Words by Hardeep, 28 NSW
This piece was the Winner of the Youth Summit Creative Competition 2020.
The tapping of the receptionist’s acrylic nails is making my nerves jump. I made it twenty minutes early and am now sitting on a navy sofa in my tight pencil skirt, watching people race back and forth like they’re on a mission to save the world. I imagine myself going to meetings and feeling all important. This is my seventh interview this month which sounds like a lot but isn’t considering I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs.
It seemed like an easy plan – do well in school and then at university and bippity-boppity-boop you’ll have a job. I graduated six months ago, and my fancy paper has still to prove its worth. In every online application, I tick the box that lists me as a female, with an Indian background who can speak another language, hoping my ‘diversity’ counts.
I am rehearsing responses I prepared for this entry-level job that requires previous experience. I find it amusing that for an entry level job I need pre-entry job experience and for that pre-entry job I need a pre-pre-entry job and according to my calculations, it means I should have started working at age 5 so I could secure enough experience to get the entry level job at 22.
The clock ticks over to eleven and a super-polished woman with straight blonde hair walks over to me.
“Miss Kaur?” She says with her big smile.
“Hi! Yes, that’s me.”
“Great! My name is Mary and I’ll be interviewing you today.”
I follow Mary into a glass office, feeling my underarms sweat.
“Oh, what an amazing day it is today! Did you find the place ok?”
“Yes, it was a quick walk from the station.”
“Oh, easy! Let’s get started. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?”
Why is it when somebody asks this question I forget everything about myself? People ask this question like it’s something that can be answered in a few sentences. A person is a multitude of things after all.
“Well I’ve just graduated from uni. I’m a pretty outgoing person who loves to explore new things.” (This is a total lie because I’m an introvert but the corporate world is made for extroverts)
I go to continue when Mary says “Great!” and doesn’t want to hear anything else about me.
“I can see from your resume you don’t really have a lot of office experience and have worked mostly retail. We never hire any new grad unless they’ve done at least an internship, but we were so impressed with your university results that we had to see you.”
I think back and wonder when I was supposed to have done this internship. I want to tell this woman that I couldn’t have afforded to take an unpaid internship because my migrant parents couldn’t support me. Isn’t my time and effort worth even the minimum wage? Rich kids do internships lady, working class kids go to work.
“So, can you tell me why you want this job and why you want to work here?”
The obvious answer to this silly question is that I need this job because it pays a decent wage and I need money to do anything.
“I think your company has a good reputation for development and I love the charity work you guys are engaged in and when I was reading your annual report, I was impressed with the company’s vision for the future.” I smile.
“I can totally vouch for the development here. I started off as a grad and eight years later I still love it.”
I try to picture myself in eight years’ time, wondering I’ll be like Mary with her straight hair and corporate voice.
Mary asks me to describe a time I had to resolve a difficult situation, about my strengths and weaknesses and where I’d like to be in five years’ time. I put on my best performance for Mary telling her that in five years’ time I’d like to be a manager. She smiles and nods at me.
“Oh! Look at that, time is up. We have a few more interviews next week and then we’ll be in touch.”
“Thank you so much!” I say, my enthusiasm dwindling.
I walk out of the building and take a deep breath. I think I did ok.
I grab a sandwich, walk to Hyde Park and sit under a wise tree. I am surrounded by office workers in all their glory. How badly I want to be one.
I feel my skirt get a little tighter with each bite. A little bird stares at my sandwich and I give it some bread and it flies away. I wish I was as free as a bird. I log back into LinkedIn and start again.
Illustration by Aileen, You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc