You have never really had to interview for a job the way other people have. You’ve pretty much walked into every job you ever wanted — one interview, a portfolio review and you’re hired. That was, of course, in the olden days, when you were still closer to 30 than 40. Your ex ran off with another woman two years ago, leaving you with 5- and 6-year-old boys, a pile of debt, no steady job and no health insurance. You’ve just recovered from a three-month bout of pneumonia that left you exhausted and unable to do freelance work. Your clients couldn’t wait, and besides, many of them were taking their work in-house, to be done on the computer, not by graphic designers, but by secretaries or interns with no training. You need to find a job pretty soon, or things could get ugly in short order. You are getting a bit discouraged. Most of the jobs advertised for graphic artists are for entry-level positions and you are definitely not an entry-level designer. You get your portfolio together, make a list of all the advertising agencies in town and start calling for appointments, even though you told yourself years ago that you would never, ever work for another agency. Ever.
Things have changed since the last time you looked for a job. In addition to showing a portfolio, they want your résumé and instead of the person you would be working for interviewing you, you must take an aptitude test and interview with human resources. Should you survive that first round, you then get to meet with the principals, all men, most of whom smoke and think it’s funny to blow it in your face, and ask you if you make good coffee. You go to each appointment all dressed up, looking very professional, hoping that your portfolio will speak for itself, but knowing after each interview that they think you are already too old for the job.
A friend “in the business” gets you an interview with an up-and-coming young firm. By now, you are interviewing your interviewers, deciding whether you would even accept a job with them if they offered one. Mostly, you would rather eat dirt. You arrange your portfolio as suggested by your friend, print out a fresh new copy of your resume, dress as young as you can get away with at 36 and head out for your interview with the brash young owner. You arrive promptly on time. The receptionist asks you to have a seat in the waiting area while she informs her boss that you are here. Half an hour later, as you are ready to get up and walk out, the still-wet-behind-the ears, fresh-out-of-college 21-year-old boy genius asks that you be shown in.
The conference room is small, but nicely appointed with fake cherry conference table, chairs with cushions, matching credenza, a few potted plants, and prints of the firm’s client work on the walls. You surreptitiously check out the prints and you wonder how he can possibly stay in business if this is the best he can do. He invites you to sit as he takes his place at the head of the table. He begins by giving you the agency’s client profile. You nod as though you are interested and when asked, open your porfolio and hand him your resume. You have worked freelance for the past four years; you’ve only had three other jobs in the 17 years you’ve been working as a designer. He asks questions about your skills, looks through your book, and comments that “your work shows potential.” You say nothing, but you know right then that you could never work for this ridiculous little pipsqueak. He gets down to the “serious” questions.
“So, where do you see yourself in five years?” You think about this, and you tell him that you’re just happy to wake up every day. You don’t tell him that you have no five-year-plan. “I see. And what is your long-term goal?” Long-term goal? You just want a job so you can support your kids. Knowing that you don’t care at all whether you get an offer or not, you tell him that your long-term goal is to not die in this awful town. Apparently, no one has ever responded that way to him while groveling for a job. The disbelief on his pudgy young face is palpable. You stand up, drop your resume into your book, and wish him well in his search for a designer. The look on his face is priceless. “But, we’re not done, yet.” You cock your head to the side and you say, “Yeah, we are. Thanks for your time.” As you are clack-clacking down the hall in your spike heels, you overhear him tell the receptionist (his girlfriend) to get your friend on the phone. Oh, well.