Becoming Less Clueless: Interviewing

I theoretically understand what I need to do in an interview. But I’m really bad at them.

It’s not that I don’t know the answers to the questions I’m being asked – of course I do. They’re either about me or reasonably basic technical questions about things I’ve done and know. But I get self conscious about everything – my voice is too high pitched, I can’t pull off a suit, do I have a giant pimple on my forehead preventing my interviewer from processing a word I’m saying, when are scientists going to develop technology that would allow me to be a brain in a jar – oops, was that another question? It definitely doesn’t help that I really haven’t done many of them. In August, though,  I applied to a job that I really, really want. And the application process here? Well, it helped me get a lot more confident and a lot less clueless about the terrifying prospect of a job interview.

One of the things that I find discouraging is getting back a form rejection before even getting to a coding challenge, let alone the interview stage. I have no idea what that means – what specifically did they find unappealing? These are entry level positions, and so it’s rather unlikely that many candidates have much  more to offer than I do. So what is it? There’s only so much I can change, and for all I know, the rejections stemmed from other candidates being from “better” schools! Luckily, this application process was not like that. A couple months after I sent in my application, they sent me a coding challenge.

Fine, I thought. This is good.

A coding challenge is something that I can control, far more than I could with if someone was deciding whether to call me based on my resumé. Some companies will send you a timed test, which are almost universally hated, but this was better. I got a problem and ten days to return my solution. And you know what? I do know how to program. I may not be the world’s best speaker. I may panic at everything. But I am good at getting things done. Good enough that a few days after I submitted my solution, I got an email from someone in HR asking me to set up a phone interview. That’s when my obsessive reading of the Glassdoor page started out.

Now. I am a giant nerd that thrives off having as much information as I can on any given topic. So I read every single review of the interview process and wrote down answers to every question people said they were asked. I read countless lists of interview questions and practiced my answers to those. I made flashcards. I even recorded myself talking so that I could get more confident with the sound of my own voice. And when the interview actually happened…it went well! So I got an invite to an in person interview.

This was far from perfect. I stammered through a few answers. There were questions to which I didn’t like my answers and that I wish I’d answered differently. But it went well enough. My preparations weren’t perfect, but they were good enough that I got an offer. It made me realize…I don’t have to be ready for everything. I’m probably never going to be the kind of person that’s effortlessly confident and always believes in her own ability. But I am capable of preparing for the most likely questions well enough that I’ll be solid, and sometimes, that’ll be enough.

Becoming Less Clueless: Clothing

There has long been a disparity in my life between the clothes I wear, the clothes I like, and the aesthetic that I want to fulfill. For most of my life, the Venn diagram of these things would be three circles with no overlap of which to speak. Now, I’ve been working on closing that gap.

I think the first problem is that I don’t really do seasonal clothing. I wear long sleeves in the middle of summer and sweaters all year round. I love sweaters. I have a drawer filled with them. Precisely zero of them are even remotely flattering. There is a time and place for giant sweaters, but there is not really a time and place for the sweaters that have nothing going for them but a pretty colour.

I am oddly shaped and nothing fits. I’m not short, but I’m definitely not tall, either. My torso is disproportionately long, and for whatever reason, most button up blouses look ridiculous on me. This below is one of the few that doesn’t:515540f2-b34d-465c-bb8a-0f37fd8dc03b

The colour, material, and drape of this shirt make it way less awkward looking than most dress shirts, so I keep it around, but still isn’t exactly flattering. So if I lean away from stuff like that and more to stuff like the next picture, I get closer to my preferred aesthetic:

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Clean lines, nothing too flamboyant. Lately, I’ve been tending towards blacks and creams, and I think it looks pretty good. I don’t really have many full body shots, so I can’t show how a lot of the stuff I’ve been trying looks overall, but that’s the general vibe – simple and clean.

I like the idea of short dresses and such – as my mom says, the time for skimpy clothing is now. However, then I’d have to put on sunscreen on my whole body and not just my face, and I’m just not that level of motivated. Plus, I’m super self conscious, and I feel weird about my knees. That being said, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to not get heatstroke:

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I’m also a big fan of suits. By which I mean, I like the aesthetic on other people, but when I try, I look ridiculous.

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Oddly enough, as silly as it looked with the jacket and all, that’s actually my favourite blouse! It’s simple enough to be versatile, and it’s got fun, kinda billowy sleeves! Which you can’t see in the next picture, I just like the way my face looks in it.

