Friday, March 14, 2008

At The Center of My Own Equation

I had a third interview with a company this week. I met the owner of the company at a coffee shop for a more informal one-on-one conversation. He informed me that it was down to myself and another really talented candidate. When I got to the coffee shop I found out that we would be joined by a third person, a colleague who is in HR and also a writer. I was a little taken aback by the surprise guest, but was willing to go with the flow and the challenge. After a great deal of back and forth and pertinent questions from the third person, the owner leaned in and asked what turned out to be a seminal question, one that will forever change the way I approach job interviews, and quite frankly, my life. This is the best recollection I can create of his question:

"What you've done is very successfully establish why you are the best fit for the position. Obviously, we wouldn't be at this point if you hadn't done that. But what remains unclear is, why are we, why is this company, the best fit for you?"

20 years of therapy resolved in one question. As women, as mothers, as working mothers, we are so used to accomodating workplaces, families, children, spouses, that we forget that we are at the center of our own equation, our own career and life epicenter. I realized in that moment that I had given absolutely no real thought to that question. I have become so engrained in making myself fit whatever situation comes along, that I had left the most important part out of the equation. Me. Going through this job search has made me realize that I am a little like all those women in the kingdom trying to fit their too wide, too small or too big feet into shoes that just don't fit, grimacing and pretending that grimace is a smile.

I took a deep breath and answered the question. Quite honestly, I don't remember what I said. But I was really glad to be asked to answer that question.

Whether or not I end up with the job, I will be forever grateful to the owner of that company who asked this question. And I will never need to be asked that question again.


Rosemary Carstens said...

This is a great question, Lisa, and similar to one I've asked myself and suggested to others frequently in my writing and conversations with friends. I've always thought that each decade of our lives has a certain purpose, that if we don't take care of that purpose or those issues during that decade, we roll over into the next decade carrying that unresolved load as we face the next decade's challenges. For example, I think the challenge in our forties is to resolve any old issues still hanging around that we have with our parents. Even when our parents are gone, the issues often remain to be resolved for ourselves. But, sticking to the topic at hand about what WE need or want in a world that mostly says fit in or die, along comes the decade of our fifties. It is my belief that the purpose of the fifties is to resolve your authentic self. It is a time to reexamine ideas we have, behaviors, dreams, and so on that may or may not be ours, but those of others--what OTHERS would like us to think, be, dream, and do. Those close to us can become very upset as we go through this process because deviating from their idea of who we are or need to be is not in THEIR plans. It's a very hard task for most of us women and, frankly, I dont' think most women do it. If you do, however, the rewards are rich. You enter the remaining decades of your life so much more fulfilled, focused on your most meaningful relationships, activities, and goals. It makes the journey so worthwhile! Rosemary Carstens

Boobies&BodilyFunctions said...

Well, you are spot on, as my mother would say. I am entering into the last six months of being 49 and it is one intense ride. Everything is up.

I didn't end up taking the job, although it still isn't clear if an offer was forthcoming or not! This is a huge choice for me, the one away from perceived safety, aka as a smaller way of being. Instead, I've accepted a contract position as a project manager for a high tech company for the next four and a half months. A totally new situation and I am thrilled. I want to take the rest of this year and perhaps next year as well, to just figure it out and have the base to do it.

Thanks for your wisdom.