This blog is going to document the process of a technical adult moving in with another technical adult (my boyfriend) and living together as grown ups. It will mostly be a running log of our consistent surprise at the rest of the world not quite meeting expectations.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Real Office Jobs

Several weeks ago I was interviewed by a local new "green" company for the position of a "Gal Friday." I think the fact they expected anyone under the age of twenty-five to know that term displays a certain level of delusion I completely missed going in. After my first interview was another two, then a test day, and then two steady weeks of employment before I was asked by the HR department/One Girl "not to come in for a week, week and a half," as the downstairs office they were reconstructing for all the new employees was not yet complete. Apparently me using any available desk was fine for two weeks, but then suddenly became problematic.

Interview One
The Vice President/CEO/Big Boss person who had scheduled the interview and spoken to me twice on the phone didn't bother coming in to actually interview me. I ended up meeting with one of his salesmen. Since he had not read my resume yet, I sat quietly while he scanned it in front of me, and then took out a pad and pen and began asking me standard working questions. The interview went well. I told him what I was looking for, he told me what they were looking for, I gave him availability, etc.

Hours later, Salesman called me saying "VP is back in the office now. Can you come back in?" It was ten minutes before 5pm. I was already on my way to my retail job at the time and so told them I would see them tomorrow.

Interview Two
I finally meet VP/CEO/BB who keeps me there roughly two hours. The first hour of the interview I said maybe two words. He did the talking. All the talking. I learned about everything he's accomplished academically and professional since he was 18 years old, from the 3+ degrees, the "many successful" business ventures, and how he was "too awesome" for one school, so he went to another. I wish I could make this stuff up. After killing the spotlight on himself, he began explaining who (or rather, what) his staff was compiled of, using ethnic markings to describe various workers. Salesman was Jewish, so he was" great with money", and Communications Girl is blonde and "super German," so she's very tough and great with details, but just needs a little help with writing. At this point VP --- who is "super" Italian, and openly admitted he "didn't mind" that I was Italian, too -- explained he was thinking of me more as an office manager position. He had interviewed two other women and had them on board for a while, but, he didn't know if it was "because they were old, or what," but they apparently "sucked." According to his opinions (backed by his umpteen many degrees), old women suck because they are set in their ways. He wanted someone young.

He brought up payment. I gently reminded him he'd promised me X amount a year. He asked how much it was an hour, and I quickly replied with a dollar amount. He laughed at the way I had the information stored, and I responded "I did my homework."

Then he says: "You seem really wary. Do you not trust me?"

Without missing a beat I reply: "I'm Italian, remember? I don't trust anyone."

He laughs, I'm thinking we move on, and then he says ------

"I interviewed another girl who didn't trust me. I was sitting there wondering if she had daddy issues. I was all 'oooh, did she get touched or something as a kid? I dunno.' "

Yeah, incest and molestation jokes! This is general 2nd interview stuff, right?

Interview Three
I'm actually a little hazy on this one. I think at this point they were blending together into one horrified mass of racist remarks and inappropriate conversation. In fact, I didn't remember there was a third one until checking email correspondence. (BTW, the VP of this company doesn't know you're supposed to type the body of the email before your ingrained signature. So all his emails came to me in pt 16 bold green italic TNR font.) After Interview 2, he had asked me to email him why I wanted to work with his company. I did so, and he emailed me back with:


Can you come in again to chat?  Are you free today?


I replied no, I couldn't come in that day, but I could come in 11am the next morning if that was alright. He said yes. At 10.30am he sent me another email "Can we make it 3pm?" I said yes, took off my coat, and sat around my apartment for another few hour wondering what the hell I was doing with my life.

During this third interview, he tells me he doesn't think I would be "happy" doing the office manager position, and instead I will be a sort of "assistant" to the Director of Communications. (The aforementioned "super German" chick.) He walks me out and tells me to come in the next Monday.

That Monday, seconds before I left my apartment, at 8.15am, HR Department/One Girl called me and asked for me to start a week later. Therefore delaying my start date an entire week. I made plans and started working on my second job -- a freelance community website gig -- only to get a phone call to come in that Friday for three hours as a 'test day,' instead of Monday morning.

Working Day/Test Day
So this is my 4th visit to the office. I showed up with a smile and my common sense at home. Ignoring the sinking feeling in my stomach, I expressed enthusiasm at being put right to work. Nothing entirely of note happened this day except for the first ten minutes. I was put into a conference room with Blonde (aka Super German, but I don't want to refer to her as that), who was writing a letter to a corporate official. I was told I was to help her with some of the wording and phrasing. She left the room and within a second, VP appears while I am typing, defying the laws of physics entirely by moving silently.

Him: Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey.
Me: *Gently inclines head up, begins to look away from keyboard.*
Him: Look at me.
Me: *Looks.*
Him: Listen to me.
Me: *Attempts to perk ears up in a canine like fashion.*
Him: I love this girl to death, right? I love her. But she can't fucking write for shit. So you write the way I know you can. ***
Me: ...........................Mkay.

