INFJ Seeking Job, Not Career

The prompt was “Afterward, I thought about…” This one turned out pretty personal, actually. It’s based somewhat on a job interview I had. Names have been changed, etc. Mostly it’s complaining about the corporate bias towards extroverts and “type A personalities” as well as talking a bit of what it feels like to be an introvert. A slightly more structured essay than my previous essay draft.

INFJ Seeking Job, Not Career

After my last interview, I thought about personalities and personality types. What made Sally shake her head and stiffen up at the thought of the Type A?

Maybe she has an ex-husband who is a “type A.” Workaholic, never home, never helped with the kids. Always on the phone with the office when they were on vacation. Always had to have his way, always outshouted her, always out-negotiated her.

Or maybe she was dealing with one of the type As from the building I’d just interviewed in, the ones who actually came out and said they were looking for type A. After I pretty much all but spat out “introverted intuitive feeling judging” to every one of those silly, free-form answer personality screening questions.

But those personality test questions, they get me. She got me, the first interviewer. What color is your brain? Immediately I thought of it in synesthesic terms (though I don’t have synesthesia). Color associations. Not until hours later do I realize that the realist, the literalist, the Vulcan, would have said “gray” or “pink.” What color is my brain? What color are all brains? I said green. Because of fertility. The fertility of my imagination and ideas. Plus, green is my favorite color.

I put “creative” right on my resume, as if they give a shit. The skills highlight list was the worst mistake. Little did I know I’d have to scrabble together my definition of what “analytical” means and how to explain why I think I am. Of course I didn’t think one of them would ask if my 4.0 GPA was “a typo” or why I was there if I majored in English.

What would be the title of my biography? After wracking my (green, haha) brain for a few minutes I said, “A World of My Own,” hoping it didn’t sound megalomaniacal. My own little created fantasy escape world, to hide in. I told her when I first got into writing, it was to create my own little world by my rules and ideals. I didn’t say it was because I was so bullied as a child that I needed something to be in control of, where my enemies were monsters that I could defeat. Interview, Amber, not counseling session.

I wish I could’ve made out her handwriting, to see the notes she made. Then again, maybe I don’t want to know. “Any reservations about me?” I asked, one of the Ten Best Interview Questions to Ask from an online article. Doing it by the manual, again. “You’re quiet,” she said. I struggled to assure her that once I get comfortable I open up.

“Hell, let me drink at work and you won’t be able to shut me up,” I didn’t say, of course.

See, I’m so much funnier on paper.

***

A type A would tell you that they are the ones who get things done. They are the ones who push and reach and hunger and shout and get things moving while the rest of us are too timid to move.

The non-type A (I won’t say type B, you’ll see why in a minute) work quietly, efficiently, with a minimum of noise and fuss. Noise and fuss wastes time and steals focus. We’re not the gong that chimes the hour, we’re the quietly ticking clockwork keeping it all moving along.

We like to stay behind, in the back room, building foundations. Filling cracks. Gathering the support material and writing speeches for the ones who have the capacity to shout them out. We don’t envy the braggarts their victory parties because we wouldn’t enjoy something like that anyway.

Sensory overload.

I hate being the center of attention. Like everyone else, I like getting attention, but a lot of times I don’t know what to do with it. How to handle it.

Maybe people who like being the center of attention are just so confident that they’re awesome that they don’t worry about it, but when I’m in that position all I can think of is, am I smiling right? Enough? Does it look like a grimace? Who should I look at, at what part of their face, for how long? What should I say so I don’t sound like a freak?

The definitions make me sound like a freak. Type A has everything you think you’d want from an employee. Hardworking, almost overworking. Strictly organized. Fast-paced multitasker. Overachiever.

For a company that stresses the need for flexibility and adjustment to change, someone who needs solid plans and strict organization seems like a bad fit, but they insist they want type A. Maybe because Type B has things traits like: apathetic. Lax about deadlines. Poor organization skills. No sense of urgency.

No wonder experts say the “types” A and B are flawed and obsolete. What the interviewers really mean to say, I think, is that they want the positive qualities of a type A plus someone who’s an extrovert.

And I am not. So not.

It’s not like I can’t be. I can be friendly. I can be open. I can be funny (“If you could switch places for a day with any person, alive or deceased, who would you choose?” she asked. “Well, probably not the deceased one,” I said. She laughed). But you can tell I’m trying. That I’m “making an effort.” That I’ll collapse a few minutes after getting in my car and spend the rest of the day wanting to hide in a blanket cave with a book and not speak to anyone.

Just walking down the goddamn street I feel like I’m working from a manual. Wait until this distance apart. Smile just this much. Say hello. Look to each person in turn, look away. Like a robot or an alien learning how to be human. After almost thirty years on this earth I still find myself practicing smiling in the mirror so when I have to put on a social smile I know how the right smile feels.

And because of low self esteem, I’ll turn it on myself. I won’t say that the world is wrong (though I’ll whine in my head that it’s unfair, the world being biased this way, being built this way), because the world is a big, immovable object and I can’t change it, so I can only change myself, so the fault must lie in me.

I’m broken. I’m built wrong. I have some slipping cog in my head. My ambition circuit got installed upside down. I’m not “hungry.” I want a niche to slip into. I want a slot I can turn in, helping the machine along. I don’t want to claw and climb and stretch, always on the move, always looking for something more or better.

I find my excitement elsewhere. My goals are personal. My ambitions likewise.

I wish I could just put it in big, bold letters at the top of my resume: INFJ. INFJ seeking job, not career. I wish job listings posted their ideal Meyers-Briggs personality type.

But they can’t do that, so we get to interview. I get to sit there and try and figure out if I’m giving off the right signals with my body language, posture, smile, where I’m looking, what I’m saying. It’s always been so hard for me to hide my emotions. That and how I hate wasting money are why I refuse to learn poker. I sit there and listen to them describe the job and try and figure out what lie to tell. That I love being busy all day long (true, but not putting out fires). That I shine under pressure. That I find it exciting and refreshing to have my priorities and tasks constantly changing. Try not to think about how much I hated getting yanked off of one project, yanked off my rhythm, to work on another; how I hated dropping things unfinished; how I like to see something through to the end.

Sure, I love change. Collect enough and you can turn it in for cash.

That’s me being funny again.

***

It was Sally I saw as I drove by on the way to the parking lot. She was standing on the patio and though I didn’t know she was the one I was interviewing with, I thought how funny it would be if she actually was out there to flag me down, knowing that the sign on the building was hard to see and the only sign on the road was for another business and I would drive right past it.

She came in after I’d been waiting awhile and introduced herself, cigarettes on her breath. “I had to clear my head,” she said by way of explanation. It turned out she hadn’t known she was interviewing me until she got the appointment in her inbox. Hence why she didn’t show up. Hence the phone call from the recruiting assistant asking if I’d come over after the As had finished with me.

“They make their own stress, over there,” Sally said to me. They whip themselves into a frenzy, creating their own dramas, their own crises that they work themselves to the bone on in order to save the day, be the hero, get the bonus or award. “Our stress comes from outside. We’ll suddenly get a list of 500 items due at the end of the day. We just have to buckle down and do it.”

Sally doesn’t like loudmouths. She doesn’t like chitchat. Things don’t get done in that department if you’re running your mouth. Your work doesn’t get done and your coworkers are too distracted to get anything done.

Lose your concentration and transpose some numbers, and products get mixed up. Prices go out wrong. Beer is listed as a food stamp item and peanut butter suddenly requires proof of age and ID to purchase.

***

None of them, three or four jobs worth of interviewers, said they didn’t think I could do the work. I know I can. I can hack anything. Even being a help desk, on call, woken up at 1am to jump on my company laptop to put out another fire.

But then I’ll be stuck in another job I hate. Welcome to your new job, same as your old job.

Sally thinks I’m overqualified. Overqualified to punch in numbers? Who isn’t overqualified for that?

I’m starting to think that the reason all these job openings require these “type A” personalities is because they are the ones who leave holes, with all their jumping around. They leave their stepping stone jobs open. All us non type-As either find a job perfect for us and stay there forever, or jump into a type-A job and flee as soon as we figure it out.

The openings in Sally’s department are from two people who jumped ship, jumped buildings, jumped into the exciting world of “type A.” One guy was only in Sally’s department six months before he got bored. One of my other interviewers told me the same story, only it was a different guy and instead of getting bored, he got overwhelmed. “He got that look in his eyes,” he said. “The same look you have in yours right now,” he didn’t say, but he could have.

***

I just want a job. It’s the poison phrase. My husband says it’s because if you’re not hungry, they have nothing to hold over your head. The carrot of advancement has no savor if you’re content where you are. Everyone wants to know my five year plan. Everyone wants to know what I want out of a career.

I answer honestly: I want a job I don’t dread going to, that I can work at 40 hours a week and feel like I accomplished something, that gives me a decent paycheck and lets me work with people I like.

Simple. Deadly. Not what they want to hear.

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~ by Amber on June 12, 2012.

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