Monday, January 17, 2011

interviews and Williamsburg

I actually had two job interviews today, which is not too shabby for my second week working.

The first one was in Sunset Park, an iffy Brooklyn neighborhood (albeit loaded with great Mexican luncheonettes) with a fair amount of industry. The main drag is 4th Avenue, but this business was between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, right past the BQE (= Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a big elevated roadway).  It's a wholesaler of souvenir items, and the job is administrative assistant.  The interview took about three minutes.  I was asked if I was working, what I did at my last job, and when I mentioned that I entered information into a proprietary computer system, she said, "We have that here, too."  She said it was general AA work, that the hours were 9-5:30 Monday through Thursday, and 9-5:00 on Friday.  She said that health insurance was offered after three months, and the medical was "OK," but the dental and vision are very good. She asked when I could start.  She asked if I had any questions.  She said that she'd call later this week and the idea was to have someone starting on Monday.

I figure they either decided from my resume that they absolutely wanted me, and this was just a formality -- or that they had already chosen someone and were just keeping this appointment to be polite.  Since I was actually interviewed by the assistant of the person I was supposed to see, I have to figure that they already had their candidate.  Also, there was no discussion about salary, though I filled out an application that asked for "salary desired," and I wrote "$32-35,000."  Then again, she did talk about benefits.  So this was all kind of weird and confusing.  

I feel like I've been out of the loop for a long time as concerns office work.  I have no idea what anyone wears to work any more.  I was super-overdressed for both my interview and my first day of work at Dweck.  Everyone wears jeans.  The woman at the souvenir company said that it's casual, and jeans on Friday.  I apologized for having dressed a little casually, but it was fine with her.  It was 25 degrees out, so I wore burgundy cords and a burgundy-on-beige blouse.  I don't think I have any pants that aren't jeans or cords except for a fairly busted pair of black chinos (pants with even a little stretch tend to get hopelessly busted and droopy).  I think I also have beige capri chinos, and some black-and-red pull-on Tienda Ho pants which are fairly not-plain (NG for an interview) and also way too lightweight for this weather.  (If you think about it, I started buying my new wardrobe in the warm weather, figuring I would add cold-weather pieces once I started working.)

If I get a job that's "casual" but not "jeans," I'll probably just have to get some decent pull-on pants (I have a brown pair that needs hemming) and wear tunics with that.  I mostly wore tunic-y shirts and jeans at Dweck, except there was a temperature problem.  The room I worked in was like a sauna.  It was something about the steam pipes traveling overhead, because no other part of the offices or factory was so hot.  In fact, the other end of the complex was often cold.  Basically, I wore short sleeves every day.  Every day.  I don't think I have as many nice long-sleeved shirts.

Second interview:  this was for a four-day job to work for a jeweler as a sales rep at a trade show.  Possibly a potential to stay on in sales.  The designer/jeweler is someone craftsy and already fairly professional (has a very beautiful website and has done trunk shows).  I met her and her husband at a cafe in Williamsburg.  Her jewelry is very nice and I could certainly talk about it with authority.  My sense is that they haven't talked to anyone yet who knew what vermeil was or what wire-wrap was or could name every stone in every piece.  I think the Dweck thing also impressed them.  They're paying a reasonably good hourly rate plus commission for the Javits thing, and are thinking about putting together a showroom and are looking for someone to staff it, which I said would certainly interest me.  They're going to have two people at Javits besides the designer, and I'm fairly sure they'll offer me one of the spots, though it's hard to say.  They might hire someone younger and cuter and teach her about the jewelry.  They had assumed that whoever they hired would need to be brought up to date on the particulars of the jewelry, which is why their ad mentioned a paid orientation session.  When I asked about the orientation, they told me what it was and pretty much indicated that it wouldn't be necessary for me.  But maybe they'll hire young cute people and orient them.  It would not be a smart way to go, but I'd understand it.  

I think it would be a lot of fun.  I also think it would be fun to run a showroom, but it's hard to imagine they would be able to make that a full-time job at first.

I actually do like her jewelry, although it's mostly very different from what I do.  It's probably the only way I could ever work for another jewelry designer:  that I admire his/her work, but it's very different from mine.  (Just like with Stephen.)

More than ever, I now know that there are no certainties in job-hunting.  Answering an ad for a job which seems like a perfect match is no guarantee of an interview.  A good interview -- or even three good interviews -- does not in any way mean there'll be an offer. An offer and acceptance doesn't mean that the job won't vanish.  And having a job doesn't mean you'll still have a job in three months.  (It wasn't recent, but I did have the experience of having accepted an offer, salary and start date fixed, and then someone else was hired instead.)  And getting two interviews out of ads answered in the first week of answering ads does not in any way indicate that I will get a lot of interviews.

I'm going to push fairly hard to temp, since if I temp around four weeks before the end of March, I'll be eligible for unemployment.  This will make hunting for something permanent a little less stressful.  End of March is pretty much when we'll be totally out of money.  Barry has three more weeks of unemployment benefits, I have about $5,000 in my 401(k), and that's it.  I get fairly panicky looking at that head-on, but that's pretty much it.  We are looking into pretty much any kind of public benefit we can qualify for, and I just don't want to list those right now.  It's fairly depressing.  Also kind of shocking, since I never in my life imagined even considering any kind of public assistance.

So, I'm just answering ads, putting my best foot forward, and hoping.

I did want to say something about Williamsburgh, the neighborhood where I met the jewelry people today.  WB is kind of like what Soho or the East Village was thirty years ago, but it's the first neighborhood of this type in Brooklyn.  That is, a neighborhood that was fairly poor and run-down but was colonized by young and artsy people because space was cheap.  This worked in Williamsburg even though it's in Brooklyn, because there's very quick and easy subway access to Manhattan.  So now it's all full of trendy restaurants and cafes and art galleries and lots of music clubs.  Some Manhattan clubs have even moved there.  There are some artists you just plain can't see without going to Williamsburg.  The problem is that it's kind of a pain to get there from anywhere else in Brooklyn.  I actually had to go from Brooklyn to Manhattan to get a train back to Brooklyn that goes to Williamsburg.  I think the "cool" section of WB is quite a distance form the subway, since I had to hike quite a bit from the train to the cafe, which only seemed to be at the outer border of the artsy area.  (Part of the overall neighborhood is also Hassidic, which has been the case for many years.)  Williamsburg doesn't seem to be all that gentrified, though it's now unaffordable.  The younger folks and students are now gravitating to Greenpoint and even Bushwick, which are adjacent to WB.  (Greenpoint is an old-school, middle-class Polish enclave, and I hate to admit that I know pretty much nothing about Bushwick.  I believe that Bushwick is/was referred to as "dangerous," which I think is Polite Code for "poor" and/or "minority."

In the early and middle 90s, before WB got cool, I used to go there once in a while to shop at the late lamented Domsey.  Domsey was an enormous bargain store but mostly known for the gigantic used clothing section.  The prices were quite gentle, and you could go with $30 and come home with three enormous shopping bags.  Williamsburg was terrible then, partly Hassidic, partly bombed-out/ghetto-looking.  But Domsey was awesome.  Also, the very famous steakhouse, Peter Luger, has been there for many years.  I believe I was taken there once as a teenager; apart from the location, it's way expensive, and still considered one of the very best in NYC.  From before Williamsburg was cool.

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