never stayed out too late or went to parties–I was the good girl. So I got my nose pierced.

It could hardly be considered “rebellion” when you look at the rebellious things kids really do. But it was something that no one would believe I would do. I wanted shock and awe, but nothing too outrageous. No gauges or industrial bars or skull and crossbones. A simple stud would do.

Freshman year of college, after the swimming season ended, I took a bunch of my friends to a sketchy tattoo parlor on Kirkwood Highway. They held my hand while the three-inch needle poked out of my face, and I was just laughing. It hurt so much that I was laughing and I just about broke their knuckles. It’s funny how you don’t see your nose on your face until there is an unfamiliar object stuck into it. For a few weeks afterward, I was so aware of the glittering jewelry in my face that people probably thought I’d gone cross-eyed from looking down at it.

I reveled in the second looks people gave me, I loved that they thought I was cool or brave. They asked me if it hurt, if my parents knew; or they told me I was stupid because I’d have a hole in my nose for the rest of my life. I hadn’t told my parents, but they would find out when I went home for Easter. I have tons of freckles so the hole is not that noticeable to anyone who’s not looking for it. I was just basking in the glory of doing something rash and spur of the moment and what I considered rebellious. (I had only considered my decision to get my nose pierced for about a day before actually doing it.) I even found myself turning my head for pictures so that it might show up. You could only see it if it caught the flash, and those were my favorite pictures of myself.

I’ve taken it out before and put it back in with no problem. In fact, I had an internship last summer and I took it out every morning that I had to work and put it back in at the end of the day. I’ve taken it out for a few job interviews. But yesterday I took it out forever. It was time. College is over, the parties are behind me, and the rebel in me is being forced into submission in order to find a job. Employers don’t want to interview someone with a distracting stud in their nose. They don’t want someone to stand out with a nose ring in a sea of earrings. They want clean-cut and normal. They want subtle femininity, clean and polished. No one wants the girl with holes in her face. (At least this is what I have been told about employers.)

So in my effort to find a job and impress people with how clean-cut and put together I am, I took it out. I also had to take it out because my new waitressing job doesn’t tolerate facial piercings either. It felt like I was finally putting my college years behind me. It’s sad because college was the best four years of my life (thus far) and my little stud was a reminder of all of that. It represented growing up and figuring things out for myself. It was my personal statement that I was not just another face in the sea of college students. But taking it out means growing up too, and moving on with my life. It’s an affirmation that I’m not going back to school and I have to look forward to the real world; and I will do so with a nose-ring-less face.

Searching for “The Interview Suit”

Hasn’t Elle Woods taught the world anything? Women can be successful lawyers and wear cute pink suits, impossibly high stilettos, and pass out scented resumes printed from their bright neon laptop, while carrying their little pooch in the crook of their arm. Right?

Well, as my public relations professor, Carolyn White Bartoo, would say: Wrong.

So I have potential interviews coming up and obviously I had nothing in my closet that remotely resembled the standard, black, one-or-two-button blazer with functional pockets (for carrying prospective employers’ business cards in one and your own in another while managing to shake hands and draw from the correct pocket. Duh.), with matching pants and/or skirt of the appropriate, right-at-the-knee length, and plain, one-inch-high, black faux leather heels. Oh, don’t worry, I have some plain, drab professional clothes, just not the perfect interview attire. I have a few pairs of presentable black pants, a couple short-sleeved nice blouses, and a pair of worn suede flats. These clothes served their purpose at the time, for events of lesser importance.

But now I am out of college, in the big leagues. This is real, people. It’s time for the Interview Suit.  Which, once I get a job, I will probably never wear again because either I will be in a creative enough field that they will worship my originality and choice of color patterns in my wardrobe, or I will be making enough money to buy a really nice suit that is allowed to show some variation of style. But for now, it’s the Interview Suit.

So yesterday, I headed to the mall with my mom with several stores in mind, hoping to take advantage of her superior knowledge of shopping. My mom had slightly different ideas about which stores might or might not have a “young” suit. I proceeded to tell my mom that I am 22 years old, out of college and entering the professional world–I should not be looking in a juniors department. But we hit all the stores possible in our local mall. And then ended up back at the first one we entered. So let me explain.

Although an avid shopper, my mom had to admit that she is a little out of her league when it comes to suits. She hasn’t worn one in many years. She said she doesn’t even own one currently. So in her head, she is thinking suits come together on the hanger and there will be plenty of options based on whether you prefer Calvin Klein or Anne Taylor or any other number of designers. I had no reason to argue with her logic; it seemed plausible. But we soon realized as we perused Macy’s that these days, while some are still hung together, many suits are sold as separates. Like bathing suits. And like bathing suits (which I also have an incredibly hard time finding), they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, patterns. At least in Macy’s. So we started pulling. She had a pile, I had a pile, we head to the fitting room. With the first skirt/jacket combo I try on, I realize I’m a petite. I don’t even try any of the others, and then we discover there are really no options for petites in Macy’s. Fail.

We moved on to J.Crew and found the most brilliant, perfect, wonderful, incredible suit–for almost $400. Now, some people, who are going to wear a suit many times in their life and keep it forever and love it like a child, might be okay with spending $400 on a suit. I am not one of those people. My mom was ready to throw up her hands and hand over the credit card but I refused. We kept looking. White House Black Market had a few options, on sale, but not my size. Of course, everyone is a size 2 these days, didn’t you know? We went to Nordstrom. Maybe it was the fact that I had my hair pulled into a messy ponytail that day, or that I was wearing a faded Old Navy T-shirt, but the sales clerks at Nordstrom seemed genuinely incredulous that I, of all people, would be looking for a suit. Humph.

“Do you have an interview?” the hundred-year-old lady asked with the air of a grandmother speaking to a five-year-old.

Why yes. I am 22 years old, have a Bachelor’s degree, and I will hopefully be moving into a high-powered job in New York City, thank you very much. Now go back to your register. 

We moved on. Slight distraction at the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale. But then moving on again, we realized it was getting late. So we headed back to The Limited, where we had started, having only  browsed the racks beforehand, not knowing what to look for. Well we had a much better idea, three hours later.

So, running out of time, we grabbed the “Drew Cut” and the “Clarice Cut” styles of pants. We dug through several styles of skirts and found a great blazer. I tried on flare pants and boot-cut, blue suits and black. (However, blue suits are hard to match shoes to so I would definitely not recommend that, unless you have some really great blue shoes.) And more quickly than I would have thought possible, I walked out of the fitting room in the perfect, black, tasteful, affordable Interview Suit.

But going back to Elle Woods. She worked incredibly hard to prove to everyone that a blond bimbo from Delta Nu can have just as much brains and be just as successful as any suit-wearing, briefcase-toting Harvard student. She gave her resumes “a little something extra” and stood out in the sea of students with her neon computer. She wore feather boas and sequins and sported her style with confidence and pride. Now, I do not quite share her exact style, but I do wish that it was acceptable for professionals to show their style, to wear a color. For example, I had picked out a red top to wear under the blazer in Macy’s and my mom raised her eyebrows. “Red means power. I don’t think you want to show power in a first interview.” Why not? Why can’t I show my confidence and wear a color of my choosing? Why can’t I deviate from the masses, stand out in my own creative and tasteful way? How am I supposed to stand out as the best candidate for the job if I look exactly the same as everyone else?

But, again Carolyn White Bartoo would be tutting at me. People judge. Employers judge. They make snap decisions. And they may not mean to, but they are not looking for someone dressed in red head to toe who looks like she’s going to take over the company. (Because apparently wearing red means that’s what you’re set out to do.) Employers want candidates who look put together, professional, and competent in a plain and subdued way. When you get the job, dress however you want, if they let you. But in the interview, you have to show your style in your words and in your previous work.

Elle Woods actually took a lot of crap in the beginning of her Harvard days because people immediately judged her. And in the interview, you only get a few seconds, a few minutes to make that impression, and you don’t need any distractions.

Oh well, I guess I can wear red tomorrow. But at least I got the Interview Suit.