The job interview today was pretty awful. It started OK. I woke up an hour earlier than intended and couldn’t get back to sleep, but as I was awake, I thought I would have an early and slow start. I got to the interview location forty minutes early. It was literally across the road from the place I was working from September to November. Standing outside the building, I could see the office block where I worked. Because of that, I knew there was a charity shop down the road and went there to kill some time; I saw some stuff I thought about buying, but decided to leave it until after the interview, which was just as well.
From here, everything began to unravel. I checked in at reception very early, but no one had told the man at the reception desk to expect me, so he didn’t phone anyone to say I was there. Eventually, the library head came down to see if I was waiting, which I was.
My presentation went OK, but I think it was too short and too light-weight. Then came the interview proper. I answered some questions OK, but none brilliantly well and some very poorly. The experience drove home how little experience I have for my years, how little CPD (Continuing Professional Development) I do, how little attention I pay to what is happening in my chosen field, how localised so much of my professional knowledge is and simply how little attention I pay to my career, partly because of depression, partly because it doesn’t interest me very much and part of me (you can call it the autistic side of me) finds it hard to pay attention to stuff that doesn’t interest me these days (at school it was different, somehow. I’m not sure why). The depression makes it harder to do these things, but I’m not sure how much I would do even if I was not depressed.
I left the interview feeling I had done badly, but worse was to come in the cataloguing exam. I thought I would do OK here. Not amazingly, but OK. I thought I was a reasonably good cataloguer. My first boss thought I was a good cataloguer (although she was not a trained librarian herself) and the boss after that, although she seemed to think that I shouldn’t be a librarian at all, did seem to think that a cataloguing job would suit me better than a front of house one. But I just froze up when I saw the exam paper.
I wrote something for the first question (there were two questions, the first being worth 25%, the second 75%), but I did not know what to do at all for the second. I was always taught to write something in exams even if I didn’t know the answer, as nothing can be worse than a blank page, but I just did not have a clue what to write. I was supposed to amend a catalogue record that had mistakes and omissions, but I just was not sure what to do. I could not even spot the deliberate mistakes.
To be fair, this was highly technical MARC21 cataloguing which I haven’t seen since I did my MA back in 2010. These days most library management systems have a simplified data entry system for cataloguing that allows you to skip the technical side of it by just filling in the right boxes and it is that sort of cataloguing that I have been doing in my previous jobs. But I wasn’t expecting myself to have lost the skills so completely, considering I got 72% for cataloguing and classifying in my MA and 69% for adding metadata back in 2010.
Strangely, I didn’t panic. My mind went blank as it sometimes does when overwhelmed with depression (like a computer freezing), but I calmly started the paper, doing what I could for the first question and then trying to move on to the second one. The time for the exam was one hour and I didn’t try to leave early, partly, I admit, because I was ashamed to do so. The exam was done on a computer and I had to save two files with my name on them with my answers, one file per question. In the end, I wrote something on the second file apologising for taking their time and saying I have not been able to prepare due to “serious health issues” or words to that effect. I don’t know that I would have performed better if I hadn’t been so depressed, though. I think I’ve let my skills go rusty and I’m not sure where I go from here.
I came out and went back to the charity shop for retail therapy. I bought a slightly dog-eared copy of the anthology collection of eleven young adult Doctor Who novellas (one for the first eleven Doctors) brought out for the programme’s fiftieth anniversary five years ago (I bought it mainly for the stories by Malorie Blackman and Neil Gaiman) and an apparently unused (still in cellophane) DVD of Star Trek: Beyond. Because I was upset, I also grabbed Fatherland by Robert Harris (the book, not the DVD). Not bad for £3.25, although I really shouldn’t indulge my book-buying addiction like this, especially considering how many books I’m getting for Chanukah.
After that I came home, helping my Dad buy fresh stocks of Chanukah doughnuts on the way, had lunch and drank a lot of tea (as I have said before, if chicken soup is Jewish penicillin, then tea is English prozac, and more effective than real prozac, in my opinion). I am not sure what to do now, either this afternoon or further ahead. This afternoon I will probably try to do some Torah study and watch the first episode of my new Jonathan Creek DVD box set (which if I recall correctly has sixth Doctor Colin Baker as the murder victim). After that, I just don’t know. A lot will depend on what happens tomorrow at The Network, which is supposed to be offering me help with moving into work with mental health issues, and on Friday, with my autism screening.
It was tempting to title this post “Failed” which would perhaps be more brutal as it could apply to me as much as to the exam. I’m trying not to think of myself as a failure, but I really don’t see where I go from here. On the way home I passed someone I dated briefly eighteen months ago (I run into a lot as she lives near me). I don’t know if she recognised me (to be fair, it took me a minute to recognise her) and I didn’t say anything, but I remembered that she broke up with me because of my mental health, and E. broke up with me because of my career (or lack thereof) and someone else broke up with me for, I think, both those reasons. That’s three of the four people I’ve dated in the last five years (the other one simply thought we had nothing in common). Somehow I can’t see myself ever having a career, let alone the relationship that will surely only follow if I do have a career.
If there is a positive side to this, it is that I feel OKish. I am worried about the future, but I am not endlessly beating myself up. Realistically, I know that I did my best after being dealt the proverbial bad hand, going back to getting depressed when doing my MA, if not to earlier episodes of depression, which prevented me from doing the things I might have done with my career. Although, reading this, I wonder if it is really true that I did the best I could do or if this is a convenient fiction. Perhaps I could, should, have done better. I don’t know. At least I didn’t shake when I gave my presentation and had the interview nor did I go completely blank when they spoke to me, except with one question. And I will try to note down the interview questions so I can use them to practise before my next interview.