Best story I’ve read in a long time…

3 05 2012

From Fast Company magazine comes the unlikely story of gang members, felons, bakers, and businessmen … and a Catholic priest who lives by the motto “You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.”

Please. Go read it now. You won’t regret it. 🙂

Reflections: On Bygone Interviews

30 04 2012

We moved back to Shreveport nearly two and a half years ago, without any clue of where we would land once we arrived. Youth ministry was barely even on my radar, except for a telephone call I had received a few weeks earlier from a pastor friend. Apparently, there was a church looking for a youth director, and he knew I was moving back…was I interested?

I shrugged my shoulders, sent in my resume, and continued seeking out other job prospects, as well. Before I knew it, I had two job interviews lined up for day after we would be moving into our new apartment. One job entailed coordinating an annual arts festival; the other was that pesky youth director position. I thought I knew which one I wanted, but I decided to keep an open mind.

The first meeting was by far the weirdest job interview I’ve ever had. Sample question:

Interviewer: This job involves a lot of communication. Let’s say you are waiting to hear back from someone, and you’ve emailed them and called them, with no response. But you can’t move forward unless you hear from them. What would you do next?

Me: (clearly this is a test of my creativity and ingenuity in a tough situation) Well, if it was appropriate, I might try to visit them in person. Or if we had a mutual acquaintance, I could see if they might be able to get in touch with that person. Or, depending on what I needed from them, I might be able to talk to someone else instead.

Interviewer: (flatly, disappointed) No. The right answer is to send a fax. After we call and email, our third form of communication is fax.

Me: (brightly) Well, fortunately I do know how to use a fax machine!

I walked out to my car, blinking back tears. That clearly did not go as well as I had hoped. And I only have a an hour to pull myself together in time for the next one! 

The second interview should have been intimidating — the 12-member hiring committee crammed themselves into the pastor’s office and tossed questions to me, firing-squad-style — but all I felt was a sense of intense calm. Peace, you might call it. Sample question:

Interviewer: What is your five-year plan?

Me: I used to think I had one of those, but I don’t anymore. I’m here for the time being, and I guess I’ll see where God leads me from here.

It was an entirely honest answer, and the committee members nodded their heads — if not in approval, then at least in understanding.  I was only 22, after all.

Two and a half years later, that answer still rings true. I’m here for the time being, and I guess I’ll see where God leads me from here. We’ve neared the end of an era, Jordan and I. We thought we’d be preparing to move again at this point … but instead, whenever we have had the chance to move on and do something else, we have made the conscious choice to stay right where we are.  We realized this past weekend that we just might be planting roots…and the more shocking realization was that we’re okay with that.  Though we’re still open to being uprooted, as well.

Yesterday, we attended the very same arts festival that I had once applied to direct … and we enjoyed being able to experience the decorations and the booths and the music without having to stress about any of it.

I wondered about the person who ended up with the job. I hope she’s happy and thriving and planting her own roots. I hope she’s loving her job and her path as much as I’m loving mine. And by golly, I sure do hope she learned how to use the fax machine!


13 08 2009

Back in April or so, when I was fretting about grad school and what I want to do with my life and weighing the pros and cons of various life plans and not having a job for Atlanta … I discovered Penelope Trunk.  Penelope, the self-described “brazen careerist,” spoke words deep into my heart with her post “The new post-college prestige job is retail.”  Here’s one excerpt:

The best way to figure out what you should be doing with your life is to give yourself time to explore yourself and the world. Which means you need time to think. Retail is flexible, and it doesn’t take a lot of brain power. This leaves a lot of time and energy to do what you really need to be doing: Trying a lot of things on for size.

So the people who are honest with themselves about where they are in life also are brave enough to admit they are lost and should take a retail job to give themselves space to figure things out.

Wise words.  And yet, I ignored them for four straight months.   Only this past weekend, faced with the reality of about 70 failed “real job” applications and an empty violin studio, did I finally map out a new plan.


I woke up, put on my best business clothes, and headed into the city, armed with my portfolio, business card, and several extra copies of my resume. I did not discriminate: I walked into every store within a certian radius of our apartment and made the same request: “Are you hiring?”

That afternoon, I headed back home with several applications in hand and kicked off my shoes, only to discover that my nice shoes had mutilated my feet.   (I would post pictures, but I think they would be a little too gory for this site.  Seriously!  My feet were bleeding and blistered and had left behind bits of flesh on the heel of my shoes).  After nursing my feet, I sat down and began filling out applications.


I got lucky.  I went to my first store to inquire about my application and was offered an interview for later in the day.

My interview went something like this:

Hiring manager: Why do you want to work for us?

Me: Well, I need money.  I’m desperate.  I’ve been turned down for 70 jobs.  No, what I really said was: I think my experience at X & Y jobs has prepared me to work with lots of different people and provide great customer service.

Hiring manager: Okay…that’s a good GPA you have there … You were a religious studies major, that is very interesting … You can’t work Sundays?  Is that because of church? … Hmm, you worked at a homeless shelter.  That is very good … Can you start tomorrow?

Sooooo…I have a job!   After 4 hours of training yesterday, I reported for my first official day today.  And … I’m exhausted.  Forget about that office job that I had last year.  This was real work.

But I think the day went okay, although I must say, I am unbelievably grateful to the two nice men whose orders I messed up (horribly) today.  They were extremely patient and understanding.  I promise, I was trying my very best, and I wanted their discounts to work just as badly as they did.

Four years ago, when I spent the summer working in a bakery, my grandfather often came in on Friday nights to eat dinner.  One time he took me home after my shift and said he was proud of me: “I think everyone should spend some time working in a restaurant, if only because it makes you treat your own servers better.”

Truer words were never spoken.

So, if only for me, remember: show a little mercy to your frazzled cashiers!