For the first time in my 48 years on this earth, I walked out in the middle of a job interview recently. Let me explain…
I have been looking for a job closer to home with better pay than what I currently make. Yes, my goal is to eventually have my blog and life coaching business become profitable so I can quit my day job and work from home. In the meantime, I do need a job outside the home to help pay the bills.
Thus, my job search. My professional background is working in churches with children, youth, and adults. Unfortunately, Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, and Christian Education jobs in the Presbyterian churches near me are few and far between.
So I’ve been looking for jobs outside the church where I can use my experience working with children, youth, and older adults. One of the logical places to look for a job is at preschools. I have a Masters of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Christian Education, along with over 20 years of experience working with kids. And I have 2 kids of my own, who survived the toddler and preschool years and are loving, thriving human beings.
Now for yesterday’s interview experience. I arrived at the school 10 minutes early. When I entered the building, the owner of the school greeted me and introduced herself. I apologized for being a bit early. She said that was actually good, then she introduced me to the school’s Assistant Director and told me she would be helping conduct the interview. I also explained that I tried to print out a paper copy of my resume for her but I was having printer problems. The owner told me she had already printed out a copy of my resume from the website where I applied for the job. So far, so good.
The owner’s office was at the entrance to the building, with large windows looking into the entryway of the school. That made sense. She could see everyone entering the foyer of the building and could decide whether or not to allow them to enter the interior door to the classrooms by hitting a button which unlocked the inside door.
Almost immediately the Assistant Director excused herself because a parent entered with whom she needed to speak. No problem. I have worked, and am still working in, fast-paced environments and you can’t always anticipate interruptions.
The owner stated that I have a Master’s Degree in Divinity. I told her yes, and I have a Master of Arts in Christian Education. I told her that the bulk of my experience working with children has been in churches. That’s when she started getting terse with me, explaining that they weren’t a Christian school, that they weren’t affiliated with any religion. I told her I understood that and wasn’t seeking a job in a religious school and that I currently work for a senior center with no religious affiliation. She wanted to know what I do at the center as a Program Coordinator, so I told her.
I also started wondering why she asked me to come in for an interview if she was concerned about my church background.
She then started asking questions about my experiences working with kids at summer camps. She noted that had been a long time ago. I told her yes, I worked for 7 summers at 3 different Presbyterian camps while in college and seminary. She wanted to know what I specifically did as a camp counselor and what age groups I worked with, so I told her. At camp, I worked with 2nd graders through high school.
Then I explained to her that I had lots of experience working with young children in churches. She proceeded to go back to asking me questions about summer camp. This is the point when I started realizing this woman wasn’t hearing what I was saying to her. Every time I tried to explain to her more about my experience with young children in churches, she moved on to another subject.
I started to feel a bit uncomfortable since the owner and I didn’t seem to be connecting.
Next, the questions turned to the position I applied for. She asked me what I felt the role of an Assistant Teacher would be. I explained to her that it would include supporting the Lead Teacher with discipline, assisting children who needed help with a variety of things from using child scissors while doing a craft to helping with toileting and washing up to keeping kids corralled in their learning area. Basically, being another set of hands and eyes and ears for the Lead Teacher and jumping in wherever needed.
At this point, the Assistant Director came back in. The owner explained to her my answers about what I thought was the role of the Assistant Teacher. The Assistant Director said she thought my description was accurate. The owner asked me if I would have a problem helping children with bathroom needs since not all of them would be potty trained. I told her I had no issues with that, since I have helped with toileting in one of my church’s preschools, and that I have 2 children of my own whom I had potty trained. She asked my kids’ ages and I told her how old they area.
This is when the owner stopped making eye contact with me. She asked me the following question while grabbing a manila folder and going through papers in the folder.
The next question was about whether or not I would have a problem filling in wherever I was needed, no matter the age group. I was in the middle of giving my answer to the owner’s question, which was no, I wouldn’t have a problem with that, when she got up and left while I was mid-sentence. I immediately stopped talking. The Assistant Director and I sat side by side in awkward silence. I finally said to the Assistant Director that I was waiting for the owner to come back so I didn’t have to repeat my answer. She said she understood.
The owner had left to show a parent a classroom. I have no idea if this was a parent who currently had a child enrolled in this school, or if this was a prospective client. To me it didn’t really matter. I felt completely disrespected and unimportant in that moment, not to mention I felt this woman was one of the most unprofessional people I’d ever met.
