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......"
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
(It's Just Not) Working Girl
Labels: Aspergers, Careers, Carly Simon, Communication, Confidence, Job Interviews, Let The Rivers Run, Melanie Griffith, Movie, Shyness, Working Girl
Hi, I'm Vanessa but everyone calls me Ness. I'm married to Mick and Mum to three boys. My interests include exercising vigorously, staring into space vacantly and a disturbing Karen Carpenter obsession. At age 40 I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. I'm always off in my own little World so I figured I may as well invent one. Welcome to Nessville! Thanks for stopping by!