I've always foolishly lived through the ideation that one always reaps the rewards of hard work. But year upon frustrating/punishing/soul destroying (delete as appropriate) year, it's become increasingly clear that no matter how many times one reads 'Lean In', one who has a CV that looks like someone dropped a scrabble set and picked all the letters up at random before arranging them in one line across the middle of the board is not going to succeed in convincing an employer that those 'transferrable skills' are something they want to touch with a barge pole (or even a Scrabble dictionary).
This is how a line of questioning during a recent job interview went:
"Tell me about a time when you managed a project, end to end?"
"Erm, well, I got a phone call from the studio engineer saying we had 24 hours so could I write something to a rough cut of the film."
"So, how did you plan the project?"
"Well... I didn't I just stayed up all night and wrote the music, and then booked the musicians to come in on whatever days they could."
"How did you manage your time?"
"I don't know really, we just stayed there until it was done."
Needless to say I didn't get the job.
Now, I know that I do actually have some skills, but in a situation like that where it's in no way representative of or similar to any other situation I've found myself in, for any job, I just go blank. The problem is a combination of the following factors:
1. I take a shitload of medication - this means my short-term memory is awful. I can't remember the conversation we had 5 minutes ago, unless it covers something I can pin to an older memory. I have to write everything down (or type it into an iPad, because my neurological issues have scuppered my previously gorgeously neat handwriting).
2. Job interviews don't actually give people a chance to showcase what they're capable of; even those who don't have any sort of disability are just talking - and there are very few jobs where one just has to talk (OK - maybe politicians).
3. Having the questions in advance so you can prepare, or papers with you to refer to are both frowned upon. If you have dyslexia, you can have more time to think, and you can have pretty much any physical adjustment you like, but it's the format of the interview that is prohibitive to those with memory problems, difficulty with communication, or anxiety.
To help prove my point, I've been put in many many challenging situations, and I've always risen to them. Here are some examples:
1. I arrived to my new teaching job in a sixth form college, having got the job by talking about music, and taught a class of 20 students - every single one of whom had additional needs. Some didn't speak English, and I mean they didn't speak it AT ALL. One student tragically died during the year, she was knocked down by a car right outside the building. Despite having no teacher training, any advance notice of the needs of the class (and one had asperger's meaning the role playing element of the course was just completely out of the question for him), and having to deliver the news of their comrade's death, all of them passed the year. I have no idea how it happened, I barely remember a thing about the actual content. What I do remember is the feeling of pride swelling in my belly and bring a lump to my throat. There is nothing in the corporate world that even comes close to teaching.
2. After a year of another job teaching music at degree level, the studio manager I worked with to deliver a performance assessment mentioned to the head of course that she should have let me know what we had available to do this beforehand. She didn't like having her shortcomings pointed out, so she got her revenge by ending my contract. That's some warped logic. I held back from doing what I should've done to be reinstated, and just left quietly because I knew the politics would never work in my favour. My students all passed the module and many of them have done much better than I have in the music industry. Many of them stayed in touch and I've also worked with some of them professionally. Not bad for someone who only graduated a couple of years before.
3. I successfully delivered a music theory lecture to 30 strangers on a degree course at another university, despite only having scraped a pass in music theory grade 5. One of them nearly caught me out, but I pulled the old 'I wanted to see if you'd notice the mistake' trick. I'm a talented fraud.
4. I've delivered more speeches this year than ever before, even though I suffer from sometimes crippling anxiety and I don't like to hold any prompt sheets because people will be able to see I'm trembling. I stand up in front of my peers and my superiors (in grade but definitely not in character) and I talk about my mental health condition, about self-harm, and about my eating disorder. The most important part of this is that none of the senior execs are brave enough to show they're human by talking as openly as I have. This is the one area where I get recognition - just one person saying it touched them makes this painful honesty worthwhile.
You get the idea. I'm good at making something out of nothing - I can wing it in most situations, but I can't get through a sodding job interview. I've got all my previous jobs based solely on merit, not on what lines I've learned to churn out for a performance with no script. It's about time people realised that just because it's 'what we've always done', doesn't make it right.