Networking, it turns out, can be everything.
It began with Domonique, a fellow Program Assistant who has been here far longer than I, passing on my resume and alerting the higher ups that my temporary contract ends January 31st. Then my supervisor, Alisa, sent along a recommendation. Then I was having an informal chat with Emily from START about Department of Global Health jobs (the morning that I walked out to my car and found the rear window shattered, incidentally).
Pause. This step of talking with Emily was, I think, the defining discussion I had in getting connected with other DGH jobs. It was a carefully described “informal chat.” In my experience, these are either (a) actually informal ways to give information about yourself and learn about an organization or (b) interviews that people don’t want to call interviews. The talk with Emily fell into the former category. Upon seeing the shattered glass littering the street behind my car, deposited in my hatchback trunk, and just barely clinging to the back of my car through a connection to the rear window wiper, I immediately sent Emily an email apologizing for having to cancel. 10 minutes later – screw it. I had called the police, shared my woe with an innocent bystander leaving his house for work, and there was nothing more I could do. I sent Emily another email saying I could meet her 15 minutes after our original appointment time, and I drove my rear window-less car to work. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining in Seattle that day in January.
I think it was my state of resignation about my car that made me so calm during our chat. We talked about the Dept. of Global Health, I described my hopes and dreams, she suggested I put plastic wrap over my missing window – I used trash bags provided by the clever Domonique – and then I went to work. A few hours later, Domonique told me I had a phone call. I called Jessica back on my office phone to found out that she had just spoken with Emily and wants to know if I would be interested in a temporary job as Executive Assistant to the chair of the department. Well gosh, yes. We arranged for me to go have a “chat” with her the following week.
Fast forward: My pants are dry cleaned. My car has a rear window. I’m going to work early so that I can take off for my 10AM appointment with Jessica. I check my email while waiting for a coffee and – whoops – they have found someone to take the Executive Assistant job long term. Appointment canceled.
The HR Manager for the UW DGH connects with me on LinkedIn. IS IT A SIGN? I suppose my information was passed on to him?
Email from Susan: would I be interested in discussing a temporary program operations assistant position at CFAR (the Center for AIDS Research) at the UW? YES. We set up an appointment for an “informal chat” the following day. Scanning the job description, I see a few things: (1) event organization (Awesome, I can do this), and (2) fiscal and grant administration. Pause. I don’t have much work experience in budget administration. I mean, I developed and worked within budgets for events I organized with Reedies for Sexual Health Awareness. I also reviewed and approved budgets for student organizations as Director of Student Organizations way back when at Moorpark College. But neither of those was on the level of the budget work I would do with the CFAR position.
What was I supposed to do in this interview? I looked up all the programs they wanted me to have knowledge of for the job (I literally had not used any of them). They all had e-trainings or guides. I scanned through them. Ok, at least the programs aren’t difficult. And I have used Excel extensively. And I am good with details and organization. Informal chat time!
I decide to take the Health Sciences Express bus to get from my office building to their office building (different parts of Seattle) for the appointment, instead of driving. I find the bus stop, get on the bus, all is well. But isn’t it getting a little close to the appointment time, and the bus hasn’t even crossed the bridge? I scan the time table and – whoops – I misread it. I send Susan an email apologizing, as I will be 10 minutes late.
Informal chat time. Turns out I will be chatting with Susan, and the HR manager, and the person whose job I would take over temporarily while she goes on maternity leave. How is this informal? Deep breath. It’s honesty time. We chat; some are questions more interview-e, some less. (This definitely felt like the second “informal chat” type). “Yes, I have organized events.” “Yes, I don’t have much budget administration experience.” “BUT” – time to advocate for myself – “I am damned good at learning new skills, as my current supervisor Alisa has told you (in reference to my learning how to use WordPress to transfer over our Program website to a new server). I also looked up all the programs you want me to know, and I found that they all have trainings and guides I can use to learn them.” We laughed a bit, and I told them that I want to learn new skills and am interested in the position. And that I need to know asap because I’ve given notice on my studio apartment to move out.
Where I am now, just over a week later: Susan has emailed me telling me I am in the top list of candidates and that they are still reviewing applications. She asked if I am still available, as she is aware that we are reaching the end of the month and studio decision-making time. I decided to make things easier for everyone by extending my lease through February. Susan can have more time to think. I don’t have to simultaneously wrap up all my projects and move out by Friday, and I can keep applying to other jobs and networking – particularly at Reed College’s Working Weekend on Feb 7-8. I still have to give notice to my apartment managers by February 8th if I want to move out in February, but at least I bought myself a week. Huzzah!