Wednesday, June 22, 2011
“Well, I’m 19, I’m a fashion merchandising major at Santa Monica College. I used to work in a store downstairs…” This is how the girl sitting next to me was answering the question of, “Can you tell me about yourself?” We were crowded in the dressing room area of the Ben Sherman store at a nearby mall for our group interview, both hoping to get the position of sales associate. I wore my tightest pants hoping to fit in, but as I saw the employees wearing their tight pants, I felt like I looked like a member of the 1994 Arkansas basketball team in contrast.
The Girl and I were the only two that had shown up and the manager with the cool tattoos was asking us the standard interview questions. All I’m thinking of as I’m listening to The Girl is, “Yep, 19. 19, huh? Yep, 19.” I would have loved to have had this job at 19, you’re near a food court, you can get your friends discounts, and you can make fun of the 33 year olds that come in trying to look cool.
I did not tell my age to start out the answer. I answered all right, I suppose. Ben Sherman is a British brand that only has five stores in the US and is situated on the luxury floor of this multi floored shopping mall. I was happy that retail is something I actually have experience in. I too was 19 when I worked retail. So, when this hip, international, upscale store’s manager asked me about my retail experience I simply explained, “I worked at the University of Iowa Hawk Shop, the apparel store for the athletic department.” That seemed not so hip and upscale by comparison, but I, at least, didn’t mention that we sold black and gold striped overalls and cornheads.
I remember when I spent a lot of time looking for a job in Springfield that after awhile I could easily switch to interview mode where I sounded like an agent talking up a great client, only it was me talking about myself in first person. You know what I mean, where you hear yourself saying things like, “My greatest weakness? I work too hard sometimes.” “Or, “I implemented a strategic plan that was well respected amongst my peers.”
I’m not in that mode yet.
I need to get there. This was a sales job with daily sales goals. I hardly mentioned my last job, where my old boss liked to stress that we were doing sales work. I never liked being pegged that way so I guess I didn’t own it enough. Plus, it was my first group interview, so I was trying to be deferential and respectful to The Girl. Good customer service in my mind, lack of assertiveness in theirs, I’m sure. The BS train is passing me by, but now, at least, I have a horse, and I’m riding alongside the train hoping to jump on. I’m getting there is what I’m saying.
The manager with the cool tattoos then said, “You guys want to do a fun activity?” We said, “Sure!” We walked out to the floor and she said, “Okay, here’s the scenario, an international man walks into the store and he needs to get an outfit for an important business meeting that night. Pick out an outfit for him.”
My only ventures into the trendy world are when I have my guide, Michelle. I wondered how quickly I could get Skype up and going on my phone, but decided against it. I grabbed a suit, good choice. Then, I started grabbing different shirts and holding up to the shirt to the suit, while tilting my head because that’s what the knowledgeable Girl was doing. I’m thinking, be cool and trendy. I’m also thinking, what are the mixing and matching rules Michelle has told me? I can’t remember. I can’t remember!
I grabbed a gray suit, a blue button down, and a black tie with stripes. I explained to the manager with cool tattoos that I decided to go with a conservative look since it was a business meeting. The male assistant manager with the turquoise checkered shirt buttoned to the top, rolled up tight white pants, and dress shoes with no socks didn’t seem to approve.
We filled out an application and we were done. I don’t know if I’ll hear back. I don’t know if I really want to hear back. I hate selling, and the idea of sales goals bugs me. I’d do it, but I wouldn’t like it.
The Girl and I left through the glass doors, going our separate ways.
I’m sure she went home where she lives with her parents, because that’s what 19 year olds do.
I went home where I live with my friend’s parents, because that’s what 33 year olds do.
Later that night, we went and had dinner with my friends Gio and JD. JD’s dad sent him a bunch of ham for his birthday, so we ate that. Then, we saw our friend, Nicci, sing jazz at this cool, intimate club. We did not stick around long enough to hear Wynton Marsalis play, much to my dismay. He’s a legend and I was trying to get people to stay, but no one wanted to. We went back to Gio’s apartment where Michelle was having such a great time with my new friends that I had to tell her that we needed to go when it got late. That is rare with us. 99% of the time it’s the other way around.