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help wanted: relationships for hire

I recently had the privilege of coaching a 16-year-old on her very first job interview ever. I appreciated how nervous she was and that it can be a really scary experience. I’m still not a huge fan of job interviews and I’ve had a ton.

I told her the first thing they will ask is “Tell me about yourself.” Yep. Nailed it. I told her, they don’t want your whole life story, just the current highlights and how you want to work for them. In this case, just say how great their store is and how you will appreciate the experience. I think all in all, she did ok for her first interview ever and if nothing else it will be a great reminder to her of how she can overcome her fears.

What I thought about, as she walked into the interview and I waited for her, was how you’re expected to get this 20-30 minutes of time to tell these folks the important stuff about yourself, how you will contribute to the team and its goals, how everything you are and bring to the table will be a plus for them and that they won’t regret hiring you. I’ve been on both sides of the table and I have come to realize how first impressions and even early stage impressions can be so misleading. I have been surprised both by how badly someone does in a given job, and how incredibly well another person did when I least expected it.

I also remembered a time I insulted a recruiter mostly inadvertently. At that point in the interview she was annoying me because her tactic seemed to be make me feel as inadequate as possible for the position and watch me vie for her approval. She belittled my resume and critiqued my college degree (English literature… and it was an interview for a writing position… um go figure).

I suppose that looking back on it maybe she was just having a bad day. I was only 5 or so years into my post-college career and hadn’t put a ton of thought into what I know now to be interpersonal dynamics and personality types. What I have come to realize is that we generally make such quick assumptions and prejudices about others, when in many ways the only real route to true discovery is time. Lots and lots of it.

Between 10-15 minute conversations here and there, before and after church, in passing at the store, commenting back and forth on Facebook, we think we know people. Even sitting across the dinner table, amid chatty children and water cooler tales, we think we know people. But do we really do the work of knowing and being known?

It’s easy for me to say as a blogger for some time now that you can learn an awful lot about me in public spaces. Some might even say that it’s TMI, as many in the blogosphere could be accused of. It’s also easy, I will confess, to hide in plain sight, to say if you want to know something about me, just Google my name. Now that that’s a thing, it becomes one more way of creating a false intimacy, a knowledge that is only just knowledge.

When my husband and I were dating, we had super long conversations, both on the phone and online.  We discussed everything and anything from the creation/evolution debate to the popularity of Mumford and Sons with that one hit song they had. Which is to say all of them. (JK, dear!!)

Something my then-boyfriend, now-husband said early on was that we needed to spend more time in person, face-to-face, to make sure he was really getting to know this girl he was falling in love with. I thought it was profound and daring of him. One of the very many reasons he is my now-husband. We had to do the work. We had to have the awkward silences, the painful glances – both at each other, and looking too long away from each other. We had to say completely the wrong thing and the opposite of what we are trying to. We had to brace ourselves for the looks we might get in response. And when it was just confused looks, we had to explain in full.

You could argue that “interviewing” for your marriage is the most important set of conversations you will ever have. It should be. But it can be hard. If I ever have the opportunity to counsel an engaged couple before their wedding, I will ask them to tell me about their conversations and if they ever had that awkward silence. I want to know that they’ve done the due diligence. I want them to know they have and what it looks like to see the complexity they are about to face, even if it’s just a glimmer. Because relationship is hard. And just like a job, the interview should go well, but it shouldn’t be easy peasy. There should be tough questions and there should be some honest, soul-searching going on. The potential for misunderstanding can increase when tensions are high and deadlines are looming. Communication breaks down when life gets cluttered and busy. People say things they don’t really mean or their tone gets muffled by haste. If you do the work, and are committed to always doing the work, the relationship doesn’t have to end. The interview won’t be for nothing when we get to know the person’s intentions, not just the ones we say we have, but the ones proven over time, evidenced again and again through both our words and our deeds. But it takes time to make time. It takes time to set the record straight. It takes time to show your level of commitment and your true heart.

Wherever you are today in your relationships – dating, married, friends, family, children – I encourage you to go on some interviews. Carve out the time to really meet and talk, digging deeper than bullet points. Restate your commitments and your intentions. Recommit to doing the work for the long haul. Reevaluate the things that have to stop and things that have to start. Realign your goals and vision cast for your future. And then listen. Really listen to the conversations. Hear their hearts and meet their minds. Do the work and keep the job.

As for the Mrs. Robert Lee Wootton, Jr. job… no openings at this time or ever again. I nailed that interview.

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