I sat in the owner’s office for 10 minutes, pondering what to do. During that time, the Assistant Director also left to go speak with another parent.
Keep in mind, the owner is the one who set the day and time for my interview. I gave her my weekday AND Memorial Day weekend availability to meet with her for the interview. She chose 4:30 pm on a Friday afternoon, which was apparently a time when parents were coming and going. Apparently not a wise professional choice.
As I thought about my options, I considered just walking out. However, I am not that kind of person. Even though I felt tremendously disrespected, I didn’t want to stoop to the level of also being disrespectful to them.
Did this owner deserve my respect? No.
Am I going to change who I am in response to someone else’s poor behavior? No.
While looking for a piece of paper to write a note on, I noticed my resume on the owner’s laptop. I wrote a short note on it, saying I had decided to withdraw my application and wished her the best in finding the right candidate for her school. I placed my note back on her laptop and walked out.
As I was leaving, I saw the Assistant Director talking with a parent in the hallway. When she turned to me, I told her I didn’t think I was a good fit for the position and that I had left a note for the owner in her office. All the Assistant Director said was, “Okay.” Quite honestly, I didn’t give her time to say anything else, because I was pretty much out the door as fast as I could get out of there.
On my drive home, I felt a wave of feelings wash over me. I was disappointed because I felt this job had real potential. It was much closer to home and didn’t require that I be out of the house at 6 am to make it to work on time. I was irritated because I felt the owner was talking down to me and didn’t hear what I had to say. I felt very disrespected by the fact that she walked out on me while I was in the middle of a sentence. She didn’t excuse herself or apologize for needing to leave, she just left.
As I was processing the variety of feelings and thoughts streaming through my head, Bruno Mars’s song, “Just the Way You Are,” came on the radio. I stopped and listened to the words I’ve sung in my car lots of times. I know Bruno’s talking about physical beauty, but this part of the chorus brought me comfort:
“When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change, cause you’re amazing just the way you are.”
In that moment, I felt proud. Proud that I had the courage to walk out, because not that long ago I would have sat and waited for the owner to come back to her office.
I felt empowered. Empowered by recognizing that I had been disrespected. If a potential employer disrespects you before you’re hired, they will never respect you if they hire you.
I felt strong. There was a time when I would have felt like I did something to deserve that kind of treatment. However, I was able to recognize that the owner’s bad behavior was in no way my fault.
I felt calm. Calm in the knowledge that there’s a better job for me out there somewhere.
I’m here to tell you that you deserve respect. You deserve to be treated with dignity. And if someone isn’t treating you well, you don’t have to stick around for that. You have a choice.
We don’t always have the opportunity to walk out in the middle of a negative situation. But we do have a choice in how we respond. I could have left a nasty note for the owner, or walked out without leaving any communication at all. I could have written poor reviews about her school in Indeed.com where I found the job listing, on Yelp, on Google, on Nextdoor, or any number of places where people go for information about her school.
I took what I feel is the high road. I did what I feel was right for me. Not everyone will agree with my choice. But the wonderful thing is that is was MY choice. It’s the one I feel good about and can live with.
You get to make a choice in YOUR life when people disrespect you or treat you poorly. Friends, you don’t have to put up with it. In fact, you’re not doing anyone any favors by putting up with bad behavior from others. It empowers the person to continue the bad behavior and it makes you feel bad about yourself.
Here’s a few tips for how to deal with negative people and those who treat you poorly:
*Don’t engage verbally with folks who are complaining. They feed off your energy and it makes them complain more.
*If someone is trying to share gossip with you, don’t participate. Tell that person you’re not interested in hearing what they have to say.
*If someone is speaking down to you or disrespecting you and you don’t really know them (or even if you do know them), walk away. Don’t listen to what they have to say.
*If someone is speaking down to you or disrespecting you and you do know them and will have to deal with them in the future, tell them that you don’t appreciate the way they are speaking to you and you will not talk with them until they speak to you in a respectful manner.
What tips would you add to this list? Share them in the comments or email me at writeChristine@YourGentleNudge.com.
Your Gentle Nudge: Don’t participate in others’ attempts to treat you poorly or tear you down. Remember that you are a valuable human being who deserves better. Write down a list of every positive quality about yourself. Keep notes or cards from people who have said something positive and meaningful to you. Look at those when others bring you down.
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