Mindy had known what to expect. It was always the same formula, three people sitting around a conference room table with her resume and a script in their hands. After introductions and a few pleasantries about the weather, the director opened the interview with her question. What did Mindy consider her strengths? Mindy cleared her throat, smiled pleasantly and began speaking fluently in a calm, confident voice.
“Poise and confidence are two of my greatest strengths. I can handle any situation with aplomb and keep those around me calm. I inspire others with ease because I am secure enough in myself not to feel threatened by those around me. This enables me to help colleagues reach their fullest potential so that together we create an incredible, productive team.”
The director gave a little smile of approval and nodded to the colleague beside her, an elderly lady who squinted through her reading glasses as she peered at the paper she was holding.
“Ms. Marshall, what do you consider your weaknesses and what do you do to address them?”
Mindy faced her directly.
“I appreciate that question because I do believe in improving myself at every opportunity. Procrastination is something I have had to address. I have been taking on-line courses in time-management and assertiveness techniques to overcome this.”
“Last but not least,” said the final interviewer, a young and pretty woman. “Can you tell us something about your vision for your career and how working here would fit with that?”
“Of course,” said Mindy, crossing her legs neatly at the ankles and smoothing her skirt. “I would like to continue to expand my knowledge and advance as I gain experience. I believe that the opportunity to work for a top company like this would enable me to progress in my ambitions. This company is, after all, one of the top in the field and one it would be an honor to work for.”
The director smiled pleasantly.
“Ms. Marshall, we are still interviewing, but we hope to decide on a candidate very soon. I feel confident that I speak for my colleagues in saying that your qualifications and references are excellent. We will get in touch with you as soon as possible.”
Mindy smiled modestly.
“That is very kind. I am currently considering several offers but will hold off on making a decision until I hear from you. Thank you for your time.”
She stood up elegantly and shook hands with each of them before exiting the room, while the ladies murmured amongst themselves.
“Earth to Mindy? Hello?”
She startled as her roommate Angie shook her shoulder, grinning.
“Girl, you were miles away. Was the interview that exhausting? I thought you could use some coffee.”
Mindy gratefully accepted the steaming mug. Angie plopped down into the opposite chair and sipped her own coffee.
“How did it go?”
Mindy shook her head.
“I was just picturing how it should have gone rather than the way it did. Maybe I should have tried envisioning it beforehand. It’s such a farce. You face the inquisition across the conference room table. There were three of them, the director and two people from the team. One looked old enough to be my grandmother. The other looked like she was underage but was wearing a pound of makeup to try to look older. They took turns reading questions off a script.”
Angie straightened her expression and adjusted her glasses, looking down her nose.
“Tell me, Ms. Marshall, what are your strengths and weaknesses?” she said pompously.
“Exactly,” said Mindy, laughing. “It’s such a crock of you-know-what. Do they really think I’m going to be honest or tell them what I think they want to hear? It didn’t help that I tripped and almost fell on my face going in. They could see that grace and poise are not my better qualities. I was all flustered after that and I mixed up my strengths and weaknesses. I have exceptional organizational skills except that I get behind sometimes, but I’m procrastinating about my work, wait, no, I mean I’m working on my issues with procrastination. You get the idea. Kind of all downhill from there.”
“And, Ms. Marshall,” Angie continued in character. “Can you tell us where you see yourself in five years’ time?”
Mindy wiped tears of laughter from her cheeks.
“I see myself anywhere but in one of your stupid cubicles shuffling paperwork from eight to five. Seriously, it’s an entry level clerical position. They acted as if I was applying to NASA. If you can walk, talk and don’t have any legal action pending against you, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get in. Of course, I’ll probably be the exception.”
“All joking aside, why on earth did you apply?” Angie said. “You make it sound as if working there would be one step above having a root canal.”
Mindy gazed out of the window and sighed.
“I went home for the weekend.”
“Ah,” said Angie. “Mistake number one.”
“It wasn’t that bad except that Mom and Dad started on again about how it’s time I found a secure job and started saving. Being an adult, in other words. Dad knows someone at this company and got me the interview. I appreciate the thought and I know they mean well, but I just can’t make them understand I wouldn’t fit in there. My sister and my brother seem quite happy to follow the plan. Get a nice Monday to Friday job and go to the mall at the weekends. I don’t know why I can’t. I want to travel, write and study art.”
Angie picked up the mugs and headed for the kitchen.
“For what it’s worth, I think you should do just that. Cubicle land will still be there if your plans don’t work out.”
A week later, Mindy received a polite email regretting that the company was unable to offer her a position at this time.
“At least they had the courtesy to tell me that they’re rejecting me,” she said to Angie. “A lot of them don’t even bother. But I've found a job at a little art gallery. Pays peanuts but I won’t be in a cubicle and I’m going to art class at the weekends. I’m meeting Mom and Dad for dinner tonight to break the good news. It’s kind of odd because they said they had something to tell me too.”
Angie switched off the television as Mindy returned that evening.
“How was dinner…hey, what’s wrong? You look shell-shocked.”
Mindy slumped onto the couch, dazed.
“Here,” said Angie, handing her a glass of wine. “Were they that horrified that you didn’t get the clerical job?”
Mindy took a deep breath and a big drink of wine.
“They apologized about trying to push me into that and told me it was time they came clean. I’m not their biological child. They adopted me, thinking they couldn’t have kids. My brother and sister were later surprises. It explains why I’ve always felt like the square peg in a round hole in the family.”
“Aren't you mad at them for not telling you sooner?” Angie said, aghast.
Mindy shook her head.
“I think they kept hoping I’d just blend into the family, and it wouldn’t be necessary to discuss it. The longer they waited the harder it was. They feel really guilty. I'm not so much mad as gobsmacked. I told them I’ll need a chance to digest this. They don’t have much information about my biological parents, but they did say that my mother was an art major.”
Angie hugged her.
“That must be where you got your talent in art.”
“It’s been a shock of course but liberating too. Now I am free to follow my own path. I was predestined never to fit in a cubicle!”