Jump-Start Vol.7

As promised, the juicy remainder of the questions provided by HelloGiggles:

The Final 11 Questions from ’40 Interview Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer’

30) Tell us about a time you failed.

I’m doing this one last. Like #33, below, there’s a menu of options. Unlike #33, an apropos instance isn’t jumping to mind so quickly.

I am taking for granted that the failure was within my control. That excludes a proposal I wrote where a “foundation” didn’t believe the situation in Bethlehem was stable enough to fund trauma workshops for children. Let that sink in: they only wanted an easy lay-up.

There was also an instance where Chett needed me to meet a group from Germany at a particular subway stop in DC and I was egregiously late. I did not plan enough time into my trip– I got distracted by my slate of clerical and creative tasks. Now, I plan much more time into my trips.

Logistical mistakes were a pattern, in my twenties, and it wouldn’t hurt to focus on how I missed those cues. I wasn’t on my bus from Limerick to Dublin on-time but I found a later flight (at my own cost) and was able to board my connecting flight in Zurich. That’s a partial failure.

The week I volunteered at Kinawind during 2010 went poorly because I was trying too hard to make it go well. I didn’t know how to ‘let the game come to me’, just then. It always amazes me how much wiser, cleverer, and better adapted I was at 20 compared to age 24. I was in bad-shape before I left the country.

Bingo: I almost forgot about my time working for LOOP after-school program. Again, I tried to succeed poorly designed curricular program. I really wasn’t suited to the age-group they assigned to me, either. The aspect that I controlled was that I kept trying to reinvent the wheel rather than seeking-out resources and/or consulting with my counter-parts. I wanted so badly to look like I knew what I was doing, to prove to myself that I was capable, that I didn’t take the steps needed to prepare for that situation. Granted, I also did not have any background in primary education — not formally. I thought that working as a volunteer coordinator for BGC-GRYC was enough experience.

I failed with LOOP and bailed-out to do some substitute teaching (I was passable at that). It was an instance where a suspension was potentially on the horizon and I made the right move and lined-up alternative work. I do bear some responsibility, though, because I wasn’t adaquately prepared. I care so much about educational equity but my personality and skillsets are not a good match for smaller children.

My ability to get jobs in early-elementary education, at all, demonstrates that the field is desperate for personnel. Tertiary- ed, not as much.

31) Why is there a gap in your résumé?

This is both a crucial question for which to have an answer and also an aspect I don’t want to weight too heavily. Part of the explanation is easy to explain: I started my unemployment at a low point for the field of International Educational Exchange (the Trump era) and the pandemic only worsened that. My initial mistake was taking just-any-job in 2016 and landing myself in a bad fit. This is yet another example of me trying to play the hero in too many ways, getting unfocused, seeking variety at the expense of depth.

More recent gaps in my résumé can be attributed to being selective about the jobs too which I applied and recovering from the physical toll of my factory job (and the mental toll of my 2nd shift laboratory job… though I wouldn’t emphasize that because I might need to work evenings in this role, as well). An earlier gap was due to starting graduate school and wanting to start my studies strong. A gap before I went abroad is really a time when I did some substitute teaching and prepared for my time abroad.

Now that I’ve listed these gaps, they seem less daunting and humiliating. I recognize that being too geographically bound during my post-preschool (heh) job-search hurt my chances of finding a good niche. Time and maturity are gradually teaching me how to balance being versatile with being specialized & focused.

32) How would you describe your ideal work environment?

Usually, I answer this by describing a combination of the offices where I flourished that most. HG recommends describing the workplace of my potential employer. That is brilliant, of course, so I’m using what I learned in the first interview, what I learned during my part-time job at the AU ISSS, and what I gleaned from reading that DSO training.

I want to work in the company of experienced professionals with diverse backgrounds. I want to be relied upon by my colleagues to complete a high number of consequential tasks. I want to be in an office that has a measurable positive effect on the lives of international students. I want to be in service to the target population. I want a certain degree of responsibility but to be working in proximity to peers and supervisors, ready to consult on particularly challenging cases. I want to be in an organized, professional space that has not lost its human-touch, where I can meet high standards while still exercising my soft-skills.

I want to revisit this but probably not in writing. I want to find a way to express those sentiments aloud in a way that sounds more natural.

33) What is the most difficult problem you’ve faced and how did you resolve it?

There’s a menu of options here. I’m a little irked that HG has no advice on this one (that’s the case for several of the questions… so I’m to assume that this question should be answered without an angle).

I’ve got it! It didn’t happen during my regular duties at Wi’am — it was when I landed in Davao City on Mindanao.

I was awaiting my Israeli visa decision while on a tourist visa in Hong Kong. David Wildman (my regional supervisor) arranged for me to attend the Mindanao Peace-Building Institute; my counter-part Clifford Pauley was working for them in Davao City. Clifford and I left too many details unspoken (we were both in our twenties)– I assumed he would be at the airport when I arrived. I waited for him for a long time. He gave no instructions on how to get to the hotel where the institute was taking place, I asked for no phone numbers or details. We had, in essence, failed each other and ourselves up to that point. I did not speak the local language beyond “salamaat” (thank you)– English was my best bet. I want to note that I waited for a long time (possibly too long) because I wanted to give Clifford a chance to show-up. He was in his office, both wondering where I was and trusting that I could figure things out for myself. He wasn’t wrong.

While in Jordan, I had used an Internet café to complete some basic tasks. I knew such things existed. So I changed some money and reluctantly hailed a cab. I told the cabby I needed a mall with an Internet café — these were familiar terms. He got me there and I paid his fair, said some “salamaats” and used warm body-language to express my thankfulness. I should note that I kept myself composed. This was a sign of how much I had already matured since leaving Chicago O’Hare airport nine months before; I wasn’t in mortal danger, so even if I was marooned there was probably a way to eventually… continue… you know? There always had been.

For a modest fee, I logged-onto a desk-top computer on the third-floor “café” — but not before I stopped for waffle-sticks. Understand, I had scoured Amman for waffles to comfort me during my long, bedbug riddled stay at the hostel in al-wadi neighborhood. Getting extra sustenance was crucial for restoring my mental focus and finding a way to win in a situation where I set myself up to lose.

I e-mailed Cliffor and he eventually showed-up. I never made a big deal out of the excursion — I solved the problem, just as he knew I could, and I didn’t see the utility of scolding him (especially since it was really my responsibility to take initiative for my own arrangments). The take-home lesson, for a future International Services Advisor, is to ask students those questions so they can put together their itinerary. Thus, I think this is the example I would use: apropos. I wouldn’t call it a mistake, though, because it wasn’t the last time I boarded a cab without knowing what every leg of my journey would be and I needed to be ‘ok’ under those conditions.

34) What would you do if you were faced with an ethical dilemma at work?

I mentioned an ethical dilemma yesterday, which I understood to also be a cultural mismatch situation. There are two different types of scenario, not in terms of the dilemma but the timeline to respond: I have a task with a distant deadline (even the next day would be distant, here) or I must respond immediately in the company of a colleague. In the latter case, I need to explain my hesitancy to perform the task without hesitating to seek clarity– a good way to save face would be to ask detailed clarifying questions so that we’re processing the potential challenge together.

That highlights the importance of saving-face, which is something I intuited early during my service-term with Wi’am (I’m impressed). I just realized that I don’t want to go into detail about that episode because my seeming transparency with donors still ommitted the smaller party that actually happened. That was essential to help the organization to save face. Creating opportunities for everyone involved to save-face is important to me.

Oh, of course! This is an instance where the 3 basic responses to uncertainty would be a useful model. While studying IPC at Michigan State, we learned a relatively simple model that divides responses to uncertainty into three categories: Expressive, Conventional, & Rhetorical. Expressive responses channel emotions in real time and are almost never professional– any intense emotions I’m experienced need to be processed privately later. Conventional responses rely on established rules, precedents, regulations– in this OIS, a conventional response is probably most appropriate because they’re bound by obligations to SEVP. I would consult with peers in the field to help determine what best-practices I should follow and how to implement those in an appropriate way that still creates an opportunity for everyone to save face if possible. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be accountability… that’s why I say “if possible”.

Of course, my border-crossings presented an ethical dilemma and this might be the opportunity to be transparent with my future employers — explain my thought process, my reservations, and the positive outcomes that made it all seem worth it.

35) What have you been doing to stay current since your last role?

I read that DSO refresher. I have another resource, here, that I’ve been meaning to review. *chin-scratch* Tonight, I’ll turn my attention to these again. I had planned to start reviewing yesterday but this part of my preparation is also important (and I might’ve absorbed enough refresher already, y’know?)

36) Are you applying to other jobs within our company?

I have not yet but I am receiving mailings from their institution’s job-board.

37) Have you ever been fired?

HG says this could be a red-flag; employers aren’t supposed to ask? I’m surprised but I hope that’s the case.

This question presents an interesting dilemma. I have not been terminated, technically, but I did quit the preschool job while I was suspended in order to preclude being fired. I also did not answer my phone when the director of the school tried to call me. I was thoroughly burned-out and totally done. I offered to take on responsibilities that I was more comfortable with — such as helping to arrange the classrooms and supplies in anticipation of the next school year. We were already passed the number of days that schools were required to be open– I felt like I was risking myself in garbage time: if anything bad had happened to child on my watch or if I’d made a misstep and actually hurt a child myself it would’ve been disastrous for my career and mental health. As I’ve hinted several times, I don’t think this was a healthy situation for anyone other than the administrators, cashing checks by-the-head for small children. I empathize with the challenge of starting a charter school based on a model they believed in (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, there, because it might’ve simply been the most marketable model) but pushing beyond the required number of days was a mistake for a first year school. Great for parents and administrators but a nightmare for teachers and chidren.

So, they couldn’t fire me because I quit and I should’ve quit sooner. I’ve never encountered another organization like that in my career. The factory, the lawnservice company, and the COVID laboratory were all better places to work where I learned more about being a good coworker and meeting goals.

38) Have you worked on a remote team before?

Yes and no, depending on how I pitch it. While I worked for GBGM, I had remote obligations to the NYC office that I needed to fulfill. On the other hand, my day-to-day activities were as part of on-site teams. This particular position is not part of a remote team so I don’t want to dwell for too long on this point.

39) How do you feel about starting a new role where your team is dispersed?

I feel positive about starting a role where my team is dispersed but, to state it again more emphatically, the situation is the reverse for my potential employer: they were dispersed across multiple campuses at one time but now they have coalesced on the main campus.

40) Are you willing to travel occassionally to the office?

Yes. I’m willing to travel from the office, too. I’m willing to travel. Will they send me places? I haven’t been on a real adventure in several years…

The first 29 questions are here

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