I stood outside the glass doors of a Japanese company, taking a sip of water from my bottle before dialling the intercom.
‘Good afternoon, how may I help you?’ came a woman’s voice.
‘Good afternoon. I’m here for an interview appointment.’
‘I’ll be out in a minute.’
I straightened my shirt and flicked imaginary lint off my shoulders. I put my hands in front, then shifted it to the back, then decided to just let it hang lifelessly at my sides.
A woman pressed something on the wall and opened the glass door for me.
‘Thank you,’ I said again. She led me into a room with a large oval table and many chairs and passed me a form to fill up.
Later, another woman came in and she introduced herself as Hisakawa.1
‘So you can speak Japanese,’ she said.
‘Yes, a little.’
‘Why don’t you introduce yourself a little in Japanese?’
So I did. In jittery, broken Japanese, I gave her my name and age. I told her I like reading books and playing computer games.
WTF, Julius. How are these irrelevant details going to help you get the job?
Okay. Whatever. Jittery, broken Japanese out of my mouth already anyway.
She then asked me if I preferred to conduct this interview in English or Japanese. I said either’s fine for me. On hindsight, I think that was her very polite way of saying, ‘Okay… I don’t think this guy can converse in Japanese at all.’
‘Either’s fine for me,’ I replied.
I imagine her going, ‘Well, shit,’ as she decides to conduct the interview in Japanese to avoid breaking my kokoro.
‘I notice that you’ve done mostly freelance work. Tell me about your teamwork skills.’
Ahh… one of the infamous interview questions most interviewees are prepared for.
I am not most interviewees. This was my first ever job interview.
Which is why I decided to tell her all about my great teamwork skills as a scout in the army. I told her my team does the scouting, and I relay their newly gleaned information to our in-charge. There. They scout, I report. Division of labour. BAM! Teamwork, baby.
What’s that? You didn’t see my point?
Yeah, apparently neither did Miss Hisakawa. She raised her chin, as in the first part of a nod, and waited with bated breath for me to continue with my story.
I flashed her my most charming smile to indicate that’s the end.
‘Oh, I see… I see,’ she said, finally completing her nod and then writing something on her clipboard.
Another infamous question. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’
‘I would like to have published a book.’
WHAT HAVE I DONE.
From Financial Diet:
4. Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
Red Flag Answer: A generic or uninspired answer. Also, answers that reveal that this career path or company job is just a temporary stop for them.
Good Answer: One that shows the candidate has thought about this question, has concrete career plans, and that those plans align with the job path that is possible within the company. You want to be sure that hiring this candidate will be a good, long-term investment.
The rest of the interview was then held in a mutual, tacit understanding that this job was not right for me.
If I hear anything from them, it’s probably Miss Hisakawa taking pity on me or my charming smile worked.
This isn’t just a post about my tragical interview. I did some serious reflection afterwards and wondered what made it all went so wrong.
First off, I know my Japanese is way better than what I was able to display to Miss Hisakawa. At least, I knew I had more in me beyond stuttering broken Japanese.
The week prior to the interview, I did no research, did not bother brushing up my conversational and interview skills. Ashamed to admit, no preparations of any sort was done on my part.
And it’s all because beneath my conscious level, my subconscious, my heart, my soul — whatever you want to name it — knew this wasn’t a job I was going to enjoy. It also didn’t help when after finding out more about the job at the interview, it removed any doubts if this was a job I wanted.
The lack of experience of taking interviews aside, this tragedy was an inevitable result stemmed directly from my lack of genuine interest in the job, manifesting in the form of self-sabotage.
The mainstream definition of self-sabotage is us getting in our own way in the things we might want, meaning a bad thing we shouldn’t do. My form of self-sabotage, however, was actually, in hindsight, something I am grateful for. I, or rather, my subconscious sabotaged me to prevent me from taking a job it knows I will not enjoy.
While I was pretty upset that I was unable to present myself in a professional manner, this experience made me realise getting this job was not a move I wanted to make. In the long run, this detour in my life path would’ve cost me more time and money when I finally, finding no motivation and inspiration in the line of work, resign.
The thing is, our subconscious knows what we want and what we don’t want. Me going for this interview, attempting to take on this job was a rational decision that was made based on fear, ignoring the voice of Courage.
What am I going to do now?
I don’t know. Yet.
I do know I will not take that job, even if my charming smile worked.
1. Her real name is changed to avoid you bumping into the aforementioned interviewer and you guys decide to have coffee while laughing at the expense of a certain interviewee.