When an ordinary person gets ready for a job interview they probably don’t pack toy cars, coloured pencils and a tub of dried fruit. And they probably don’t push their hair into a quick ponytail and leave the house with nail polish on their trousers and mascara on only one eye. But I guess I’m no ordinary person.
I wasn’t looking for a job. I’d been a stay-at-home mother for five years, and my plan was to return to the workforce when the kids were both at school. Still, I always liked to look through the employment section in the local paper, just in case something amazing popped up.
Most of the time there wasn’t anything suitable. The listed jobs seemed to require truck licenses or nursing degrees or five years’ management experience. But one day I found something just right: a casual receptionist position. The hours were fantastically family friendly – one five-hour shift per week (on either Saturday or Sunday) and every fourth weekend off. I decided to apply.
It’s hard to write an impressive resume when you have a big I-had-some-babies gap. I guess I could have put:
Duties included event organisation [going to the library], financial management [at the supermarket], communication development [ringing my mum], nutritional planning [making dinner] and mediation supervision [explaining the concept of sharing to pre-schoolers].
Instead, I wrote:
Freelance graphic designer
Which wasn’t a lie. I had done some design work; just not a lot.
However, even with the baby gap filled I still didn’t look great on paper. A graphic designer wanting to be a receptionist? My resume seemed to scream “flighty” and “indecisive”. I felt that my chances of getting the job would greatly improve if I could just meet the employer in person. An interview was my only hope.
Of course, when I had this thought I forgot one fairly significant thing: I didn’t have any (free) weekday child-minding options. My youngest was used to coming with me to all sorts of inappropriate things – medical appointments, university classes and so on – but I had never taken him to a job interview before.
Anyway, I guess it was a slow week for applicants because a few days after I emailed my resume I received a call from the office manager; she wanted to know when I could to come in for a chat. “Oh, any time,” I replied. “But I’ll have to bring my two-year-old.”
It was hard to guess how she felt about this. She agreed, but I couldn’t see her facial expression or read her mind. Perhaps she thought I was an impressively modern, multitasking woman, or maybe she regarded me as unprofessional and strange.
I decided that “impressively modern” was the image I should aim for, so on the day of the interview I walked into the office, head up and shoulders back, as though bringing a child was a perfectly normal thing to do. Luckily, the manager showed instant enthusiasm for the tiny visitor (“Aren’t you gorgeous?”), which boosted my confidence (and made my son quite happy too).
Now, I realise this post would be far more interesting if it included an anecdote about my son weeing on the carpet, having a tantrum or describing how I look in the shower. But none of that happened. He spent most of the interview sitting on my lap and eating sultanas. At one point he climbed under the table and said, to me, “I’m just doing sumping [something]. Don’t say 1, 2, 3 or 4.” (Meaning: don’t give me your typical “Right, I’m going to count to three!” threat.) He also complained that he was a bit “drinky” (I forgot to pack his water bottle) and suggested several times that we ought to go home. Overall, though, he was pretty good. And, surprisingly, so was the interview.
I think that having my son with me actually helped reduce my stress levels. Normally a job interview would make me feel incredibly anxious, but this time I felt oddly relaxed. I guess it’s similar to being lost: having company in a nerve-wracking situation is always much better than being alone.
The outcome: I got the job. It’s possible that I was the only applicant. Or the only sober applicant. But maybe bringing my toddler made me seem more human and therefore worked in my favour. Of course, I’m grateful that my prospective employer was sympathetic enough to see past the sultanas and view me as a potential receptionist. Oh, and I’m glad that my son waited till he got home to say, loudly, “Mum, not crabs have boobs.”
Have you ever taken your kids to a "grown up" appointment?