This week features a guest post by a friend whom wishes to remain completely anonymous. S/he does not want this post to further hurt job chances. This friend attended school with me from kindergarten through high school after which we went our separate ways.
My friend Amy and I have known each other since kindergarten. We both took college-level coursework in high school and completed our college’s honors program. We both went on to earn an advanced degree. Now we have both been searching for our first post-graduate job for over a year. Whereas with Amy whose field of library and archive science is filled with qualified candidates and stiff competition, this is not the case in my field. I think I know why I am not getting a job. I appear too nervous at interviews.
I look great on paper, leading to interviews for a quarter of the jobs I have applied to. My above average writing skills and tailored applications see to that. However, once I make it to the interview round, my performance is sub par. It is not that I do not know issues and best practices in my field. Nor is it because I lied on paper. I have a speech disability. While years of training removed most of the blatantly obvious traits in my everyday speech, when I get nervous the traits begin to magnify.
When I get nervous, I trip over my words. Some sounds are slurred. Mispronunciations run rampant. I can plan out what I intend to say to common questions ahead on time and recite those answers word for word later with no problems but the unexpected questions cause problems. Once the pattern begins, my focus turns more to making sure I pronounce things right rather than making sure I fully answered a question. My thoughts jumble at this point. Often, I forget to add something that is relevant to the question. This makes me seem even more nervous. It is a vicious pattern that keeps repeating.
I know I cannot be the only person going through this. I also know that for people like me, mentioning a disability in an interview essentially kills my shot at the job, equal opportunity be damned. In this economy, anything not perfect is a disqualifier and the hiring personnel always claim a different candidate better suited their needs or they went with someone with more experience so that charges of violating equal opportunity cannot be brought against them. I know some of the people who were hired in my place and I know we were on equal educational and experience footing, so I know those claims are not always true.
I asked Amy for a chance to use her blog as a sounding board. I know I am not alone in this plight. I thought the opportunity to “speak” online might open the eyes of employers who see this and help them to understand what appears to be nervousness might not always be just nervousness. Maybe the person has an underlying problem that high stress brings to the forefront. With this economy, searching for a first professional job is perhaps the most high stress situation a young person can find themselves in. Under normal circumstances, the disability would not affect our ability to do the job. If it did, we would not have applied. And this applies to all with disabilities, not just speech disabilities. We know our capabilities best of anyone; we have to learn to survive in this world. In my case, I managed to overcome and adapt to the point most of my professors in college and graduate school never had a clue I had a problem.
To those out there who share my plight, you are not alone. Keep trying for the jobs you want. Practice and draft answers to as many commonly asked questions as you can. Have friends and family mock interview you. Or find a career counselor to do it. Practice, practice, practice. Perhaps eventually you will encounter every question and find a way to overcome the stumbles. Do not ever let someone tell you that you are not capability of reaching your goals. I plan to keep trying and I hope you do too.
Also debuting this week, a new, sleek look for the Scrap Bag! I hope you enjoy it.