Saturday, August 22, 2009

Step one towards the quest to make piles of sweet moolah is to ace your job interview. I remember my first restaurant interview like it was yesterday....

It was springtime in the year of 2000 and I had decided that waiting tables was the key to my financial freedom, and would hopefully provide me with another key as well. That of a new, shiny car- I was dreaming big and planning for my fabulous future. (In retrospect, I must not have been dreaming that big because the first place I applied at was well known as one of the local seedy dives.) I had put in an application and had been called back for an interview, something that I was feeling very positive about. I entered the managers office and was greeted by a thick cloud of menthol cigarette smoke, a couple cats and the strange realization that her office was decorated with "Hello Kitty" tchochkes. The manager, a woman of nondescript age and very obvious blue eyeliner asked me a few basic questions. While lighting a new cigarette with the end of the old one she proclaimed, "You know honey, I just don't think that you are what we are looking for." "Alright" I replied "I know my inexperience in the restaurant field might work against me but I have a lot of expertise in customer service in general." As I opened my mouth to speak again she cut me off "No, no (hack, hack) honey it's not something you can change, we were really hoping that you were just a bit younger." I caught a glimpse of myself in her bedazzled Hello Kitty mirror and couldn't help but think that I had slipped into a bizzaro alternate universe, where barely 20 equals geriatric. I looked fresh faced and painfully young, and was reminded that just earlier that day I had been asked if I still attended my towns local grade school.... "Younger" I stammered "Well, you are right, there is nothing I can do to turn back the clock at this point in time." "You are right dear, she rasped "We really to try to stick with the local high school girls because that is what our clients seem to prefer." Images of rampant pedophilia zipped thru my head as I stood to take my leave. Walking out thru the kitchen and dining room I noticed that the staff was extremely young, and it occurred to me that perhaps I was fighting a loosing battle against my obvious old age. Amusingly, my job search at that point continued to take some bizarre twists and I was rejected not only for being an obvious retiree, but for "Being a girl" (sorry about my chromosomes) "not having the right look" (no, I'm not platinum blonde and 5'11") and for not being able to work breakfast shifts. I finally hit on some luck when exhausted, I walked into a restaurant and in a desperate way informed the bartender that "There was NO reason NOT to hire me!!" While pounding the bar with my fist to emphasize my point. Much to my surprise he was also the owner and encouraged the manager in charge of hiring to find work for me so that I wouldn't come back and scare him again. And so began my illustrious career, and I am still reminded to this day by that particular individual of our first meeting. (he no longer owns that restaurant and sadly, is something of a disgrace but is not scared to bring up the forceful way in which I gained employment...) My time at this restaurant was rather short lived as, like I already mentioned the ownership/management left something to be desired. I got very lucky getting into restaurant #2, as I had two acquaintances working there. It was one of those situations where, if you were a random person applying off the street you never would have snagged a job. However I got lucky, made my move, did my thang and worked there for 6 years.

Fast forward almost 10 years and here we are in current time. As I ventured back out into the world of job applications and interviews that subsequently made me feel like a 15 year old uneducated school girl I reminded myself of several things. I now have years of experience, I am old, wise, mature and have no desire to party my nights away. I know how to politely talk about my strengths and I am excellent at letting people know how (on no uncertain terms) I would be an asset to their establishment. (and I kept my pounding fists to myself, sadly.) My business savvy self tells me that these are fine qualities to have but my experience thus far argues that point.

I attempted to gain employment at a local restaurant that has a specific specialty, one that I happen to be exceptionally well versed in. They were thrilled to have me call, delighted to take my resume, borderline hysterical at my vast knowledge of their product. When I made a follow up call I was told to wait to hear back from them but to be prepared to start that weekend (but wait for the call. and yes they would call me) After breaking all my rules and actually waiting for a phone call, it dawned upon me after several days that it was never going to happen. I can take a hint- they were "just not that into me." I moved on, made a few other calls and was either shocked by the rudeness at the other end of the line or encouraged by a scattered sounding host to come in and apply. After a bit more disappointment and disorganization, wasted time and frustration I was about to throw in the towel and cry uncle. At this point my eyes were telling me that if hired at many of these places I would be the senior citizen of the group. I had to start wondering if the downhill walk to 30 was going to the equivalent of a walk right out the door.... Unlike when I was barely old enough to drink and could not possibly take a person seriously when they said that I really ought to be younger- the comments of hiring "college age kids" was starting to hurt a bit. But, I'm not a quitter and wasn't quite ready to give up on a good fight just yet. And, as I walked into one of the best restaurants I know, and got hired before I could even hand over my resume I realized that it had been a good choice to stick it out. As I head back into the world of being on the wrong side of the table I start to wonder: What will these people be like?

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