Okay, I’ll admit that writing this is a majorly cathartic experience for my slightly OCD, easily discouraged self.
At the beginning of September, I interviewed for the NBC Page Program at 30 Rock in New York City.The holy grail of entry-level entertainment jobs, for those of you who have more stable career trajectories. It’s like a med school interview if only one medical school guarantees any type of employment after you graduate. Looking back on it now, the location of the interview seems a little mean– as if to say, “Hey, here’s your gorgeous dream building in the most exciting city in the world, the building you’ve seen Tina Fey in with fancy elevators and crisp stylish suits and a breathtaking cafeteria, but screw you because we’re definitely not letting you in!”
Anyway, back to the interview. It was a long process, getting there. There was when I initially sent in my resume and cover letter via that standard website that makes it seem like you just sent your applications into oblivion. At that point, I knew it was a pipe dream that would never come to fruition. I didn’t expect to hear back from them — I happily went along applying to more realistic, executive assistant jobs in the television and film industry.
But then I got an email scheduling a prerecorded video interview. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my room, wearing a dress shirt-vest-pajama bottoms combo (they weren’t going to see my bottoms!) that I realized that I had progressed onto the next step. And my expectations of getting the job increased exponentially, despite my best efforts to keep them low! It was a strange process, getting a question, getting 90 seconds to consider my answer, and then recording myself talking about the TV industry or NBCUniversal without someone else to interact with.
Finally, after sending in that and again being sure I didn’t get the job, I got an email asking if I was available to come to New York for the panel interview. I enthusiastically responded yes before even reading the rest of the email: the interview required us to present a timed creative presentation about ourselves… oh, God. Interviews I can handle. Exams? Easy peasy. But when my brain registers the word presentation, my stress hormones set off like crazy.
I spent three weeks preparing my best comedy-style parody monologue about myself, in character as Kelly Kapoor, Shawn Spencer, and Seth Meyers. I had the timing down, I had an awesome costume change, I had jokes that my mom assured me were funny.
Let’s just skip to the day of the interview, because it was bad, bad, bad. If you know me, you know that I am literally the clumsiest person to survive past the age of 20. I choke on air, I trip on nothing, I have no sense of my spatial relationship with the world. This didn’t magically change when I got my security badge for 30 Rock. After the initial round of questions, I took a trip to the restroom. And my phone took a trip into the (thankfully clean) toilet. Fully submerged, sending up bubbles of betrayal and disappointment at me.
Anyway, I fished it out and dried it off desperately, and to my joy, it seemed to be working just fine, with a few flashing screen glitches. But I was too grateful it still recognized my finger swiping to consider the consequences of that. Or to turn down its volume.
Finally, after three hours of personal interviews, we are called in for the presentation portion. I’m ready, I’m excited. I’m nervous. When the person before me went up to present, I was focused. Until I heard the crashing guitars of my favorite angst-inducing OneRepublic song. All ten people in that room heard it. MY PHONE. It was enacting its revenge on me by spontaneously bursting (literally) into song during someone else’s presentation: the number one indicator of unprofessionalism. All ten people in the room saw me scurry to turn it off, too.
Then I went up to present. I was so nervous, that I held the board indicating my character upside down… For half of my presentation. I noticed the weird looks, and they didn’t stop after I rectified the board situation. Now they were saying, “What is this? Is this supposed to be funny?” Needless to say, my humor was a little too offbeat for them, I think. That’s what I get for only running them by my mom.
I left the interview dejected, thinking of the perfect soundtrack to the bawling-on-the-streets-of-New-York montage that I was about to enact. But I texted my sister instead, “I bombed. You are not talking to a future NBC Page.” What was her response? Not sympathy, not commiseration. She said, “I AM SO PROUD OF YOU.” It was literally the best thing anyone could say to me in that moment.
So if you bombed your presentation, or your exam, or especially your interview, don’t be disappointed. Be PROUD. You were fully yourself (plus maybe some nerves), and you should be proud of that. It’s an accomplishment just getting to the interview stage. It’s an accomplishment even applying for the job in the first place — you’re on the road to making your career and building your life, and what’s more impressive than that?
Oh, and by the way? I aced my next interview with a little help from a hilarious anecdote about the Page interview. I’m going to grad school for screenwriting instead of the Page Program. I liken my experience at the page interview to that of a certain screenwriter-comedienne-showrunner-actress. Mindy Kaling*.
Did you tank an interview? How are you feeling about it? Let me know in the comments!
*You can read about it in her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns.