Monday, August 20, 2012

Midlife Angst

by Julia Buckley

Through the mere whims of Fate, my husband and I find ourselves scheduled for job interviews in the same week.  He, at the age of 51, is being forced by circumstances to look for something new (and hopefully better), and I am seeking part-time work at a local university in hopes of garnering some financial assistance for my son, who will be college-bound in one year.

Despite our advanced ages and our basic confidence in our own talent and experience, we are both unusually anxious.  In fact, despite all the advice that I give to young people about interviews, I doubt that I am less worried than I was at age 21.  When I sit down to examine the source of my anxiety (and Jeff's), it boils down to one thing: the unknown.

No matter how confident we are that we would be good for a certain job, we cannot predict the circumstances that will face us when we enter the room.

I, for example, will be interviewed by three people.  This is daunting simply in terms of numbers, but I also have no idea what those people will be like, what assumptions they might make about me the moment I walk through the door, what attitudes they are bringing to the interview.  While almost all of the people I have met in the world of academia have been smart and competent and often delightful, there is always a small minority  that could be described negatively: they are condescending or unfriendly or incompetent.

In addition to these concerns, there is the practical matter of my appearance. The business suit I wore in my twenties is about five sizes away from me now, so my clothing will be nice, but rather nondescript. Will this matter to them?

I also have a fear about the questions.  They are the true unknown.  Again, I feel confident that I can return the ball for most questions pitched to me, but there's always the worry about that one question that will catch me out, expose me as a fraud within my discipline, lay naked my ignorance on a certain topic.  And, in a nightmarish fashion, I imagine myself staring at them open-mouthed, unable to reply.

We'll have to power through our anxieties, because the meetings are fast approaching.  No matter what, this will be a beneficial experience for me, since I haven't been interviewed for years.  In some ways, not getting the job would be a relief, since it would greatly increase my workload and ensure that I'm working at least 50 hours a week.  On the other hand, winning the position would be a boon to my resume, to my son's chances for financial assistance, and to my self-esteem.

My husband feels the same way--there are pluses and minuses to every position.

So we are counseling each other as we prepare for these mid-life changes and try to channel the confidence of our best selves.



10 comments:

Sheila Connolly said...

Good luck to you both! The situation is unpredictable no matter how well you prepare, and there are some things--like your chemistry with your interviewer--over which you have no control. Just be positive and hope for the best (and be prepared not to get an offer--a writer should be used to that, right?).

Susan said...

I think Sheila said it quite well. I empathize with you. I felt the same way when I went back for an advanced degree at age 50 and sat among 20-somethings. Your age and experience is actually a HELP here. So don't overthink it...just relax and you'll be fine.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Julia, you've already gotten over the worst, since you can see positives in either outcome. One bonus of advanced age: in meeting new people, I'm more prepared to be myself (vs twisting myself inside out to try to be what I think will please others) than I was at 20. Can't wait to hear the sequel. :)

Julia Buckley said...

Thank you to all of you for the advice! I agree with your wisdom, and will get back to you.

Sandra Parshall said...

I'm sure you'll both handle the interviews well, and I hope things work out the way you want. But whoa, 50 hours a week!

LD Masterson said...

Good luck to you both. I hope all works out for the best.

Anonymous said...

All the best of luck! Be yourself and show you want them to be winners too! Thelma Straw, former VP at Drake Beam and Executive Career Consultant in NYC

Julia Buckley said...

Thank you to you all! I got the job.

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Lorirwba said...

Good luck to you both. I hope all works out for the best.