update from the reader worried that he couldn’t take an interviewer’s call

Remember the reader back in August who was mortified and felt he needed to apologize to an interviewer who called him — unscheduled — at a bad time? He was at the store when he got the call and had just found out he needed to take his brother to the ER, so he obviously couldn’t talk … but he worried he’d blown the job by saying so. I told him that you never need to feel mortified over not being able to take an unscheduled phone call.

Here’s his update on what’s happened since then:

I wanted to write and update you on my current situation. As I stated in the comments of that post, I was offered and accepted the job, but, unfortunately, the story does not have a happy ending. I had been warned by a member of my network (a former medical director of the agency) that there was a lot of upheaval at the agency, and I heard nothing but grumbling and comments about how the agency that I was at was “not a good place to work at right now” (this was from a man who has been at that agency since 1980).

So I started with a sort of heightened sense of job insecurity, which probably affected how I conducted myself. I worked at this agency for around two months, and, due to budgetary issues, the position was eliminated, and I lost the job. I wish I could say why, other than that I was the newest hire, and the upheaval led to a great many moving parts. I asked my manager if the decision was performance-related, and she said that she had had no worries about my performance, it was just an unfortunate situation that could not be prevented.

So, I am back to square one with the job hunt, but I am in a new city with some experience to show for it, along with now being licensed as a social worker and having a good network. Using the skills I have learned from AAM and my knowledge that I can be an effective social worker, I have already had two interviews, with the first leading to a rejection, but also great feedback and being added to this gentleman’s network (he is an executive director at a nonprofit). The second has led to a second interview next week, and I am still applying to other jobs and doing my due diligence.

What led me to finally write in and update is the recent discussion on how upbringing can lead to how we perform in the workplace. I assumed my “kowtowing” was due to my own anxiety issues, but I also wonder if my upbringing did not play a role. I had a very difficult time growing up, with blue collar parents who struggle financially to this day, and I am the first in my family to have any sort of college education. I was always encouraged in my studies, and had good role models, but I tend to operate with a blue collar mindset.

Thus, I viewed the hiring manager as holding all the cards, and it’s only now that I know to view interviews and the job search as a search for a mutually beneficial business arrangement. I’ve been taught only to survive, by any means possible, for so long, that it’s only now, having found this website, that I am able to better view the white collar world. Even in grad school, I felt out of place, and I thought that everyone would see me as that country bumpkin who went to the junior college and the state directional school, and was helping to support a family back home (as they were having to file bankruptcy and losing their home to foreclosure).

In sum, I’m incredibly lucky and blessed, and I am struck with what the last hiring manager said when he rejected me and gave feedback. He said that it’s not a matter of whether I will get a job, but a matter of when. I have lived with uncertainty and instability for so long that that type of encouragement affects me a great deal. So Alison and those who comment, thanks for all your help, and I can’t begin to say how much of a help you have all been.

That is great to hear. And I think you’re on the right track with starting to see interviews as a two-way street. It can really make a huge difference in how you approach your job search and how you come across to employers — as well as whether you end up in a job you’re happy in.

Please keep us posted!

{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. Mary*

    “I have lived with uncertainty and instability for so long that that type of encouragement affects me a great deal.”
    That made me tear up a little, OP! Best wishes to you — I hope you get the best job ever!

  2. princessfluffysparklecutie@sk8rgurl.net*

    What a lovely letter!

    “So I started with a sort of heightened sense of job insecurity, which probably affected how I conducted myself.”

    I’m curious about this. may I ask how you were conducting yourself?

    also, the letter writer brings up an interesting point about blue collar vs white collar. It may be worthy of another topic altogehter(?) but I’m interested in knowing which categories most readers fall into. I know since I’ve started reading this blog, I get an insight into hiring as well and the advice given here can be immensely helpful.

    1. ChristineH*

      I too was intrigued by this. Specifically, I’m curious as to the differences between the blue-collar and the white-collar mindsets.

      1. Anonymous*

        Blue collar = you do only what you are told, every job is explained exactly how it is done, and you ask few/no questions about your job, and never ask any quetions about why managment/HR does things (this is extreme version, but true for the lowest end of blue collar work)
        White collar = questions are expected, given jobs/tasks that require you to plan how they will be done, can challenege managment/HR and not get immediately fired

        1. Anonymous*

          I think there are definitely tiers within blue and white collar as well. For example, would you consider a call center worker to be blue collar or white collar? They certainly have to follow scripts and often don’t get a say in the company’s operations.

        2. EM*

          Yep. I work in an industry with a lot of field work and there definitely is some overlap between the “blue collar” and “white collar” worlds in the beginning (well, in the beginning for people with college degrees– they graduate out of that type of field work fairly quickly whilst the blue collar folks do it for much longer) Anyhow, I worked with a guy from a blue collar background, and he told me, “You’re here to work and not ask questions.” I thought to myself, “Yes, but I’m a scientist, and asking questions is how I learn.”