At some point he held a meeting in the same room I was working in. Suddenly I caught on that he was speaking about me to his clients with a jerking of his thumb. "She's in Marketing." So I guess that was my official title.

The Next Two Weeks
Things carried along this vein. The fact VP reminded me of my father should have been a huge red flag, but the hours and pay are/were great so I toughed it out. I had listened to inappropriate language my whole young adult life for free. Now that I was being paid, it seemed like a step up.

- The terms "Arab bastard," "super Jew," "motherfucker," "assholes," "douchebags," were regularly strewn about, along with other ethnic and sexist jokes. Including something about some woman sitting on someone's face.
- The HR department**** (which consists entirely of one girl, my age)/Asst Manager is a friend of VP's family, and therefore took the opportunity to yell and berate VP every chance she got. There is a whole level of awkwardness reserved to hearing someone who is more or less in your peer group call the VP of the company you work for a "fucking dumbass."
- I was asked to plagiarize copy from other websites, because Blonde was against it. I was also asked to falsely advertise company product. I managed to do neither while convincing him I did.
- Despite being hired as hourly and clocking in ten to fifteen minutes early daily, my first paycheck was salary so I lost 2+ hours of my life. And pay. Mostly my life.
- Despite signing the necessary paperwork so that taxes would be removed and I would not be 1099'd, they didn't take out taxes.

The Two Weeks After Payday, When I Was Asked to "Not Come In"

Over the next two weeks I called, emailed, and left messages in an attempt to learn when I should be expected to come back. I managed to get in contact with someone twice. Both times when I called from a phone that was not my cell phone. (Which means that my name wouldn't show up on the caller ID. Paranoid? Me? Maybe.) Finally, the second Monday, I "caught" the Vice President/CEO/Big Boss on the phone.

Him: [NAME!]
Me: Heey, it's [me.]
Him: *Dead silence for 3 seconds, then, cheerfully* Hey, how are you.
Me: Good. And you?
Him: Crazy. *Chuckling.* How can I help you? ((Here I thought 'Really? Did you really just ask me that? After I have left you three messages?'))
Me: Well, I'd like to know if I still have a job. ((Yes, just like that.))

Him: Things have been kind of crazy here.. we've experienced some set backs.. major set backs... we all just got back from a business trip in St. Louis....they ended up finding like four feet of mold in the walls of the office downstairs so the Board of Health wants us out of the whole building... but, I mean, as far as part time work goes, we haven't really looked at the websites.. we're sort of having IT problems... but I have you on my radar, so.
Me: .....
Him: Once we have work, I have no problem calling you back in.
Me: ....Ok, well I guess that's it, then. You'll just.. call me whenever and I'm going to go look for another job..?
Him: Well I think [HR Bitch] told you---
Me: ---*Cutting him off, now not really feeling the need to stay polite.* ...She told me I would be back in two weeks. Back to work.
Him: Right, but we just don't have work for you. Once we do, I am happy to call you ---
Me: ---but weren't you going to call to tell me you didn't plan on having me back?
Him: *With severe attitude* ..Well we will, WHEN WE HAVE WORK---
Me: I understand there's no work, but no one was going to let me know that I didn't have a job there anymo----
Him: ---You know what Criss, let me end this conversation, thank you very much for your time. *hangs up*

Aaaaaaaaand that was it. Exactly one month of having a job, two weeks of which I got paid.

I don't want to make it sound like I was in absolute hell while serving time here, because really I wasn't. I mean, doughnuts and bagels were often supplied for breakfast. Oh, and they have one hell of a coffee machine! The kind where you put in a little solitary cup of flavored whatever you please and it pours just enough for your cup. I was given a laptop to use and a chair, and pens. I mean .. not all bad. I even got blue post-its.

What I Have Learned About Real Entry-Level Office Jobs

- Titles mean little to nothing. I am, technically, a Junior Level Assistant To the Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing. If I had to pick. And yes, 'to the.' (I love The Office too!)
- "Definitions" of "professionalism" change wherever you go. The last day I worked -- three interviews, a test day, and two working weeks in -- I was told I needed to cover up a tattoo I have because it "just wasn't professional." (Perhaps I can regain some cred by making inappropriate jokes or calling someone a "fucking idiot" aloud.)
- Grab your free bagel FAST.
- Half the time, when you are asked to do something, it is because the person asking a) doesn't want to do it, or most likely, b) cannot.
- Email etiquette only applies to outside the office communication.
- As does general politeness.

*** He knows I can write because somewhere between Interview 1 and 2 he read some samples I brought in. He had assured me he wanted to read my creative writing. During Interview 2 or 3 he informed me that he'd allowed everyone in the office to read my vampire fiction and that "everyone was making fun of me" and I was known as 'vampire girl.' Haha...ha..............ha........ha.

****I could devote an entire blog entry to the poetic irony of the company's only HR representative being the most tactless person I have ever met -- and I'm from Brooklyn! -- but it's not amusing so much as incredibly frustrating.

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