Career Savviness Is No Match For Self-Sabotage

The interviewer comes over to greet me. She’s a tall Indian woman, impeccably dressed in a camel-colored blazer and pumps. Her tortoise-rimmed glasses are the kind that makes you envious of someone with less than 20/20 vision.

“Nan-DIH-nee” she says while shaking my hand. Be still my heart. She said my name *right* with the effortlessness of her long flowing hair. Okay I’m fangirling a little. But it’s the first time an interviewer hasn’t called me Nan-dee-nee followed by apologies and facial contortions to assure me that “Nandini is a pretty name.”

She tells me the interview room is one floor up. My heart sinks. A flight of stairs plus my pores equals face sweats. Her colleague arrives. He tells us that there’s a room available just a few steps from the reception area. Relief washes over me until I remember that I’m at a job interview not an Indian matchmaking event to meet my dream mentor.

Starting strong with decisive action

I come off as charming and vivacious. Who is this person my mum would ask if she could see me now? They offer me a glass of water. I politely decline while grabbing a reusable water bottle from my vegan purse. It tells them “I’m a good person who cares about the planet.”

Sharing a branding story

I’m in the last year of my PhD but I can’t tell them that my current position is full-time self-loather with intermittent imposter syndrome. So I opt for the usual elevator pitch. I talk about why I’m interested in the position, my background, and qualifications. I convince them that this job aligns with my lifelong pursuit of mind-numbing tedium and soul-crushing bureaucracy.

Grappling with difficult questions

Damn. How quickly it is for them to stump me with an interview question I can’t answer. I’ve been told by career coaches “just take a deep breath and the answer will come to you. You set the pace.”

I take a deep breath, and nothing. Still nothing.

“Robert’s Rules of Order?” I’m guessing it has something to do with a guy named Robert who’s very bossy (shaking my finger). Even my reusable water bottle is mocking me. I watch Ken and Indian Barbie exchange furtive glances as they flip through their interview booklet, crossing off question after question.

Going off the rails 

“What are the responsibilities of the Senate and Board of Governors?” she asks me. Even my raven-haired beauty turns against me. 

“The senate is the…umm, so, the senate is the number one…” I try to think of an answer but my adrenaline makes it impossible to say anything remotely lucid. Right before their eyes, I’m morphing into SNL’s Baskin Johns, a Goop staffer, who can’t remember what she’s supposed to say about the $75 All-In-One Nourishing Eye Cream. They continue crossing off questions.

Sabotaging myself as the logical next step

I don’t want to toot my own horn but I’m no stranger to studying psychology, so much so that I think I’m Nostradamus. I can read minds. I know what these interviewers are thinking and I actually say this. No kidding.

“I can see I’m wasting your time. I’m really sorry” I blurt out while getting up to leave.

Then the unexpected happens and I am stunned, just stunned like the immortal words of Blanche Devereaux. They rush in and save me with a cascading waterfall of soothing affirmations: “Don’t worry about it. We wouldn’t expect you to know this before starting the job. We’re just trying to gauge your knowledge.”

Closing the deal (sorry, that sounds gross)

Three days after the interview, the flickering light on my phone catches my attention. It’s the raven-haired beauty calling me. My first thought — she’s phoning to let me down easy. And I imagine the consolation prize is her deep and abiding affection for my tendency to underwhelm and overshare.

Again I am stunned, just stunned by what she says next: “Consider this a soft welcome to the team.” She’s touched by my sincerity. She thinks I come across as thoughtful and memorable. She’s looking forward to working with me. She likes me. She really, really likes me. 

Now, all that’s left is to casually start wearing tortoise-rimmed glasses. I’m sure I can work them in over time. I don’t want to be too obvious that I’m doing a brown-girl version of Single White Female. But I won’t trade my Chucks for pumps. That’s one step too far, even for me.

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