Tuesday, 17 April 2012

(It's Just Not) Working Girl

Today I am linking this old post with Kirsty from My Home Truths for I Must Confess: My First Job.


Recently I happened to watch the retro movie Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith on TV.  The one where everyone was suffering from serious Tragic Eighties Syndrome.

 Mick pointed out to me that I too once sported a mop of Tragic Eighties style hair just like Ms Griffith in the film. See above left.  Okay, mine was far worse than Melanie's. Or 'Tess' as she was in the film. See below.  Sadly, my Tragic Eighties hair was the only potential similarity I had to the character of Tess.


It was becoming increasingly clear to me from an early age that I could never hope to be a career woman. The grand finale of the film where Tess is given her own office while Carly Simon belts out an inspiring chorus of "Let The River Run" in the background, was never going to be a scene that would play out in my life. 

It all started the first time I attempted to get a part time job in high school.  I wasn't really sure if I wanted one, but it seemed like the thing everyone did.    The obvious choice was a job at Macca's ie. McDonald's.  I dutifully filled out the application form.  I needed a reference. I asked a teacher who worked wonders at finding tactful, polite things to say about me when in reality if he'd written the truth it would have read something like "Vanessa never utters a single word, or makes eye contact.  Ever. Hire someone else."

After only two weeks of the preliminary training I was fired.  This did not bode well for a future career.  Let's face it, if you can't even manage Macca's, future CEO (or anything) is looking pretty unlikely. 

A year or two later I stumbled out of high school, with absolutely no idea of what to do.  So I signed up for a two year TAFE course in Library Practice.  Seemingly the perfect choice for the quiet, shy nerd-girl who loved reading.  To my dismay I discovered there was a lot more to working as a Library Technician than just reading books.  You actually had to talk to people.  Starting with the obvious.  A job interview.  EEEEEEEEEEEK!  Just the thought of them fills me with terror. 

I know nobody likes them. Everyone gets nervous of course. But it was completely off the scale for me.  I honestly could not fathom what to say.  It didn't matter that I was the most honest, trustworthy reliable individual on the planet, that wasn't going to get me a job. 

I needed the gift of the gab, the ability to sprout verbal diarrhoea and tell potential employers how completely wonderful I was.  I just simply cannot, to this day, do this.  I don't know how much of it is shyness and how much of it is my Aspergers, which I didn't know about at the time.  Perhaps I might have been able to get the help I needed for employment if I had known, something I desperately needed.

Since childhood, whenever I was asked an on the spot question I would freeze and literally not be able to think of  a single thing to say.  This happened at every interview.  Fortunately I was able to get a temporary position at the State Library of NSW through somebody I knew from TAFE.  But a permanent job elluded me.  For a period of time I diligently kept on applying for jobs.  I wasn't so bad at the written application part, so almost always I was contacted for an interview.  It was the talking I couldn't do.  Still can't. 

Some of the other librarians attempted to help me out by telling me what type of questions to expect to be asked so that I could prepare.  All the preparation in the world, still didn't help and the nightmare continued.  The more I tried, the more effort I put in to attempt to sound and speak confidently the more pointless it seemed.

One time I remember walking into a building for an interview and thinking: Right, I am going to walk up confidently to the front desk, speak up loudly and make eye contact.  Determined, I proceeded to do so only to receive the immediate reply "Boy, you're really shy aren't you?" I must have literally reeled as if he'd slapped me.  Even when I made a supreme effort to try to be confident, it seemed I just wasn't convincing. This was one of the many times the interview ended with me running out in tears.

Meanwhile I was also struggling with the temporary job, trying to fit in to the 'team' environment we were expected to work in.  As well as with being a dreamy, space cadet. An unhelpful trait in the work place.

Eventually I gave up on the library jobs and took a job in an NRMA call centre, principally because I was able to arrive 20 minutes late for the interview, after getting lost, where I mumbled a few incoherent words and they still employed me on a trial basis.  I soon found out why. It was hell on Earth.  NRMA are a great company, it's just that I wasn't cut out to talk to (mostly abusive) people all day.  Even over the phone. Somehow I worked there for three nightmarish years, before finally resigning. 

