21 March 2016

Uncertain times

Back in January, I found myself looking for a new job for the first time in more than 7 years, which proved to be a task with special challenges for a perfectionist with obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

The first was fighting the temptation to spend an inordinate amount of time on every application. Yes, these required care and attention if I were to stand a chance of being short-listed for interview. No, it should not take two days to complete each one - could not, in fact, given that I was actually unemployed and needed to pursue as many opportunities as possible.

Once I'd despatched an application, the next difficulty was the waiting. Many employers don't respond unless you're short-listed, but how do you know when to give up hope? Most don't indicate time frames for their recruitment process and, even when they do, these often slip, so it's difficult to know where you stand.

OCD is a condition characterised by a need for certainty, so I found this indefinite waiting hard to tolerate. And never mind messing with my head, it messed with my filing systems, too - how could I be sure when to move the related documentation from the 'Current' sub-folder to the 'Unsuccessful' one? 

Even if employers do tell you 'Thanks, but no thanks', they don't have time to explain why, which becomes a new grating uncertainty.

Calls to interview can create problems, too, as these sometimes come at very short notice. I was summoned to my first with less than 24 hours' warning, leaving me with a single afternoon and evening to review the entire internet and prepare an answer for every conceivable question they might ask. Because, of course, that's what the perfectionist in me dictated I should do.  

Fortunately, three websites into my research, I realised that there was a lot of commonality across the different lists of 'Top 10 Interview Questions', with only a few rogue entries. Mind you, these included the following: 'If you were an animal, what kind would you be?' Great, now they expect an indecisive perfectionist to make a choice from the entire animal kingdom. 

Image courtesy of M - Pics/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In the end, I plonked for a chimp, because they're smart, inquisitive and playful - and then remembered a natural history programme I'd seen in which a group of chimps hunted down a smaller monkey and tore it apart limb from limb. What might that say about me? I'd run out of time to worry.

Post-interview is no better.

Many people who suffer from OCD go over and over conversations in their head, analysing, for example, if they might have upset somebody, or if they could have expressed themselves better. Interviews are rocket fuel for this kind of rumination...especially when you then find out you didn't get the job.

You can't help wondering if the vague reason they give you - 'Another candidate had more experience' - is true or whether you somehow messed up. And so you ruminate on and on.

Happily, since first drafting this post, I've secured a position - as of three days ago, actually - which meant changing all the verbs from the present to the past tense in this final version! A new job brings new uncertainties, of course, but right now I'm just relieved to be released from the particular traumas of job hunting.


Unknown said...

Go Helen! Congratulations on gaining employment. Hope it is all going well.

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Amanda! I don't start the new job until 12 April, so fingers crossed...

Unknown said...

Hey Helen. So pleased you've been given a job offer!! Looking forward to hearing about it. Tanya x (ps I'll ask Jessie to give an excitable bark just for you...)

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Tanya, apologies, I should have let you know. Embarrassingly, I didn't know your surname - the reference to Jessie cleared up my confusion as to who the comment was from!