This week has been a case in point for the old phrase, “you learn something new every day.” I did go on the interview — I wasn’t seriously considering not going — and it was indeed a learning experience. I learned that I felt much more confident going into a job interview because of my recent experience talking about what I do, or might want to do, in informational interviews. I learned that a job in production actually means producing thins in quantity … which should have been obvious, but it’s not part of my background. I’ve operated in my head enough that it’s not immediately clear to me that “have you ever had a job in production” is essentially asking me if I’ve ever done relatively boring, repetitive tasks in order to produce a quantity of results.
Because this was essentially what the job I interviewed for was doing. Yes, it’s described as scanning, so I wouldn’t quite be screwing nuts and bolts together or revisiting Rosie the Riveter, but they were honest with me that this was primarily what the job involved.
They were also honestly curious as to why someone with a PhD would apply. They explained that usually students take this job (it’s half-time, which works with a student schedule) and that they leave it as they complete their programs, so why was I interested? I was able to explain my overall support of both their organization’s mission and the product in question – digitized journal articles relevant to scholarship, essentially – and they understood that. I’m not sure either of us was convinced the job was the right fit for me, though.
Another thing I learned on the interview was just how many skills I have gained without realizing it: project management, supervisory experience, leadership skills. None of which, by the way, are quite relevant for the job I interviewed for, so I’m left somewhat confused as I await the result. I answered many of their questions by describing the work I direct my own student assistants to do as part of the digital library site of which I’m the director. I think we both felt the cognitive dissonance of this. While I am genuinely interested in getting more hands-on experience with digitization, it’s an open question (for me, still) how much hands-own experience and know-how one needs in order to successfully manage a project having to do with that same know-how. The answer I’m left sensing is that I need to understand the process, know what goes into it and how to do it, but that I may not need to have a job producing somewhat different kinds of digital materials just to claim that I have hands-on experience. I’d be very curious to know what your thoughts are on this question.
The interviewers were, thankfully, pretty nonplussed about the obvious pregnancy, although during my tour of the office, my potential supervisor kept glancing at my belly. She really tried not to. I could see her trying, valiantly, to maintain eye contact without looking down, but she did look down quite a few times, which was a bit disconcerting. During the interview, they wanted to know (given the repetitive-task nature of the job), how long I could see myself staying in the job, and the pregnancy was a natural answer – that I would work as long as made sense, take a maternity leave, and return to the job after that. Being that it’s half-time, I explained, it would work well for several months after a maternity leave, given the schedule of a mother with a newborn.
They should let me know by the end of the week the answer. I have to say, I’m glad I’m not worrying about the perfect job right now: it was great practice to go out and interview for something like this, without all the emotional baggage that can accompany so many job interviews. If I get the job — that will be great, and then I will have a decision to make. I certainly will keep you posted, and am thankful, again, for the support.