Fitting in the Box: The interview question that stumps me every time.

Imagination_EinsteinUntraditional, alternative, creative, innovative, and tenacious are all words that have been used to describe me. As hard as I try, I just don’t seem to get things done the same way as everyone else. My education and career path are no exception.

As my body aged I began to feel the wear and tear from working for more than 15 years as a massage therapist. I realized that my body could suffer long term damage if I continued to work as a massage therapist until retirement at the age of 65—still 30 years way.

At 34 years old, I took on a full class load at Salt Lake Community College. Four years later, I graduated from the University of Utah with an Honors Bachelor of Science degree in Writing and Rhetoric Studies.

I was the first student to be accepted in the new degree, and I was well aware of the career risks of getting a degree that most people would not recognize. However, I decide the individual attention and classes specific to the type of work I wanted to do, to not only be able to write, but address topics rhetorically, would make it worthwhile.

Throughout college, I had worked part time at an organization that focused on community literacy. I worked as a writing assistant, mentor, coordinator of writing groups, facilitated workshops, worked with diverse populations, and compiled and edited two books—all things writing related. I thought the position would be a great resume builder and help to prepare me for when I was looking for a full-time job.

I hit the job market, with a fresh off the press degree, about nine months ago. I wanted a position in technical writing, copy writing, or another entry level writing position. I started off strong, submitted dozens of resumes, and landed a few interviews.

Once the interview questions shifted from asking me about my degree (most applicants had journalism or English degrees) to questions about my work experience, I quickly learned how hard it is to shift from a non-profit position to a position in business.

Without fail, in every interview, I would be asked something along the lines of, “How will you handle shifting from working in a position that has the immediate benefit of working with and helping people to a position where you are simply a cog in the machine?”

I would answer the question with a statement comparing qualitative and quantitative data, and value, while different, is significant in both. I did not get a single job offer; I guess I never gave the answer they were looking for.

I left the interviews with one question on my mind, why would I want to work with a company that viewed me as simply a cog in the machine?

The answer is simple; I do not want to work with a company where educated, smart, innovative, and motivated employees are viewed as cogs in a machine. I want to work for a company that utilizes education, inspires creativity, trying on new ideas, and mentors employees to not only do their best, but also generate expansion and on-going education and training in new platforms.

My dream company may be idealistic. However, I feel that a correct fit between an employee and employer is essential for job satisfaction and employee retention. I was fortunate enough to receive a Graduate Teaching Fellowship in my area of study, but when I hit the job market again in a few years, I will be looking for a company to fit my career ambitions, rather than simply finding somewhere to punch my timecard.

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