The scene is New York City, 2012. It’s June, which means the unbearable summer heat has just started to cling to the city, even in the early hours of the morning. Commuters bustle to their subway stations, and socialites step into cars parked outside of their Brownstones.
NYU Students rush off to class, carrying bags — not backpacks — and street performers are staking out their spots for the rest of the day near Washington Square Park.
I’m also in a rush — to interview for my dream job.
I had read one of New York’s most popular publications since I knew how to decipher text. The chance to work there — to even interview— was a dream within a dream.
I skipped coffee since it’s often the perpetrator of a situation of — will it give me energy, or will it increase my anxiety? As I walk to the train platform and check my watch, I wonder if I should have had a few sips anyway.
What if I come off as bored? Too low energy? That’s the last thing I want.
I need to sell myself as the type of writer they’d accept — or hope my work does it for me.
I shake off the last of my nerves as I exit the subway tunnel.
I can do this.
I take a deep breath and look at my phone for directions — I’m that new girl. The one who doesn’t know the city well enough yet to step out of the subway and immediately know the right direction.
I aspire to be the NYC girl — the one who confidently struts down the crowded walkways of the city, and casually avoids disaster as her heel scrapes over a grate. She knows everyone, and everyone knows her — at least through a friend of a friend, of course.
I check my phone again — I’m still lost, but getting closer.
I end up going the wrong way half the time anyway since underground travel turns your internal navigation system to mush.
I follow the path on my phone to the front of the building.
I do a double take to make sure it’s the right address, take one final breath, and go over my talking points in my head.
As I carefully climb the stone steps in front of the building, I’m greeted by the doorman.
Oh — to have a doorman.
I’m lost in the shuffle of people coming and going for a moment — until I see a large reception desk.
“Identification and resume, please.”
The woman at the desk extends her hand, waiting for me to give it to her. Her other hand taps the desk impatiently as I dig through my bag, open the folder I’ve neatly kept it in. I hand it to her and search for my ID next.
She smacks the gum in her mouth as she says, “Out of town?”
“Uh, yes, I’m just here for the summer,” I tell her, before cutting myself off. She doesn’t need to know my life story — and I’m often a nervous over-sharer.
She wordlessly smacks a few keys on her keyboard — almost as forcefully as she’s chewing the gum — and hands my ID and resume back to me. She slides a visitor badge with the number 604 over to me, and tells me to return it when I’m done.
“Tenth floor,” she says, gesturing to the left, but still looking at the computer.
I thank her quickly and make my way over to the elevator.
I check my watch — I’m still early.
As the floors tick by, it begins to hit me that I’m really here.
It’s the moment when you have the realization that you’ve subconsciously thought about what this elevator might look like for your entire life.
As the elevator reaches the correct floor, it slows in a way that only New York City lifts seem to do — time seems to speed up, slow down, and stop all at once right before you stop moving.
I’m quickly greeted by another young woman working the desk, who tells me that Ms. Brown — Alexa, as I know her from the emails we’d exchanged— will be right with me.
I turn to sit down, expecting to wait quite a long time as I have for interviews past — as Alexa comes around the corner.
“Ms. Snow, great to see you! Come with me.”
And so it begins — my dream job interview.
“How are you liking the city?” Alexa asks, as she leads me to a glass room.
She holds the door open and gestures to the seat meant for me.
We chat for a few minutes — genuinely, and the sense of mandated interview politeness falls away.
In truth, I already feel like I am talking to a colleague.
Alexa stands up and ushers a few of her fellow writers into the room. They take their seats around me, many greeting me like an old friend. I’m not seated away from them, rather I am framed as being part of the circle already.
“We’ve been reading your pieces, and we’re impressed,” they tell me right away.
Pretense falls away, and I can tell they have indeed done their research on me as well. It feels more like a confirmation than a meeting where I have to prove myself, and it’s unlike any interview I’ve ever had.
I feel valued.
I feel like part of the team — but am I? Are they doing this to everyone? Are they just that good?
If so — no wonder they are so highly revered. The level of charisma is astronomical, and it makes me want to charm them in turn.
I have to seal the deal.
I have to make sure I’ll get a call back from Alexa the next day, telling me I can start on Monday.
I want to have my own glass cubicle-office like I’ve seen on the way to this room.
More than the name of the publication on my resume, I want to work with these people.
I want to grow with them, and be part of their team.
“Ms. Snow, do you have any questions for us?” Alexa asks, concluding the interview.
I think for a moment and realize this requires a different type of response than the one I’m used to giving — or the question that I had come up with before I arrived just so I’d be ready for this moment.
To be on their level — to get this job — I have milliseconds to get it right:
“First of all,” I begin, shocked at my own ease. “I’m extremely impressed by what I’ve seen here today. Your company values and work ethic are clear through your actions and through our conversation — you have a clear commitment to excellence, creativity, and getting the story right. I would like to be part of this team. Have I left any doubts in your mind that I’d be the right fit?”
The words flew out of my mouth — I credit the environment, their candor, and my passion to be there, which drove me to be more daring than I’d ever been in an interview before.
Alexa looks around the room. Her colleagues look at me — then at her — some giving thumbs up, and others just smile.
“Welcome to the team, India. No doubts here.”
She reaches across the table and shakes my hand — the other team members follow suit.
“Thank you — I’m excited to get started,” I tell them, and as the others file out and congratulate me, Alexa gestures to my visitor ID where it’s still pinned to my blazer.
“You won’t be needing that one anymore,” she says, smiling. “We’ll need HR to get you a writer badge.”
She tells me she will be in touch, and I’m off to sign papers with a woman named Rebecca in HR.
I worked there for 3 months — and it was one of the best summers of my life.
I worked harder than I’d ever worked, but I felt valued.
I learned the true meaning of teamwork.
It was a shame to go back to college in the fall, and I wasn’t being paid — but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
It was all about the fit:
I have no doubt that my life was changed in the moment I chose to answer the question the way I did, instead of going the traditional route.
Yes — I do think they were ready to hire me before I even arrived, but I had to make sure I truly did fit their team before they’d do so.
I put hard work into my portfolio before the interview:
It doesn’t have to take years to build up a portfolio that can get you the job before you even walk in the door.
It just takes hard work, and the perseverance to know that it will be worth it — someday.
Your work will speak for you, and it’s helpful to be proud of what you have created, even if you’re not actively looking or working toward something.
You never know when the opportunity will present itself!
I landed my dream job because:
- I was myself — and they were too. You have to be able to see yourself there every day, and they need to be able to see you working hard for them
- I did my research ahead of time so I was prepared to engage with them in a colleague-level conversation — which is what happened. It wasn’t just a question/answer session where we walked out not really knowing much about each other, as interviews often are
- I honestly praised their company and teamwork
- I let them know that I wanted to be part of their team — and during our conversation I had indicated many ways in which I could be an asset
- I worked hard prior to getting there — it did half the work
I asked if I had left any doubts that I was not the right fit:
This move is not for every situation.
This worked for me because that was the kind of personality they were looking for.
I read the room, took a risk, and it worked.
This one can make you come off as overconfident — so take it with a grain of salt, and perhaps tweak it to match your own personality better so it suits you, and the job you’re trying to get.
Sometimes, it’s not about you at all:
If you don’t land the job — sometimes it’s not about you.
They might already have a candidate in mind, but would like to see the field.
Sometimes they can tell when you walk into the room just by personality alone that it might not be a good fit for you, or them.
That’s not an insult — in fact, they are doing you a favor.
If it would not have been a good match or have led to a successful work environment for both parties — it’s on to the next!
On to — your dream job.