Yesterday night, after my last carpooling from robotics class, feeding the dogs, and celebrating my 8th grader successes with a tasty pizza, I went up to my home office. I spent a reasonable amount of time reviewing the last version of my resume, slowly browsing action words and skills, deciding which to include, and double guessing which not to.
I needed to get it right this time; I don’t know why, but I don’t handle the concept of disappointment that well, maybe its because I have this self-imposed label that moms are strong, unbreakable, always ready to cheer and hug a loved one at the slightest sign of discomfort. If I am sad, frustrated, or disappointed I can’t do that, I can’t fake a smile or a hug, I don’t know how to. That is why I needed to get it right.
I kept thinking about the feedback I got from the comments on LinkedIn, the uncomfortable questions about my gap, the keywords that would reflect who I am, and, as the input suggested, the message I needed to convey to my audience.
There I was, preparing for the interview, rehearsing in my mind why a stay-at-home mom wants to return to work, was it only to make money? No, it wasn’t only to make money but to have financial independence. What about my past work from home activities? Yes, it was essential to introduce the different part-time jobs I had to demonstrate organizational skills and time management. Should I talk about how I love my mom’s life? Carefully, I decided because although the family is my priority, my goal is to relaunch my career on my own terms.
In the end, I made an outline with key topics:
- Background focused on the career path I’m choosing
- Education and how my knowledge relates to it.
- Professional experience and an entrepreneurial mindset.
- Family life and my goals.
- The importance of financial independence.
I did a powtoon presentation because my teenagers said that PowerPoint is dull and outdated, I took a risk and followed their advice.
There were other two candidates before me already, I checked the time on the wall, and I was early, but they were earlier than me. Was that a bad omen? I arrived 15 minutes before the appointment, but they were at least 20 or maybe even 30 minutes before. They had a coffee on the hand, a relaxed posture, they looked comfortable just waiting for the clock to hit the hour.
I smiled and sat quietly, pulled my printed presentation out of a folder, and the personal essay (yes, they requested a personal essay). I don’t know if I was too nervous to chat with the rest of the candidates.
I kept my eyes fixed on the papers, reviewing each keyword and skills, background experience, accomplishments, achievements. I re-read my personal notes: my reasons to return to work, the work at home jobs I had, my plan to be a working mom, how I love my “mom life.”
The clock read 9:00 am and the program coordinator appeared in the lobby, with files on one hand and a red pen on the other. “Follow me, please.”
I was the last one to cross the door, I followed the single line heading to a conference room. The program coordinator took her place and everyone else next to her, I decided to take the seat across the table, looking directly at her, one of the candidates moved spots too.
To my surprise, it was an open interview, I never had one of those before, the program coordinator passed some papers, she requested us to answer ethically, the documents had all kind of questions on what would you do if?
She timed us, then we were supposed to share our responses, the coordinator scribbled with red ink on each of the candidate files, nodding, raising the eyebrows, but not a single word came from her mouth.
“Presentations will be in the order you arrived, you have three minutes, thank you.”
First candidate, solid background, elegant presentation, just what they asked! Boom, boom, boom three minutes sharp.
Second candidate, small font, the coordinator had to use her reading glasses and scribbled something down, the candidate noticed she was writing something down and got nervous, but kept going. He had an impressive resume, and he was undoubtedly more comfortable behind the desk, his posture showed that he had experience being there, in a meeting room but in front of people, not so much, his hands were shaky.
Third candidate, a quote from Nelson Mandela to start with, beautiful design and solid education, just what they wanted, perfect degree, she read in a low voice. The coordinator scribbled down again with her red pen. The candidate finished before the three minutes. “You still have one more minute, please continue.” The candidate did fantastic without a script; it was just her sharing with us who she was.
I looked at the coordinator, and I saw her smiling, pleased. She crossed whatever she wrote down and scribbled something new.
I sighed because it was my turn, and I was petrified. My mind fast-forwards my entire life attempting to catch a “good anecdote” to share, but nope, nothing came up. With a big smile, I plugged in the USB and started the powtoon.
I wish I had a camera to snap a photo of their faces, they all laughed.
“Well, yes, I like cartoons, I did try to have my hair done just like that (pointing at my emoji), but you know Houston weather!”
The coordinator left the red pen aside, moved the chair, and relaxed her posture, I could see she was intrigued with my presentation.
My opening slide was an “all about me page,” just like the ones I used to make for my kids throughout elementary. My education followed, my experience, sharing anecdotes of hardships and overcoming challenges, my mindset, and how much I value my mentors, then Boom! A shiny crimson slide that read:
“I don’t know what the qualities that make me good at what I do are, so I asked.”
I made a pause just to see the coordinator’s reaction, she was smiling, nodding, and she asked me who did I ask.
“I sent a text to my friends, coworkers on LinkedIn, and I ended up with the list, but if you ask me what my top qualities as a person are, let me tell you:
I am an out-of-the-box thinker
who leads by the example
A person who loves to share
And knows how to listen.
I looked at the time on the computer screen, and it was by far more than three minutes, almost five. I made a joke about how time is relative when you are having fun and wrapped it up.
“Well, I don’t know how I’m gonna do better than that.” The last candidate said out loud while she walked to take my place. I just smiled.
I passed next to the coordinator, I had the chance to peak at my file, to see if there were scribbles, but I didn’t, I was happy and satisfied with my presentation.
It felt good to be me again, to know that I am setting the stepping stones to reach my goal, and that is all that matters.