High on life – even with a nasty cold (and no I’m not on cold meds either)!

Yesterday will count as one of those days in my life when things unmistakably went my way. Even if, for whatever reason, something occurs to change the outcome, I'll always remember how good it felt.

I started the day getting ready, with great care and attention to detail (meaning, every time Brandon brushed his face against my legs, I immediately wiped my pants down to remove the traces of his cold – you know what I'm talkin' 'bout, moms). I donned my black suit with the "power" red camisole and matching earring/necklace set so that I was coordinated perfectly. I made sure that every hair was in place and attempted to generously cover every blemish with a thorough coating of makeup. Secure behind my mask and costumed in confidence, I took Brandon to daycare and headed downtown.

I arrived about 40 minutes early, so I wandered around the building of my potential employer, thinking through how I felt about working downtown. On one hand, the commute is a drawback. I live in the 'burbs and I would have to bus in to work every day. The commute from my house – including some walking – will be about an hour going and coming. A drawback, but made better by the fact that this isn't a 40-hour a week job; it's 37.5 hours, and my workday will start pretty early – either at 7:30 or 8:00am. (Oy, my doctor’s appointments are gonna be tricky since my doc is in the burbs, too!)

I've worked downtown before and, except for the unending cigarette smoke, I can't really find anything to dislike about it. If I want, I can hop a bus and be at the Rideau Centre (my fave mall in Ottawa) in about 5 minutes over my lunch hour for shopping – a convenient perk when it comes to Christmas shopping, the season that's coming up WAY too fast!! Besides the Rideau Centre, there are shops all over the downtown area that offer a real variety if you're looking for a little retail therapy.

Perhaps even more important to note is the restaurants. Downtown is home to countless really good restaurants of just about every type of food imaginable. Of course, my diet means that I'll be sticking close to my desk and that will benefit my waistline and my bank balance. When I've worked downtown before, I spent a small fortune on food but I plan to brown bag it this time.

So, sitting in the ground floor of the building of my potential employer, I decided once and for all that I was okay with the possibility of working downtown. I have to admit that part of the attraction was that I genuinely liked everyone I'd met with so far and so it makes it easier to commit to the extra time I'll spend commuting. In a way, I'm kind of looking forward to the commute to catch up on reading/podcasts. Riding the bus is great for that. It also allows me to feed my gadget addiction with dreams of buying an iPhone or Sony eReader!

Finally, it was time for me to go upstairs for my interview. It was a short one – only 30 minutes as compared with the 1 hour of the first round. The intention was to be low-key and casual because I was there primarily to meet my prospective boss; she'd been on holidays when I was in for my first interview. Our conversation flowed easily and I felt really good about my answers as well as the responses from my interviewers. When I left, I was about 99% sure that I had just landed myself a job. Either way, I was told they were going to make a decision by the next day (today).

Back at home, I went about my day as usual and ended up getting a call for an interview at another company (the third in two weeks). I was interested in the position, so I agreed to come in on the off chance that things didn’t work out; you know, in case I was 99% wrong. About an hour after I scheduled that interview, I got a completely unexpected call from the HR representative at the company downtown. She was calling to give me a verbal offer. After giving me all the details, I unreservedly gave my verbal acceptance. Everything I was offered was in line with what I had hoped to get from them. After hanging up, I ran – I never run anywhere if I can avoid it – outside to tell Matt the good news. The adrenalin was flowing and I was thrilled to have finally succeeded at finding work.

Here's the funny thing about this position, compared to the others: it's a one-year contract. The others were permanent. Despite that, from the first time I talked with their HR rep, I just had the strongest feeling of rightness about the job. I could easily find myself unemployed again a year from now, but I’m going to hope for the best. Either I'll find another position within the same organization – especially if I really love it, or I'll look for the next opportunity that comes up for me. If my instincts aren't heinously flawed, this should be a really pleasant work experience for me and I'm looking forward to getting back into a regular routine.

The only downer about today was having a cold come on pretty suddenly. I’m relieved it decided to show up now and not in 2 weeks when I'll be starting my new job. I've missed working and I’m definitely looking forward to going back. That's one thing I've learned these last few months – I do not think I'm cut out to be a stay-at-home mom, no matter how much I’d like to try. Perhaps there will come a time in the future that will change for me, but until then I will continue to work outside the home.

I love it when I have a good day like this! And now I hope that I am able to get a nap today since I was up half the night with this lame cold. ;)

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No longer an interview virgin

Since being laid off in May, I’ve applied for somewhere around 60-70 jobs. It was a slow summer and some jobs I applied for ended up being wrong for me for a variety of reasons – at least the ones I was contacted about. 60-70 jobs sounds like a lot, but one of my neighbors actually applied for at least 100 before she finally got an interview – and I’m happy to say she got an offer that she accepted from her one and only interview. It’s indicative of the timing and the market over the last few months that I’ve only been able to apply for 60-70 jobs. As soon as school started up again, I noticed a dramatic increase in the number of postings. It’s almost like the world shuts down for cottage season in Canada. But patience is paying off!

