Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I went for a freelance interview today. As is usually the case, I was referred for the job. Someone with whom I had endured a series of difficult meetings—another creative director—had recommended me for freelance in his department.
The agency is so big, it is spread out all over town. The job I was seeing about was in a building downtown far away from the midtown locations I’d worked in before. When I got off the elevator the receptionist greeted me with a friendly smile and startled me by passing me a clipboard and asking me to fill out an employment application. An employment application! I hadn’t seen one in years.
The receptionist suggested I take a seat and make myself comfortable. I retreated to a trendily upholstered sofa and stared for a while at the form in my hands. Why was it making me feel so demeaned? Why did I resent being asked to put down the date and previous addresses if less than five years at current address? Why was I confused by the simple question What Job Are You Applying For? And insulted by a request for the names and contact information for 5 business persons not related to me? (Do they think without that caveat you will reference your mother?)
It took me a few minutes to get over feeling affronted (the job is guaranteed to last many months) and I bought time to get over my hesitation by conducting a full-out search for a pen in my bag. (The fact that the clipboard hadn't come with a pen on a cord consoled me, for some reason.) Finally, reluctantly, I got down to business.
Just as I was checking boxes to indicate which office equipment and machinery I knew how to operate (options included: calculator? typewriter? copier? postage meter? Was I was applying to Sterling Cooper in 1962?) the receptionist’s phone rang and when she hung up, she said person I’d come for was ready to see me. “I didn’t know you were freelance,” she said. “Sorry. You don’t have to fill out the form.” Ridiculously, her words restored me to full height as I rose to pass her the empty clipboard.
The incident reminded me of what it was like to break into a business, before jobs came to me through word of mouth, before I was accorded professional courtesies and privileges that I now take for granted. For jobhunters in receptions filling out forms today--hats off to you and good luck.