I’ve had a lot of friends looking for jobs lately since we all graduated around the same time. It’s funny, but this is actually the first time that I’ve been in this situation, since I’ve been hiding my head in the sand of grad school and cavorting almost exclusively with students for ten years. Now I’ve run into something that I never anticipated, and find both odd and insulting in this whole interview process–when the interviewer has preconceptions about you and you can’t change his or her mind.
I first became aware of this when Wise Lawyer Friend was going on a lot of job interviews. She graduated a semester before me, and I got to learn all about this hateful process from my safe nest of “one more semester.” She was interviewing all over the country, jetting here and there, and even though the interviewers had thought her serious enough to fly out, feed and put in a hotel, some also seemed to not believe that she would actually relocate, and told her so (very carefully so as to not break any laws) in the interview.
A similar thing happened to me last summer, when I interviewed for a cafe job and the interviewer seemed convinced–through no action on my part, that I must just be biding my time and saving up enough cash for a U-Haul back to the Midwest. I could do nothing to persuade her otherwise, and got a clipped email within a few hours of the end of the interview telling me that I wasn’t a good fit. Jewish Friend actually landed a job a very commutable distance from her home, but now her co-workers are chastising her for not relocating. One even went so far as to try to sell her a condo.
Penelope Trunk wrote a blog a while ago about long-distance job searching where she basically said that unless you tell an employer you’re already planning to move somewhere, as in “I’m packed and waiting for the movers to show up”, you will not beat a local candidate. That’s disheartening to someone who likes to move around, but I guess it makes sense. In the case of the cafe job–I’m already here, but I couldn’t beat a local candidate because everyone seems to think I should be planning to go back to where I’m from.
The problem, in my case, is that I’m not really from anywhere. I grew up in two states, and moved among five different towns. Since my first major move was at age one, I’ve spent my whole life being told, “you’re not from here.” When I lived in Hallock, Minnesota until age 12, I was from “somewhere else.” After moving to Cavalier, North Dakota, I was “from Minnesota.” Once I moved to Fargo, I was “from Cavalier,” and now that I live in Rhode Island, I pick and choose whether to tell people I’m from Minnesota, North Dakota, Fargo (always mention the movie to give people a frame of reference) or just generic Midwest. If I want a bit more street cred, I mention things like “30 minutes from Canada” or “damn cold” but for the most part, I don’t go into detail unless requested. My parents live in a town they moved to while I was in college and my small extended family (who I’m not close to) is scattered across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Where I’m from, doesn’t matter. Short of telling someone that entire story, I don’t know how I’ll be able to convince anyone.
I thought we lived in an increasingly nomadic society where you have to widen the net when doing a job search, but it seems harder and harder to convince people you’re serious about relocating. Now I’m hearing you have to pick a town, move there, and hope you’ll find a job. There has to be a better way.