What is the most disappointing interview you have ever experienced? Sitting outside the restaurant at 10:05, I glance at my watch for the third time. I was already informed that the manager (who is supposed to be shaking my hand and subsequently interviewing me) is running late. This is a good start. When he does show I am informed that he was ‘in traffic’ for over an hour. I’m not sure that I believe him. It is LA and otherworldly traffic does exist here: the kind of traffic that makes you utter every four-letter word you know and also consider how so many of these people haven’t killed themselves in previous moments of vehicular stupidity.
When he does squeeze through the door and shake my hand, we make our way over to a round table with black vinyl-upholstered seats. I’m immediately asked about my availability to which I reply, immediate and open, weekends, evenings, whatever you need. “Good, good”, he says. Then, less then 2 minutes into our interview he is glancing over the resumé I just handed him (he didn’t bring the other copy I had previously put on file). With a puzzled look on his face, his eyes come up to meet mine and he asks, “so where is your serving experience?”
Let’s take a step back here. I have been into this restaurant, a fairly reputable one on Ventura boulevard three times now. I brought them a resumé previously, then checked in on the status of that resumé a month later. I then followed up with an email to update my phone number which had changed. I was then called by the manager who asked me to come in for an interview.
So I’m sitting here and it is apparent to me that he has not yet actually read my resumé. I explain my experience as a Wildland Firefighter, doing chainsaw work while things are literally on fire all around me. I explain my experience as an Interpretive Ranger, speaking to groups of as many as fifty people, delivering original presentations 30-45 minutes in length. I even mention my experience back in high school working taking orders and cooking food at a country club. It is at this point in the interview that he explains to me that he is looking for someone with 3-4 years serving experience. Let me add that this restaurant doesn’t have any item that costs more then $50 (an overpriced steak). This is not a formal experience, rather an overpriced typical LA eatery. Sure, the food is good and it is well-reviewed, but it’s not some exclusive, black-tie ordeal. Needless to say he said that maybe in a month they would be looking for hosts and he would be in touch.
I immediately had another interview, also for a serving position. It was a similar experience, although I was under the impression that the person interviewing me had actually prepared for the event – she asked me questions, engaged me a bit. Still the same disappointing results.
Here is my little rant. I can be a server. I know this. Yes it is a high-stress job. Yes, it takes experience to be GOOD at it. I don’t want to devalue the ability of someone who does this job well. But guess what – any decently intelligent person can fulfill this job. Yes, there will be a learning curve. Still, as someone who has worked in many high stress jobs, I know I am capable of this. Rant over.
That evening I was feeling a little down, drinking beers, enjoying the hot tub at my friend’s condo, when I got an email asking if I was available and interested to work as a freelance photographer on a project for an advertising agency. Finally I was getting the break I have been looking for. In a whirlwind of forms, information exchanges, days in the field, and finally uploading work form the project, I am just about done with my first paid photography gig since getting to LA.
Sometimes, when we are the most demoralized, disappointed or discouraged, we are also on the verge of something wonderful. It’s a perfect example of my situation. I was really unhappy after having two very inconclusive and seemingly useless interviews but something great was just on the horizon. I learned (again, as I have learned in the past) that you cannot give up hope that something positive will happen. As someone who has experienced a shit-storm like most will never know, it is sometimes the only thing that can keep a person going – the hope for the positive. It will always be there, even if we are not always experiencing it.