I was very early for my job interview today and hung around at the bus stop for twenty minutes, killing time. As my therapist suggested, I tried to use positive affirmations to get in a good state of mind, although I’ve never had much success with this. Telling myself, “I will do the best I can today; I don’t need to worry about tomorrow” helped a bit.

I feel I had my usual autistic problems in the interview: long pauses while I tried to process things and sentences that started confidently, but then trailed off as I realised I didn’t know what to say, or didn’t have as much to say as I thought, sometimes awkwardly ending on “and…” I had prepared notes and had them open, but when the questions came, I got focused on them and didn’t look at the notes. I made bland assertions rather than using the STAR method I’ve frequently been told to apply in interviews, where you talk about a Situation you were in, the Task involved, the Action you took and the Result. I find it hard to think of the concrete examples needed by the STAR method. I was also distracted by my surroundings, not lights or noises, but the very noticeboard on the wall behind the interviewers, with colourful animal photos, and a large photograph of a gorilla perched on the windowsill. Once I noticed that, it was hard to un-notice it (the weird opposite of the famous psychology experiment where subjects failed to notice a gorilla). I should add that neither wildlife nor photography have anything to do with this organisation’s purpose.

I think I answered most of the questions OK, but I got a bit stuck on being asked about a time when I gave excellent customer service. I have had this question before and I don’t like it. I had prepared an answer, but at the last moment, I felt that it wasn’t appropriate, and instead said that I always give the same excellent level of customer service to everyone (complete attention, politeness, etc.). It was not a great answer.

So, I don’t think I embarrassed myself, but I don’t think I did brilliantly either. I have had some help with interviews in the past, but nothing seems to really help once I get into one and my autistic brain is left to fend for itself.

***

When I got home, I wrote the full (800 word) synopsis that one literary agency were asking for. Looking at my manuscript, much of it makes me cringe, both in terms of quality and in terms of the parts that were based on my own life — there is much I would like to have done differently if I lived my life again. I felt initially that not enough happens in the novel too, although I feel that not enough happens in literary novels generally (I’m probably not supposed to say that). However, on looking at the novel as a whole, I think things do happen, they just start slowly, held up by stuff that mattered to me emotionally, but which probably isn’t necessary for the plot, but I don’t know how to change it now.

The agency seemed a bit picky in what they wanted, and on their submission guidelines they said they wanted the first five pages of the manuscript, but on the submission form itself they said they wanted the first twenty pages. I don’t think the agency will be a great fit, but having written the synopsis, I felt I ought to submit it.

***

I noticed today that although Transport for London are encouraging passengers to wear masks, none of the staff seem to wear them any more. It’s very hard to feel engaged in doing it any more.

***

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about embarrassing events from my past, mostly from my childhood and teenage years. I was mostly well-behaved, but did misbehave occasionally. When I did, I was not usually caught, but somehow I feel I should have been. I’m not sure why I feel guilty for harmless actions from a quarter of a century ago, but I do. Then, as I wrote above, looking at my novel today made me think about the events that inspired it, which are bound up in regrets and self-recrimination from a bad time of my life. Curiously enough, Paula wrote today about regretting or not regretting past actions. As I said there, it’s hard to imagine changing the bad without changing the good, or at least the necessary, and the most significant things were often out of my hands anyway. I feel it’s counter-productive to have these thoughts, but it’s easy to get stuck in it.

Then today I was reading The Principles of Judaism were Rabbi Dr Samuel Lebens argues that God can and will rewrite history so nothing bad ever happened. (Or “hyper-happened” as he would say, as something bad happened, but God “hyper-will” change it so it didn’t.) I didn’t really agree with this, although it was hard to find the logical flaw. It just seems wrong. The book had some surprising propositions, but this was one I really struggled to accept.

I think I preferred the theodicy Rabbi Lebens quoted from Gabriel Citron (who I knew slightly years ago) that, from the afterlife, our suffering in this world will seem as insubstantial as a nightmare. This is closer to my thinking. I’m surprised Rabbi Lebens rejects it, saying “I don’t see much religious value in the skeptical possibility that we’re not really awake right now,” as it doesn’t seem all that different to Lebens’ suggestion earlier in the book that we’re just ideas in God’s mind.

12 thoughts on “Job Interview and Changing the Past

    1. My best jobs were similarly not from interview. My first job (the same place where I interviewed yesterday) was somewhere I volunteered. When I qualified as a librarian, the head librarian encouraged me to write to the head of the institution to ask for a paid job to be created for me. To my surprise, it worked! And then my current job came about because J was understaffed and knew I was out of work, so asked me if I would like to join him.

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  1. I thought your answer about customer service was good. I’ve rarely had to interview so I think I would freeze up at any difficult questions.

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    1. Not really. When I got to the place, I felt more comfortable than I expected to and did begin to wonder if I could manage working there after all. Now I’m really not sure, but struggling to get up at 6.30am today for the third day running makes me fear I’m not ready for three or four consecutive days of work a week.

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  2. I feel like I am the wrong person to comment on this post because I tend to interview well (although there have been some massively embarrassing exceptions and I’ve had plenty of job rejections). But I thought your customer service answer was pretty good. Nothing in this post screamed disastrous to me. You may have done better than you think!

    I’d agree that unless you managed to turn it into a life lesson and do something different in the future, regret is an exercise in futility. I wrote up my most entertaining regret story. I’m not sure if it’s actually my greatest regret in life. I don’t really want to think about what my greatest regret is, nor do I think that is particularly useful.

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  3. I think reading Lebens would frustrate me. Just reading about what you said he said frustrates me! Isn’t rewriting history lying? I know God can do anything, but he’s also supposed to be holy, and in being holy, a trait of being a liar wouldn’t seem to fit. I find these purely philosophical and non-applicable, non-actionable kinds of books to feel frustrating, though admittedly my frustration tolerance level is very low.

    I hate interviews. Most of the time when they ask questions like the one you shared, I can’t even remember a particular situation, though I know I’ve had one. I’ve resorted to creating a scenario that’s likely to be similar to those that have happened in the past. So I suppose that’s lying or close to it, though like I said, it’s a combination of things that have happened in the past. It’s been so long since my last job that it’d be tough to actually remember a particular situation.

    I’d think an interviewer (at least if they’re from a good company and reasonable, normal people without gigantic egos) would understand if you couldn’t remember something specific and gave an answer like you did.

    There aren’t many people wearing masks anymore here. Just when the news is telling us numbers are climbing in Europe again, too. I think everybody is just flat worn out of the whole virus thing and willing to let the chips fall where they will. Scary thought, but I get it and am somewhat there myself. Just as the weather is getting warmer and I’m having thoughts of life returning to some semblance of normalcy with socialization, hearing numbers are rising is just something I want to shut out of my mind.

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  4. How would changing history be lying? Lying is when you say something that is not true. Changing history does not involve saying anything, and it IS true once you’ve changed it. Once history has been changed, the new version is true. Also, in Rabbi Leben’s preferred theory, God doesn’t change time himself so much as give the person involved a chance to make the choice again, until they choose the best thing. I have my own problems with this idea, but I don’t think it’s unethical.

    Sometimes in interviews if I haven’t done what they’re asking about, I say, “This hasn’t happened to me, but if it did, I would do X…”

    I am also getting tired of COVID, and I don’t think it’s healthy to live in fear of it forever. If you’re triple vaxxed and not vulnerable (and I am), COVID is like bad flu. Bad flu isn’t nice to have, but we don’t live in fear of it every winter; we vaccinate the vulnerable and get on with our lives. If we wanted to, we could scare ourselves reading up on all the viruses that are out there, but we don’t. I know it’s different for you because you visit your parents and they’re more vulnerable, but I feel society needs to move in. Despite this, I still feel obliged to wear a mask on the Tube and in shops, and I don’t know why. I’m not sure if it’s politeness or social anxiety and hypocrisy.

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