    2. Jacob N.*

      Hi, OP here, wow, that’s a really good question. Before I get to that, thanks for all the lovely words, everybody. :) It really helps me feel better, and knowing that my words have touched other people make it worth writing them down, however tough that was.

      To answer your question, it sounds kinda dire, doesn’t it? I didn’t mean that I was acting unprofessionally or conducting myself in a way that was unbecoming of either my own personal standards or the company’s policies (not that I thought that you were thinking that).

      Essentially, I was not conducting myself as a confident individual who had, as mentioned before, entered into a mutually beneficial business arrangement that was not only to help me, but my employer, too.

      I had relocated for this job, I had borrowed from a friend, I took on some credit card debt, and there was always a worry that, if this job didn’t work out, it would leave me in a bad way. But due to my having anxiety issues (again, why I went into the mental health field), I chose to focus on “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” and my anxiety and worry was eating me up inside.

      I had actually talked to my manager about three days before this happened, and that was when she said that she had no worries about my performance, and that she thought that my confidence would grow as I grew in the position, and that I would do well for years to come. What came later was from HR, at least I think so. There was no bitterness, no anger, no negativity. I cleaned out my office and was very cordial to the HR rep, and I left with my head held high and with no incident.

      But my point is that it was a fluke, you know? It wasn’t because I was late every day, not meeting deadlines, and generally not doing a good job. But I had the mindset almost as if I had, where if I wasn’t constantly on the go, I felt like I was in danger of losing my job.

      I hope that begins to answer your question. It was more a matter of confidence and looking at things as a mutually beneficial thing, not a person at the mercy of an employer who holds all the cards. It was more a matter of mindset, and my worry was that it was bleeding into my performance, which was why I consulted with my manager.

      1. Sonata*

        OP/Jacob: I can relate to your posts, because I’ve “sabotaged” myself from a lack of confidence – and I’ve been doing that for 30 years in my career! AAM has helped me a great deal, too. I’m glad YOU’VE seen the light early in your career! Very best wishes – and thanks for an insightful post!

      2. Marly King*

        Congratulations Jacob/OP! First, for getting the job in the first place, even though it was short lived. Second, for coming out stronger than before. Much luck for future job hunting :)

  3. Janet*

    Great update. And it’s so hard to go from a place of desperation to a place of being more confident in yourself. The past few jobs I found were in situations where I HAD to get a new job. I moved or there was a threat of a layoff or just total overwhelming misery so I would just jump at the first offer. Now I’m in a place where I can really be more selective and see interviews as a two-way street. Am I fit with you? Are you a fit with me? It’s comforting to realize that but also challenging to change your mindset.

  4. ChristineH*

    OP – I’m sorry the job ended up not working out, but I applaud your attitude. I think I too have been slowly changing how I view the job search and the workplace in general thanks to reading AAM for the past year and a half. Also, congrats on achieving social work licensure! (fellow social worker here! :) ).

    Best of luck to you!!

  5. Not So NewReader*

    I think we carry around lies inside our heads: “I can’t do X or Y.” or “I will always make do, real jobs are beyond my reach.” etc.

    These things are just pure lies.
    I do not think this type of thinking is unique to blue collar families. White collar families can be pretty tough, too.

    And another wrinkle: How much of it is our own misconceptions and nothing our families ever intended us to learn???

    I tend to think of blue collar workers as a very practical group with a “let’s get this done” attitude. I would rather work with people who finish tasks. I do not have patience for projects that take years and years because of neglect/apathy/lousy work ethic.
    I grew up in a white collar family- but my grandparents were blue collar people.

    All this is making me think about the stereotypes I use and do not even realize that I am stereotyping.

    OP, you express yourself very well. I am sure many of us are reading and thinking about your words and how it applies to our own lives. I encourage you to keep writing.

    1. Jacob N.*

      Thank you, and I hope you don’t think I was trying to paint a broad brush between white collar and blue collar people. I was referencing the past discussion that Alison linked to above, and I was actually thinking more of some of the comments that I read there.

      But, heavens, yes, I stereotype all the time, and I have to just check my biases at the door, or else I would never work as a social worker (as in, I wouldn’t be any good at it, not that I wouldn’t have a job, haha).

      Anyway, a lot of the common sense that I learned was from my blue collar family. I was always encouraged to do well and get my education and get a great job.

      I have a close friend from a similar background, and he tells me that his family views his white collar work with great disdain, and feels that he is not doing “real work,” in his words (he works in the public sector at a nonprofit). So, yes, it could be individual to families, not a blue/white collar mindset or stereotype, as our blue collar families reacted to similar achievements in vastly different ways.

      And, yes, I once had a professor who told me that I shouldn’t ever give up on my ability to write, even when I’m doing mental health/social work stuff, and he’s kept at me on that ever since (we still talk regularly), so, yeah, I really do want to write someday. I may start doing something creative while I’m job hunting. It’s a dream of mine to write sometime down the road when I am in a bit more stable of a situation, to be honest.

      1. BW*

        My mother grew up in a blue collar family, and had nothing but disdain for blue collar jobs, which she refused to consider doing and looked down on other blue collar families. My friends were judged (by her, not my white collar dad) based on what their parents did. She would always ask me what my friends’ parents did for a living, and would get annoyed if I didn’t know. Maybe this is what parents normally do. I have no idea.

        My dad came from a well-off white collar family, and although we were all assumed to be going to college and going into white collar work (even us girls), work was work, and there was no shame in honest labor. That’s the lesson I took away from home.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Jacob N, no absolutely not- I did not think you were painting groups with a broad brush. I think you touched on things that a lot of us think about.
        My father was a white collar worker. He felt that he did less work than a blue collar worker. (Interesting twist on this topic, eh?) Coming from a strong blue collar family I can now see where he wrestled with the contrasts he saw. He sat at a desk all day. Did he think that his work was worth less money because he was not exhausted at the end of the day? I think that sometimes I carry on his debate inside my own head.
        His work was a brain drain, not a physical drain.

        Yes, start your writing now. This is the new leaf I have had to turn over recently. If you want something in place 10-20 years from now, start taking baby steps toward that goal today. Circumstances have forced me to deal with this part of my life that I have– uh– neglected.
        This is not hard. Write a paragraph. Tuck it in a file.
        Was it someone on this blog who recommended Work Flowy?
        It’s an online space to dump out all the things floating around inside your head. You can organize it how ever you like- and it is searchable. There is a free version. I have been happy with my little space- I do not use it a lot but I do enjoy it.

  6. Katie*

    OP, I really love how you captured how the fear of being put outdoors, so to speak, can just fucking haunt someone’s career. I’m really glad to hear that you are confronting that. Gives some hope to the rest of us!

    I think about this when I talk with friends who grew up in financially stable homes headed by doctors, professors, and the like. Their attitude towards life and careers is just…really different. If you’ve never had to fear an upcoming mortgage payment, or seen bills anxiously spread out on the kitchen table as the room fills with hopelessness and despair, then of course your career won’t be a source of primal worry and dread. But for those of us who have been to the brink or even beyond, it’s hard to graduate from survive to thrive.

    I also agree with the anonymous poster above who wrote about different tiers of blue and white collar labor. If you use objective criteria like salary, benefits, work hours, etc., there are a fair amount of blue collar jobs that score higher than white collar jobs. For me, the terms reflect social class more than anything. But that’s hugely relevant.

    1. katinphilly*

      Absolutely true about the differing attitudes, but it is also about concrete privileges those from high-status and high-paying professional families have access to that those of us from blue collar families don’t – access to the best education, extracurricular activities, internship opportunities and networks that give them a big leg up in establishing themselves once they begin their careers and continue to help them as they climb the ladder, not to mention inheritances and family assistance that help them secure housing and other necessities that many of us struggle with.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My experience has been the point about networks. I am really beginning to understand how people have moved themselves along by working with a network of folks.

    2. Jacob N.*

      And I will add that one of my problems was navigating success, I think. I think there’s a saying somewhere about how one can be so great at dealing with adversity, but they just can’t fully adjust and thrive when they experience success (I think the saying has to do with “prosperity”)…I’ve heard it used in sports, but I think it can be true with work, to be honest.

      It was a big adjustment getting used to having my bills paid and such…I wasn’t going out and buying frivolous things, but I did have to help my family out quite a bit, leading me to usually come up a bit short. I think that’s one of those things that someone from a more privileged background wouldn’t have to deal with when starting a career, to be honest.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Someone coined it as a “survive mind set” verses a “thrive mind set.” It is two different approaches entirely.

        1. JM in England*

          I totally agree with Not So New Reader. For the first 7 years after I graduated, I could only get temp jobs. During that time, I saw some temps get fired for what seemed to be minor mistakes whilst permanent staff members seemed to get away with the same offence; this led to me being hyper-vigilant. Fast forward to getting my first permanent job, I could not seem to shake the “temp” mindset no matter how hard I tried. It was a “culture-shock” for want of a better term………..

  7. Yup*

    Don’t forget to reflect on how much you’ve already achieved and accomplished: undergrad and grad degrees, professional licensing, on-the-job experience. And be proud of your background in how it has shaped your personal work ethic. :) Best of luck to you in your search for your next position! Your obvious dedication to your chosen field is a great asset that will take you far.

