The ups, the downs, and the D’OHs!

A lot has happened since my last posting about a month ago…

The ups

I had a great interview at a university in Philadelphia. I applied for this position online in early March, and got an email requesting a phone interview while I was abroad for Spring Break. As soon as I got back, the employer and I had a brief conversation. First she told me a bit about the university and the job, and then she asked me a handful of questions e.g. Where did you hear about the job? Tell me how you became interested in [something about my resume]? What do you like to do in your free time? After about 15 minute of chatting, she told me that she’d like to have me come in for a face-to-face interview and to bring some writing samples/samples of my work.

A little over a week (and hours of research and preparation) later, I took the train to Center City for the interview. I arrived about a half an hour early, so I found the nearest Starbucks and reviewed my notes while sipping a non-fat Chai Latte. When the time arrived, I found my way back to the interview site and announced my arrival to the receptionist, cleverly referred to as the “Director of First Impressions.”  A few minutes later, the interviewer (the same woman I had spoken to earlier on the phone) came out and led me to the conference room where the interview would take place. We sat down and she began telling me all the about the university’s programs and the programs that her office runs, handing me a stack of pamphlets, newsletters, and other materials. She also showed me an organization chart and indicated where I would fit in, should I join the staff.

Then it was my turn to talk…*deep breath* She asked me the following questions:

  • Please talk/walk me through your resume. I explained to her what my graduate degree in Health Promotion consists of and my area of emphasis within HLPR, my duties/responsibilities at my on-campus graduate assistantship, and briefly spoke about my internships with various non-profit organizations.
  • What are your goals?
  • What are your strengths? I listed and elaborated on the following: communication (written and oral), organization, and teamwork.

We also chatted a bit about social media and she asked how I would resolve the issue of some members of the target audience accessing information online while others are not. I showed her my professional portfolios (one showcasing my event planning/programming work and the other containing academic writing assignments). Then she asked if I had any questions for her, and of course I did. The answer to this question should ALWAYS BE “YES”!!! I asked her about the new Delaware Health Sciences Alliance and how the partnerships it establishes will change the programming coming out of her office.  To answer this question, she went and got another staff member who knew a bit more about it. The three of us ended up talking for another 30 minutes, until the interviewer had to run off to another meeting. She gave me her card and said she’d be in touch.

I felt great about the interview and followed up the same day with a thank-you email to both of the women who I spoke with. And now I’m waiting…impatiently…Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and still no word as to my fate. *Sigh* In the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and trying to find things to distract me. So…there’s the “up” I alluded to in the title this blog posting 🙂

The downs

Now to the “down” – Many months ago (in January), I applied for the Emerging Leaders Program, a 2-year internship program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (http://hhsu.learning.hhs.gov/elp/). This program has 7 career tracks, based on identified areas of need within the HHS ranks. It’s a wonderful way for recent graduate school graduates to be trained for 2 years in the 12 agencies of HHS e.g. Administration for Children & Families, Administration on Aging, CDC, NIH, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It’s a very competitive program – this year they accepted 1,200 applications for roughly 100 spots. I successfully made it through the first round of assessments, in which my resume and occupational questionnaire were reviewed, but was eliminated during round 2, in which my “Accomplishment Record” was evaluated. The Accomplishment Record is a set of essays in which the applicant has to write about his/her experience in 5 areas of leadership competency: problem solving, oral communication, customer service, written communication, and accountability. I was very confident in my essays, but I guess my responses fell short of their standards. Oh well. Back on the horse 😦

The D’OHs

And finally…my D’OH! moment – About a month ago I interviewed for a position with the State as a case worker (this was the interview I got as a result of networking; see blog #2). I felt great about the interview and really wanted the job despite several drawbacks 1) very low, seemingly non-negotiable salary 2) the job is dangerous, involving going into people’s homes and dealing with conflict situations 3) it’s not technically Health Promotion and I would not be using much of the information and skills I learned in my graduate program. However, as the weeks came and went without hearing from this employer, other opportunities came up (e.g. the university job above) and I decided I didn’t really want the job anymore. Then to my surprise, they called! They called at 8:30am as I was on the way from the bus to my office, and I was COMPLETELY caught off guard. I frantically rifled through my bag when I heard the phone ring, and in the process accidentally hit “Send” and picked up the call. When I finally got the phone to my ear, I didn’t recognize the number but had to say something since I already picked up the call. I answered with, “Hello, Stefanie speaking.”  The caller responded with “Hi, this is so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m calling to see whether you’re still interested in the position.” …OMG, I thought, as the seconds ticked away. What do I say?!??!?! A million thoughts raced through my head, before I finally stammered out something along the lines of, “Actually, a great opportunity came up elsewhere and I think I’m going to be offered the job.” I didn’t even have a chance to say “But thanks for giving me a call back,” before she ended the conversation. 😯

Here comes the big lesson in this blog posting: DON’T EVER LET AN EMPLOYER RUSH YOU INTO MAKING A DECISION. In retrospect, I would have handled the situation that transpired much differently. I would have been honest and said, “Wow! Thank you so much for getting back to me. I’m just getting into the office and you’re catching me a little off guard. Could I give you a call back in a few hours?” This would have given me time to really think about how I was going to respond. Even though I didn’t really want the job, I should have expressed interest and entered into some kind of negotiations. Perhaps the salary is negotiable. What if I don’t get the university job? This could have been a great option to fall back on. You’re not bound to anything until you sign the contract, so what’s the harm in listening to the offer? DARN! Now it’s too late, but I certainly learned a valuable lesson (and hope that you will too) – don’t rush a decision as important as accepting/rejecting a job. There aren’t many times during the job search process when the ball is in your court, so don’t pass the ball back right away. Hold onto it until you know you’re making the right pass.

Stefanie is a 2nd year Masters student pursuing an M.S. in Health Promotion at the University of Delaware where she is studying social marketing, health communication, and health promotion programming for older adults and individuals with physical disabilities.  After graduation in May, Stefanie is hoping to obtain a full-time position in public health, health communication, health education or research.  She is also a graduate assistant at the University’s Career Services Center where her duties include conducting employer outreach and multi-ethnic and international student programming.  In her free time, Stefanie enjoys running, working out, and reading.

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2 thoughts on “The ups, the downs, and the D’OHs!

  1. Hi Stef, it sounds very positive about the Philly position. Best of luck that it comes through for you.

    I wouldn’t worry to much about the other “call back” although your second thoughts were on target. I still don’t think it was a good match for you.

    Jack

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