She was so nervous. It was her first interview. First, she was picky. She was specifically searching for marketing related jobs. Reality hit when she applied to multiple marketing jobs in her city and didn’t receive a single call. Multiple applications didn’t yield different results. She felt very disappointed. She knew if she stayed in the marketing lane, she might not find a job. She extended her search to advertising positions. If she had the minimum requirements, she would click “APPLY.” She did not receive a call back, just the formal acknowledgement of receipt, with the occasional cold; “only applicants shortlisted will be contacted.”
It was still December she told herself, that she still had time. Her permit was just sent and that gave her at least two months to find a job.
She had an interview with a job placement firm looking for marketing agents. If it were based on appearance, she would have gotten the job. She always looked the part. Even if she failed, she looked good doing it. She can fit in any crowd, from the official to the most casual.
She had an impressive collection of suits which she took great pride hanging in her very organized wardrobe. Even her roommates were dazzled by the amount of clothes she had. She had more clothes than the three of them combined.
“You have a lot of clothes,” one admiringly said to her.
She read a lot on how to conduct oneself in an interview, from dress code to the smallest detail. She Googled possible interview questions and appropriate responses. She carefully went through the questions and prepared adequate answers, using her experience and abilities to give it context.
On the day of her interview, she played it safe. You can never go wrong with black and white in the corporate world, she figured. She wore a black official pant, not tight on the body and loose at the bottom, a black top and a black suit with a touch of white, making two stripes on both ends. She wore a cream pearl earring, and a silver watch. She applied light makeup with mild colors; brown eyeshadow, nude lipstick, a little bit of mascara and brushed her brows.
“You wanna to be taken seriously,” she said to her reflection on the mirror.
She tied her hair in a bun. Well, her very human hair looking wig she recently purchased on Amazon. She had come to appreciate one black girl code in America; it is not a wig, it is not a weave, once it is on your head, it’s your hair.
She was in the library doing some homework, when Francess, her Sierra Leonean friend who had been in the US for twenty years taught her the all too important lesson.
“Girl your hair looks good,” she had said to her.
“Thanks, it’s a wig.”
“Shush,” Francess silenced her. Don’t ever say that.
She wore a five inch cream-color heels. It alleviated her height but most importantly, it alleviated her confidence. She held a black file with all the copies of her documents in one hand, and a brown Prada handbag in the other. The bag was a perfect Prada imitation.
Her look screamed “I am ready for business.”
She prepared her mindset before getting to the interview.
“I am just going to do my best, be honest and keep it short. If I don’t get the job, at least I would gain interview experience that would equip me for another one.” Really, she was managing her expectations.
She doesn’t cope well with rejection or failure. In this case, the idea that she was not ‘good enough.’
She didn’t have a car and there were no buses or trains to ride on. She used her Uber app for a drive to the place. It was about twenty three minutes’ drive away from where she lived.
When she got to the building, she headed for the reception, introduced herself and said she had an interview with Jenna Hopkins. She was told to wait; Jenna will be with her shortly.
Jenna was tall, taller than any lady she knew. She had long brunette hair; middle parted and fell restfully on her back. She wore black work pants, a white long sleeve shirt and a mustard sweater. She wore black pentene flat shoes.
She introduced herself and shook her hand. Jenna’s handshake was firm, almost intimidating. You must be Ajie Mariam. She said the name trying her hardest to not mess it up. She made a good attempt, but messed it up alright.
Ajie Mariam has learned to not take offense at the way her name is pronounced. Having lived in the United States for four years, she had gotten accustomed to it. The funniest name she was ever called was by her sociology professor. He so wanted to pronounce her name right that when he was taking attendance on the first day of class, he stopped unwillingly at her name. Even before he could ask, she knew immediately that stop was for her, all her. The unfamiliarity of the name throws them off, every single time.
“How do you pronounce it,” he asked.
“Ajie Mariam,” she said.
“Aaa jai Marye-ye-am,” he said.
“No, it’s Ajie Mariam,” she said patiently.
“Aaa jai Marye-ye-am,” he said again.
Even the class found it funny and was laughing at that point. Some of them made an attempt at the name.
“I really wanna pronounce it right.”
“Aa jai Maryam,” he made a final attempt.
“That’s close. But I don’t mind really,” she was kind.
“I have difficulty pronouncing some of your names, so I get it,” she consoled.
She followed Jenna to the interview room, there were several of them. Looking at Jenna, it occurred to her that she was probably overdressed.
“But Jenna is not the one looking for a job,” she pushed the thought to the side.
Jenna asked her a few routine questions. She answered each precisely.
Jenna told her that the interview was done; she needed to do a computer test to measure her computer skills, these included word, worksheet and excel. The test was forty-five minutes.
She also told her that she could reschedule the test if she was not up to it.
“Hell no, I might as well get it over with,” she said to herself.
“I’ll take the test,” she said to Jenna.
Jenna took her to a computer room where two older white women and a black young man (probably her age) were doing the same test. She was handed the instruction sheet and told she can start whenever she was ready. The questions were in sections, when she completed a section, she should save and submit. This will lead her to the next segment. The timer will be on top of her screen.
Not expecting much, she didn’t hesitate to start. She was clear about what she knew and that was word, other than that, she had no idea.
assage to type. The test was designed to track her typing speed, how many words per minute. Spreadsheet, Excel, she was just playing. Nothing looked right. Finally she clicked on ‘exit test.’
Jenna told her that she will be sent her scores and they can take it from there.
She failed woefully, even word, the one thing she thought she knew on that test, she failed terribly. She didn’t meet the average score for anything.
On the same email baring her embarrassing test scores, she was urged to work on it and take the test again. They needed to ensure that the people they send to employers are up to the task and having basic computer skills was one of them.
She drowned her sorrow by searching and applying to more jobs. APPLY was her favorite word on the app, clicking on it became instinctive.
Meanwhile, the ticking of the clock is so loud; she didn’t know it could be that loud.