By this point I was married and we wanted start a family. It wasn't happening and we began fertility treatments.  This involved multiple trips to the hospital at random times, which would have made trying to keep a job at the same time difficult. So in it went into the too hard basket right along with driving.

Years later I had a few more casual library jobs.  (The whole fertility thing is another saga!).  The closest I got to a 'Tess' moment was when I was employed by law firm to look after their small specialist library.  I told them I wasn't in fact, officially a librarian, and they went oh well, doesn't matter and let me pretend to be one for a while.

Yes, I am definitely no Working Girl.  Maybe I'll just have to live vicariously through the film instead. After all daydreaming is something I'm good at.  Sing with me..."Leeeeeeeeet the River Ruuuun, Let all the dreamers wake the nation......"

Reactions:

16 comments:

  1. Dearie, that hair style should be illegal

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    1. Yes, don't know what I was thinking. But at least it's good for providing a laugh now.

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  2. So OK - the hair style hasn't really stood the test of time. I had a crew cut which was bleached white back in the 1980s and I wondered why I couldn't find a boyfriend ;-). Your natural hair colour is just gorgeous and you are very pretty lady.
    Its such a shame that so much of our self worth is caught up with having BIG career when 90% of what people really do is just shuffling paper about anyways. Still I'd hate to think you're giving up on yourself. You're a talented writer. There should be a niche for you somewhere.

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    1. Thanks Brenda, for saying I'm pretty (don't think I've heard that in a long time) and a talented writer.

      I think when I was young I was so hung up about being quiet and shy that it didn't occurr to me to use it as a strength. After all not like you need to be loud in a library lol You're right about the career expectations..my prob is I'm not a career woman nor a housewifey type either.

      Anyway would love to see that crew cut on your blog oneday if you haven't shared it already.

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  3. Hi Ness, I am with Mumabulous, hopefully you will find your way soon. It's hard finding something you are good at though. I feel the same sometimes, especially around all these creative bloggers.

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    1. Thanks and I agree it can be a bit intimidating.

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  4. Interviews are horrible. No wonder I decided to start my own business last year (after I was made redundant) rather than look for a new job!!!

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    1. You're doing a great job. So glad it's working out for you. Thanks for reading.

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  5. It's funny we always see parts of ourselves as weaknesses, but being shy has obviously helped you not get into a job you hate and be miserable in it. That hairdo is just AWESOME - don't you just love the good old days of fashion :) Emily

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    1. Awesome isn't the word I would have used but thanks.

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  6. My dream job was to be a librarian. I actually went for a library assistant job at the same time I did the public service exam and I really, really wanted to be a librarian. Alas that was not to be...

    BTW I love the 80's working girl look - I may have to dig through my photo archives and find a classic 80's picture of my own! Thanks for linking up Ness.

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    1. I'd love being a librarian if I could just deal with the books and not the people lol. Thanks for reading and hosting the link up

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  7. I haven't been to an interview in over a decade...the thought of one sends shivers down my spine! It is really hard for a lot of people to present themselves as the best person for the job.
    Not sure if you're aware but I have a link up that I host on Fridays called Flashback Friday (my first was a look at my embarrassing hair evolution through primary school). Feel free to link up this post at the end of the week xx

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    1. Thanks Cathy, yeah interviews..eeeek! And thanks for letting me know about the link up. Sounds like fun. :)

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  8. Oh Ness, I hear you about job interviews - I've not left one crying but have certainly left feeling like deflated balloon. I hope you choose to explore something with your writing - I'm looking forward to reading my way through your blog :)

    PS. Sorry about that haircut (I had a big 80's perm so am on the same page!)

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  9. I'm definitely better at writing than talking, but thats not saying much..since I hardly ever talk..

    Thanks for reading and the kind remarks.

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