Thu 31 Aug 2006
Well, I’ve been waiting for the final word on my second interview but so far it hasn’t arrived so I’m just going to give you the breakdown.
I went back on Tuesday for Round Two of the interview, this time with the same two people I met with before (who would be my immediate supervisors) and also the director of the department. We sat in a different dingy concrete room with nothing on the walls, and this time when they asked me to sit anywhere I asked back, “Is this a test?” Got a laugh that time. The round two interview had been described as a more informal conversation, essentially a chance for the higher-up to stick her “Approved” stamp on my forehead before I went rolling down the conveyor belt. Eerily, our outfits matched (the director’s and mine), and after a brief inner struggle I decided against commenting on her good taste. Dr. G later suggested the line, “I see you got the memo.”
The fact that I still haven’t heard back (a sharp difference from hearing back within minutes after all our other interactions) leads me to believe that all did not go as planned. Since I was already leaning away from accepting the job, I figured I had little to lose by asking more questions about the values and direction of the organization. First the director gave a little speech, in which she confirmed my impressions that place is in the middle of a major transition from laissez-faire, feel-good, non-profit Christian organization, to lean, efficient, for-profit competitive machine. I’ve got no problems with for-profit in general, so that didn’t necessarily rule it out, but I wanted to hear more about how she was implementing that transition.
At one point I added, “If you’re looking for someone who will do adequate, unremarkable work and keep her head down–someone you will never have to think about at all– I’m probably not the best employee for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for someone who will ask a lot of questions, strive to grow and improve, and seek out opportunities to add value to the organization, then I would be a good fit.”
This is exceedingly true about me. The time a supervisor gains in not having to train me much is only saved up for the future, when I’m ready to learn more and do more. In one job after another I get restless and start rattling my cage. Generally my supervisors find me tiring at first. It seems to me that some people in management positions spend more time thinking about the people over them than the people under them. They have to prepare reports and budgets and meet standards and goals set by their bosses, and implement their bosses’ new ideas. Therefore, they prefer a very quiet staff that can be left alone and trusted to do their jobs. Understandably, they’d rather not think about you at all. These are the people who sigh when I say, “look, I noticed… [insert unaddressed problem and its consequences here]… but if I reprioritize the items in my workload for two weeks, I can [do a, b, c] to get it resolved. What do you think?” They hadn’t noticed the problem and they don’t really want to think about it, especially since they are working on the budget or the contract or the new marketing strategy.
Then when I make their lives easier and make them look good, they like me again. I wish I were better at keeping my head down; in fact, over the years I have gotten better at biding my time and wiser about when and how I spout my big ideas. Maybe in another five years I’ll be even more mellowed out.
But for now my favorite managers are those who serve the interests of their company by investing in people. I like supervisors who help shape my responsibilities to match my strengths, and who also notice areas of potential and give me opportunities to test them out. I like supervisors who pay attention to the work I do and give me feedback and suggestions. These three things enable me to make my most efficient and valuable contributions. On the one hand, I’m steadily doing good work in the areas of my strengths, and on the other, I’m gradually expanding my skills.
Anyway, back to the interview. I get the impression that the director found me a bit uppity, an impression perhaps reinforced when I asked some questions about the contributions of different team members and departments– trying to suss out how the organization views “the little people.” Then she talked about salary and benefits– slightly behind what I was getting before. I used Tara’s question: “Is there any room for movement in the salary?” (thanks, Tara!) The answer was a somewhat embarrassed and reluctant “no.”
So now I’m thinking that either they are waiting as long as they can to see if they get any better applicants, or they’re looking at their budget to see if there’s any room for movement after all. Unless it’s something really huge, I think I’ll say no. It doesn’t sound fun to be an agent of the new regime in the middle of a large-scale and not wholly welcomed transition.