Seventeen years ago, a German film called Lola rennt (Run Lola Run) made its way into American pop culture. Maybe not as successfully as other films that year, but for any foreign language film to make an appearance, it’s pretty outstanding. As a junior in high school who was three years into her German classes, it was kind of exciting. In it, Lola tries to come up with a massive amount of money in a very short time in order to prevent her boyfriend from doing something stupid. It takes her a few tries, and in the magic of cinema, each time she fails, she gets to go back and try again, making a change in hopes of succeeding.
Last Thursday, I needed to listen to something new in order to keep me entertained while I was at the gym. While scrolling through my iPod, I found the soundtrack for the movie. I hadn’t listened to it in probably seven years, but I hit play and let the awful beat of the German techno keep my feet moving on the treadmill. Towards the end of the soundtrack, they included the scream. It’s a masterful scream, shattering and piercing, managing to communicate the most frustrated sentiment without a single word.
That scream is exactly, without equal, the best expression of how I feel about job searching and my current job.
Last week, I had to take over because the other manager went to Hawaii. The whole week long, I felt like I was drowning, having to work with a horribly inefficient series of computer programs, dealing with vendors who aren’t used to me, and working with employees who resent my presence. It felt like the day shift was actively working against me. Last night, the restaurant manager told me that not only was I right, but she and her district manager had noticed how much effort the day shift seemed to be putting into messing things up for me. So I’m trying to put a little more effort into looking for something else.
I hate job searching. I’ve been at it for months. I hate the indignity of spending hours typing all my information into boxes only to get a form email in a few days telling me that they are not interested in interviewing me. It’s wearing me down. It’s making me angry.
This morning, while at Starbucks, I was partway through an application when two men sat in chairs at the table next to me. It became clear pretty quickly that there was an interview/pitch about to happen, and they had no hesitation in using their full volume voices to speak to one another, so I listened.
It was masterful. As someone who feels like a fish out of water in interviews, I tried to pay attention to how they spoke. It was an astounding amount of nothing that was said. No substance at all, if you were to read the dialogue. The information conveyed could have fit in a teaspoon, but the slight flattery, the shallow and vague self-promotion was oozing out of every syllable. By the time they left about an hour later, we were knee-deep in BS. I felt like I needed a shower.
And yet, it was pretty clear that this dance of charm, flattery, and vapid conversation was working. Two very successful professionals with decades of experience, and this seemed to be second nature to them. I don’t think that a lifetime of study could teach me how to do it. I’m too blunt, too honest, not at all charming. If I turned up to an interview or pitch and the other person was as shallow, I would be deflated, lost, and utterly unimpressed.
Is this what works, though? This kind of empty nothingness masquerading as communication is what gets the job done? No wonder I suck at interviews.
I’m not sure that I’m going to try to replicate their peacocking in my own interviews, if I can manage to get some. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I am going to keep at it though, because if I don’t find better work soon, I’m going to need to raise bail money.