On Monday, I had a job interview for a temporary summer job at a shop in my hometown. Yesterday I found out that I wouldn’t be progressing to the next stage of the recruitment process. I don’t want to name the company I had the interview with, because I don’t want to criticise them; if anything, this is going to be some pretty harsh criticism of myself.

I’d been told that the interview would be a ‘large’ group interview, but I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw when we all arrived at the store on Monday evening. There were 21 of us; and except for one other lady, I was the only person who wasn’t in school, university, or was a graduand. So, from the get-go I felt intimidated, and very aware of the difference in age between me and nearly every other person around me. When I received the email mentioning a group interview, my heart sank a little. I knew I wouldn’t be able to perform as well as I would’ve done in a one-on-one interview. I’m an introvert, I find it easier to talk to individuals as opposed to groups. I often take the position of the listener, and leave the talking to the more outgoing people. I did try my best to be as confident, talkative, and relaxed as possible, but it seems that it just wasn’t enough.

I’ve worked in retail and customer service since I was 16. In sixth form I had a weekend job, and also worked during holiday periods; and when I was at university I carried on working during academic holidays, right up until the end of the Christmas holiday in my final year. So to be told that all this wasn’t enough for a summer job was a huge knock to my confidence. It was the closest I’d got to getting a job in five months. When you have such a terrible self-image as I do, a chronic lack of self-confidence and self-belief and self-esteem and a lot of other self- prefixed things, something like this can really shake you. But unlike with dating, I can’t just give up on finding a job because I’m not getting anywhere, I have to carry on.

This all puts me in puts me in a difficult position with retail work. I’ve got plenty of experience, and a CV that’s been called ‘unique’; but I don’t have the the chatty, outgoing, most-talkative-member-of-the-group personality some companies are looking for. I’ve done plenty of translation work in the past, for friends, and at my job in Italy – even though it was never part of my job description. But my experience lies in retail and customer service; and, already not having much faith in any ability I may have in general, it’s made me seriously question my skills. The management offered feedback if requested, but to me that would only confirm what I already know. That I wasn’t confident enough, that I wasn’t outgoing enough, that I wasn’t talkative enough. And those aren’t things I can’t fix, at least not easily at my age. They’re part of of what makes me who I am.

But this is part and package of the experience of looking for work. This morning I was thinking how much it’s like dating – unless you’ve completely given up on that like I have, that is. You try, you get rejected, you pick yourself up, and you try again. You carry on hoping that some day you’ll fit someone’s definition of ‘ideal’.

So, where does that leave me now? With a lot of thinking to do. Thinking about how I have to be more selective with the jobs I apply for. Thinking about how even though it’s a company that I’d love to work for, I have to take my suitability for the position much more seriously. Thinking about the role of personality compared to experience. Thinking about how I can’t squeeze myself into a mould that doesn’t fit me. And then, I’ll pick myself up and try again.


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