As you may have noticed, I’m a pretty naive person. Saying unworldly would belie my oh-so-extensive travels, but I’m still easily cowed by most new experiences.
For example, my first adult job interview. For which I dressed, according to my friends back home, “like a Mormon,” and according to me, “eerily similarly to the uniforms of the students I want to teach.”
It wasn’t on purpose. But it must have looked like it when I arrived half an hour late, parked my bicycle in the wrong place, and stammered out excuses to the put-together woman at the futuristically bare front desk.
Based on my interview-dar, it went about 70 percent as well as it could’ve gone. Twenty percent of that was my interviewer — let’s call him Sean — emphasizing that things were a little different since I was so late.
Which is completely understandable. Even though I left 30 minutes before I needed to, mapped the whole thing on Google Maps with the address provided, and had even passed the building a week or so before, I had yet to pick up on some essential adulting interview tips.
Like how if you’re in a strange city, scope out the place the day before trying to get there. Or maybe if it’s monsoon season, bite the financial bullet and take a taxi. And if not, learn how to say “Where do I park my bicycle?” in Vietnamese.
By the end of the interview, I had plotted out a pretty solid lesson plan and written down Sean’s email address to respond to a question I couldn’t answer.
But this was not the question that made up the other ten percent of my perceived failure, no, that was a technical grammar issue.
Sean posed the scenario, flipped over his clipboard, and leaned back in his chair, fingers laced together behind his head. For most of the interview, he was stone-faced, going through the motions. So when he began to smile while leaning back, I knew I was in trouble.
I felt like Alice, preyed upon by the Cheshire cat. See what I’m saying about naive? That’s not the way you’re supposed to feel in an interview.
From what I hear, you’re supposed to at least stand up for yourself.
As the moment stretched on, I sat up straighter, took a deep breath, and plunged into a convoluted explanation of the difference between adjectives and nouns.
Sean tried to ask leading questions as I stumbled through, doing my best to demonstrate my ability to do the job, completely disproving the resume and degrees that sat between us.
After I asked him a few questions — not nearly enough, I still felt too much like Alice, unsure where to tread, having forgotten the things I wanted to know — Sean presented the truth.
“How do you feel teaching our youngest learners?” he asked.
The death knell. The We-Don’t-Trust-You-With-Anyone-Older-And-You-Look-Gullible-Enough-To-Try-This Question.
As it turns out, the children’s class was the least disastrous of my student teaching attempts, so I told him I felt motivated, excited, and willing to teach them.
While Sean took a few final notes, I watched through the window behind him as the sky opened up and rain began to pour down over a skyline of many-colored apartments and the Bitexco Tower.
“It’s a beautiful view, isn’t it?” he said. “There’s a cafe on the top floor here where you can wait out the storm if you like.”
There are many firsts happening to this innocent in a foreign country since graduation. The end of Sean’s Cheshire catting was the first time I finished 13 levels of Sudoku on my Vietnam phone waiting for monsoon rains to abate during the lunch rush in a sub-par cafe at a language academy.
Here’s to my first time learning lessons for the next adult job interview, and hoping that Sean doesn’t burst out laughing at my first adult follow-up email.