I haven’t been writing much on this blog for the past few months (and I admit it, a surprising number of my blog posts begin with that sentence or some variation of it) but at least this time I have a couple of reasonable excuses: the first being that I started another blog for my scouting interests and have made several posts over there; the second being that I’ve finally gotten a job.
The getting of the job, about eight weeks ago, was something of a surprise. I’d been working with a new job developer at a local employment agency, who had lined up several interview opportunities over the course of the late winter and early spring, but none of them had panned out. A couple had fallen through after multiple interviews, and I was frankly pretty crushed and fighting a serious bout of depression because of it. The developer lined up another interview which, if I may be blunt, I thought was pretty Mickey Mouse: based entirely on my resume I was to meet a potential employer at 10:00 on a Saturday morning at a Starbucks down the street from his house; the job, I was told, was to be this gentleman’s driver and general assistant following some recent health problems.
I used to be an office manager for a small IT consulting firm, so being a glorified limo driver was not something I was really excited about – especially in the state of mind that a winter of disappointment had placed me – but I figured anything was better than nothing (despite evidence to the contrary) and I’d throw on a clean set of khakis and go over and see what was what. I wasn’t taking it too seriously, so I might as well be comfortable. It was coffee at Starbucks, for pity’s sake.
The night before I went to the interview, however, I mentioned my planned attire to The Wife™ and she insisted that, no, I should wear a suit. This was a job interview, however unusual the venue, and one wears a suit to a job interview, period. I thought about it and agreed. I certainly wouldn’t hire someone for the lowest, most menial position in any organization if they showed up in anything less, because businesswear shows that you’re taking this seriously. It shows that you respect the potential employer enough to make an effort, and if I wasn’t going to make the simplest effort to try and get the job, why should they expect I’d make an effort to keep it?
So Saturday morning I got up, showered and shaved, dressed in my one and only suit, put on the more sober of my two ties, and drove into St. Catharines to the Starbucks. And that suit was a good idea: I was hired after ten minutes of what turned into a ninety minute conversation and I was hired at the salary I named (which was my salary at the old job, plus about ten percent) without a second’s hesitation; in fact I suspect I could have asked for more and gotten the same reaction.
The job, which does indeed involve driving this gentleman, is way, way more than being a driver. I am, technically, the executive assistant to the CEO of several companies, but it was made clear to me right from the interview that this is more of an apprenticeship. My new boss is looking for someone he can train up to be his assistant, his representative and eventually his proxy within the large structure of the financial, import and cosmetics companies he owns. He told me in the interview (and this is an exact quote): “I want to get you to the point that, if there’s a problem in Vancouver, you can fly out there and handle it so I don’t have to.”
This is the opportunity I’ve been looking for, and the potential is enormous: Salary, bonuses, travel, pay increases, responsibility, respect. It’s amazing… and at times I still can’t believe my good fortune. And one of the things my new boss told me, shortly after I started working for him, was that he was impressed by the breadth of the experience on my resume and that my work history got me the interview… but it was the fact that I was wearing a suit on a Saturday morning that got me the job. First impressions matter, he said, and nowhere do they matter more than in business; clearly I had the right attitude.
It was the only suit I owned, and I wore it, and I got the job. And then I bought two new suits in the week between the interview and my start date because yes, first impressions matter in business. And over the past couple of pay cheques, I’ve invested in more shirts and ties, because you can get away with a charcoal or a navy suit every day, as long as you mix it up with the shirts and ties. I now have three suits, ten ties, four tie bars, two pairs of suspenders, a business card holder and an understated-yet-elegant fountain pen, a pair of italian loafers and a whole bunch of pocket squares. I’ve learned how to tie a Double Windsor knot while half asleep, and the various ways one folds a pocket square, and what tie colours work for sending the appropriate message in whatever setting, and why you should care what colour and pattern your dress socks are, and the vital importance of carrying a Tide-To-Go pen in your briefcase.
This is an important job, an interesting job and a job with a real future. Frankly, I’m enjoying the hell out of it, in the way that one does when one is being challenged. I work very long days – part of my job is to meet the boss at his St. Catharines home at 07:30 in the morning, then we drive to the office in Richmond Hill, which ia about a hundred miles one-way on some very crowded highways. Most nights I’m home by 19:30 or 20:00, and I get up early to do it all again the next day. Some days I’m working for twelve hours, some for sixteen, but however tired I am at the end of the day, I don’t get that worn out and crushed feeling I used to get working in a call centre.
My boss could drive himself, of course, but he prefers to work during the four or five or even six hours we spend on the road between home and the office and various meetings, and he knows well enough that he can’t drive his car and be constructive at the same time… a lesson that various other commuters I’ve seen on the roads could learn. His time is way too valuable to waste aiming a luxury car through gridlock traffic on the QEW, so his assistant gets to do it. And as his assistant I get to hear him work, and I work with him, and I meet his various business contacts and partners and employees, and I’ve been introduced far and wide as his assistant and learned the value of business cards and the etiquette of presenting the same, and recently he’s has me taking the lead in some meetings, and sometimes he even sends me to the meetings on my own, and he always solicits my opinions after calls and meetings to make sure I’m learning things… and more and more often to find out if there’s something I caught that he might have missed, or an angle that he hadn’t thought of, or just to see if we’re drawing the same conclusions or how our conclusions differ.
Business, I’ve learned, is all about relationships and finding a way that everybody wins at least a little, because in business people who screw over other people might make a lot of money in the short term, but they sure as hell won’t be successful over the course of years.
I’m working hard but I’m learning a lot, and earning good money, and there’s a lot of potential for growth. And I have to say it: one thing I’ve never been, in these weeks I’ve been working, is bored. This is an important step in my career and our family’s future, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
And heck, I’m even learning to enjoy wearing a suit.