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Verdict: The rules are made up, no one cares, you can justify literally anything you put on your body, and people should just wear whatever they damn well please.

Becoming Less Clueless: Makeup

I have a number of things I’m reasonably good at: programming, machining, babbling about random topics that no one cares about. I also have a number of things that I don’t know jack about. So this will be the first in what I hope will become a series of posts about my attempts at becoming marginally less clueless about the very many things I know very little about. Let’s talk about makeup.

Makeup goes back to ancient Egypt. And historical makeup – and other beauty products and practices – was horrifyingLead. Arsenic. Crushed insects. Mercury. Nightshade. Radium. Jesus Christ. There are plenty of dangerous beauty practices and products that are still in use today – detox tea and dietary supplements, anyone? None of this is FDA approved! – and I’m certainly not going to argue against the fact that the expectations of women in terms of appearance are absurd, sexist, and dangerous both physically and psychologically. However, since today’s cosmetics are far, far less likely to literally kill you than those in 1700s England, I’m much more willing to approach using them as a valuable skill that I should be familiar with. So onwards, to what I’ve learned.

I don’t really do makeup. Not well or often. When I was in like eighth grade, my sister got me this eyeshadow palette with like thirty colours, so I tried some weird colourful looks for a while. And I used to do dance, which involved big dramatic eye stuff with bright red lipstick. But now I don’t dance anymore and am at a stage in my life where my attitude is more or less, “I will put in some amount of effort into my appearance if I have a reason to, but if it takes longer than five minutes or requires any amount of attention during the day else I’ll look absurd, I’m not doing it”. What that translates to is that most days, I don’t where makeup at all. When I do, it’s mostly just mascara. It’s only pretty recently that I’ve started using lipstick – and that’s because the formats have become more convenient and I’ve finally started to understand enough of colour theory to feel less awkward wearing it.

Now. Below is the combined product of a Snapchat filter and Nyx’s “try it on” tool.

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Snapchat filters are almost universally terrible. Like, what even is this? This doesn’t even look like me. I look like a white girl with a fake tan, and it makes me feel bad about how my face actually looks, which is ridiculous, because I am a person, not a doll. But anyway, I wanted to see how these lip colours would look on me with a full face of makeup, and I didn’t want to bother actually putting on makeup to get a more realistic impression. My face here looks considerably lighter than it is (also, so is my eye colour, normally I’d go on a tangent on how this is racist, but I’m tired and people more articulate than me have already done that, so I’ll let it pass this one time) so these lipsticks wouldn’t look quite this way on me, but I think it’s close enough to judge the colours and confirm what I’ve long suspected: I really can’t pull off bright. Dark colours work. Muted colours work. But they need to be warm colours on the cooler side. Anything too red or with warm undertones looks vaguely ridiculous. This is supported by the pictures I have of me wearing different lip colours in actuality:

The left pic and the right pic are the same lip cream, but the one on the right has gloss on top of it. The middle is an oil. It looks a lot darker in the tube, and I was disappointed when I put it on the first time, but I think it’s dark enough to work anyway. When I took the right pic, I put on eyeliner at first, then took it off, because it was annoying and smearing everywhere. I’m wearing a small amount of foundation mixed with a lot of moisturizer in the left and right pics and mascara in all three. I still don’t really understand the purpose of foundation. It requires too much product and too much time to cover up facial blemishes that don’t need to be covered up at all. Similarly, eyeshadow – which I didn’t bother with in any of these – looks at best distracting and at worst tacky. I am going to continue not using that.

The product that trying different things with makeup made me feel like I should try out is powder. Not always, certainly, and maybe not even on a regular basis, but my forehead is apparently prone to getting shiny, so I’m thinking I should be using powder to tone it down sometimes, for the same reason that I avoid eyeshadow. I want to blend into the crowd, not stand out. I definitely don’t want my shiny forehead to be the memory people have of me. I’ll have to add that to my pre-interview checklist: folder, pen, resumé, ironed shirt, and non-shiny forehead.

So to sum it up, what I’ve learned from this experience is that mascara is more worth the effort than eyeliner, but a little white eyeliner blended at the inner corners of the eyes really does help you look less asleep on your feet; lip creams are the best form of lip colour; and I should start powdering my forehead at times when I have to be across from someone for a prolonged period of time. Overall verdict: Makeup is annoying and I will continue not using it much, but a couple products used once in a blue moon will surprise the people that know you by reminding them how good you look if you decide to put some effort into it.