  8. JessB*

    It really is interesting when you start to see interviews as a two-way street, isn’t it?

    I am currently running interviews for admission to a university program, and it’s an eye-opening experience. One student was late and didn’t call, and barely apologetic when I called them. For me, that’s an instant ‘out’. But then the academics were running 15 minutes late, which we were telling people as they arrived. There is a comfortable place for them to wait, and they can chat with us or not as they prefer, while they wait. I found myself wondering what would happen if a student, upon being told of the wait time, said something like, “Actually, that doesn’t suit me. I’ll need to make another time and come back.” or even “No thanks, I withdraw my application.”

    It could happen! But it didn’t.

    1. Suzanne*

      I always saw interviews as a two way street until the economic meltdown. I’ve been too desparate for a job to even look at my fit to a position; I’ve just been glad to have something on my resume! All the jobs I’ve taken have been horrible and I did end up quitting one with nothing lined up. The one I’m at now I resigned from last week with a job lined up, but definitely not my dream job. However, it was a necessity because our new supervisor has fired 4 people in less than 6 weeks, so I need to get out before I have a firing on my work record (4 people out of a staff of 12). The firings are not unusual behavior for previous supervisors either, who then were always fired.

      I grew up in a blue collar world, and I agree that I tend to look at the employer as holding all the cards, but in my last couple of jobs, that is because they truly did. I spent close to 30 years working and only knowing a handful of people who were fired. In the past 4 years, I’ve lost count of the number of firings I’ve witnessed.

  9. Camellia*

    I’m interested to know what everyone thinks of the ‘pink collar’ jobs. These are jobs traditionally held by women and that require a degree, such as nursing and teaching. Does anyone now view these as white collar or blue collar jobs? Or do we just not think about them since they ‘only’ pertain to women?

    And has anyone else ever read “The Shriver Report”? I despair of our nation ever making these changes that will benefit society as a whole. On the other hand, my daughter’s pediatric group actually has late evening hours and Saturday hours, so maybe there is hope for us yet.

    1. Jacob N.*

      Camellia, I don’t claim to speak for my field, but I was most assuredly thinking of women, and how they are affected, because I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people think that my field “only” pertains to women. I was very often the only guy in the room for most of my classes in social work schools, and women outnumbered men by…a lot.

      You know, I don’t know where “pink collar” jobs would fit. I think a bit of both. But I would disagree with the notion that fields like social work, nursing, and teaching “only” pertain to women, but that women are often paid less, discriminated against, and otherwise treated unequally, so that is something that I think of when I look at my field.

      I would hope that I would always be cognizant of women’s issues in my profession, because nearly every social work contact that I have (from school, work, etc.) is female, and I wouldn’t be upholding the values of social work if I were ignoring those issues. If that sounds trite, please keep in mind that if I were to violate the social work code of ethics, I could face sanctions (such as losing my license), regardless of whether I broke a law or an employer’s policy/code of conduct.

  10. Cody C*

    Blue collar white collar my dad always told me to things. I should work with my brain and not my hands and I should have my name on my desk not my shirt.

  11. Jacob N.*

    Hi all! I am a little late, but I have an update, finally. It’s still a bit nerve-wracking, but I was offered the job this past Monday! It’s nerve-wracking because when my manager-to-be called to offer me the job, he said that I would be getting my formal offer letter in the mail, and would get a phone call from HR for the “formal” offer. He said it was just a formality, and they would be setting up a physical that is a pre-employment requirement (I think that’s part of being connected to a hospital).

    Anyway, he said it was for sure, and to tell my friends and family, and said “congratulations and welcome aboard!” I have my offer letter, but never heard from HR. I checked with the hiring manager, and he said that he spoke to HR, and they told him that there were no issues, they just hadn’t gotten around to calling me yet. Apparently, there is another potential new hire who HR is lagging behind with, so it’s not just me.

    That said, they apparently promised him they would call before the end of the day yesterday, and they didn’t. They may be waiting on my paperwork, as I had to send transcripts, a copy of my diploma and (social work) license, along with a non-compete agreement that was a condition of employment.

    It’s a bit confusing, but I have done much better than the last time. I only followed up with thank-you/follow-up notes after my interviews, and called just the one time after a work week had passed with no word. I made certain not to make the mistakes I had written about before. The hiring manager was glad that I checked with him, and seemed to be irritated with HR. So that’s my update for now, but I’ll let everyone know once everything is finalized. I was a little unsure about how a hiring manager could do the written offer letter, but the formal offer still has to come from HR, so I wanted to mention that. Thanks, everybody!

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