This week I had TWO interviews - both for very similar positions. I feel like my return on applications has been justified by those two interviews alone (when compared with my neighbor’s experience). The anticipation of meeting with these two prospective employers was nerve-wracking in a way that interviews hadn’t been for me previously. I know I’m capable, have a strong work ethic and I have always been confident in my ability to express myself in interviews in the past. However, in both interviews this week, I got questions that I couldn’t immediately answer and I floundered. It wasn’t pretty. That’s not to say that the interviews didn’t go well overall – I was actually fairly happy with the end result. I’m just wondering why I’m so nervous and I have a few theories.

I suppose it’s primarily because I really want to get a job sooner than later, so there’s some anxiety coming into play. Being off all summer has been nice, but I like being busy and at times that I’ve felt at a loss for what to do; there’s only so many hours in the day I can look for jobs online without being in danger of losing my sanity. Additionally, although the title of this post implies otherwise, I have interviewed quite a lot. However, it’s been over three years since I went for an interview of any kind – the longest period between interviews since I started working 15 years ago. In the past, even when I was working full-time for an extended period, I had temporary second jobs that I interviewed for that helped keep me sharp and ready for the next time I needed to meet with a prospective employer. I realize that saying I’ve interviewed a LOT may sound as if I have had lots of interviews and not been awarded the position. Au contraire, my friend, I have a pretty decent interview-turns-into-job-offer success rate. I’m sort of banking on that right now, to be honest. ;) Besides, you generally don’t get a call to interview if they aren’t pretty interested. Of course, interviews are a little like a first date. You go in dressed to kill, give your best impression and when the chemistry isn’t right, they figure out that they just aren’t that into you after all.

And thank goodness for that; who wants to spend most of their waking hours every week in the wrong relationship…uh, job?

Last week, when I knew I had two interviews coming up, I wanted to do something, anything to help myself prepare for the process and think through possible answers in advance. So, I found a Web site that listed 50 interview questions and I copied the list and its advice into Word and went to work answering all the questions. I spent HOURS and I think I got about halfway through the list. It was a good exercise and definitely helped with the first interview this week. The questions asked were very much in the traditional vein and even started out (same as the list) with the universally dreaded “tell me about yourself”. I’ve had that one in the past and flubbed it royally by saying, “What do you want to know?” This time, I knew how I would answer and was confident that it would be, at the very least, an acceptable and relevant answer.

My second interview was a bit easier, most likely because I felt warmed up for it. I’d already had one and I made an effort not to make the same mistakes in the second interview that I made in the first. It’s fair to say that I succeeded in that goal, but not that I didn’t flub up some of my answers. I’m still trying to stop cringing over my answer to one question in particular. It’s not worth stressing over, though. I was honest and straightforward and if that, combined with my mad administrative skills, isn’t enough then it’s not the right job for me and I’m fine with that. I must say, though, that I found the interview questions far easier to answer. They were behavior-based, so I was able to give specific examples from past experiences of how I have handled various types of situations. In every case, other than the cringe-inducing question, I was able to think of a valid example pretty quickly…whew!

I’ve always heard that panel interviews are the kiss of death for a candidate – nothing is guaranteed to induce more nerves than having to field questions from a group of people versus just one. My second interview was with two people, and though I wouldn’t categorize it as a panel interview, I did find it to be more informative about the company because the two individuals played off of each other well, giving me more insight than you typically get with only one interviewer. I also found that with two individuals, they hear answers from a different perspective and that seemed to generate more follow-up questions. The dynamic was totally different and may have been due to gender differences as well.

Now I’m just waiting to hear back from each of the organizations to see if my interview blunders were deal-breakers or not! Actually, I honestly don’t think my poor answers will prevent me from getting either job. However, another candidate with better qualifications would. Let’s just hope they didn’t apply or don’t get called for an interview.

The path I'm on for now

I came to Ottawa for the first time in May of 1998. Since I flew in from the United States, I went through the international arrivals area and customs. Back then, before Ottawa did its extensive Airport overhaul, international arrivals went down a set of stairs from the plane onto the tarmac and then into this hallway that was similar to the gates that extend out to plane loading doors. There were a couple of differences, though: 1) the hallway did NOT connect to the plane at all - which was a drag in bad weather (hello, Ottawa? snow?) and 2) it seemed to go on for MILES (it didn't, but when you're that close to the final destination, it felt like it)!

This hallway was almost all uphill and it felt very temporary - kind of like walking in a mobile home where the floor sounds hollow underneath (I guess because floors in mobile homes are hollow underneath). It left travelers with the feeling that you weren't going to make it to customs because this hallway was never going to end or you might fall through the floor.

It's been over three years since I walked that international arrivals hallway (the updated version) at the Ottawa airport, but it occurred to me tonight that my job search is very similar. It's a long, uphill battle and I just keep hoping that the floor isn't going to fall out from under me. I want to somehow manage to hold everything together until I find a job so that we don't have to make a major change - like selling our house. There is a small part of me that doesn't even care if I find the "right" job, but if I don't then I'll inevitably end up walking this path again sooner than later.