educator, writer, speaker, devoted family man, amateur philosopher, chess enthusiast, basketball junkie, connoisseur of fine hip hop, and purveyor of wit and wisdom
Right after I graduated from college, I started looking for jobs. I graduated from a small liberal arts college with a major in creative writing and a minor in mathematics…which qualified me for a whole lot of nothing. I completed several applications and sent out a lot of resumés for various positions hoping someone would call me back. In the sea of open job positions, only one bit…an entry level bookkeeping job for a small company.
The man on the phone told me he liked my resumé and wanted me to come in soon for an interview. Of course, I was excited. Of course, I told him that I would love to interview for the job. And of course, I knew nothing about bookkeeping. But I took all kinds of math courses in college, and you know what? Those math classes were full of numbers and bookkeeping deals with managing budgets that are full of numbers, so I could be a bookkeeping expert.
Besides, I kept all of my math books, so technically I’m allowed to put “bookkeeper” on my resumé.
When I was in school, I went to workshops to improve my resumé writing and to build my interview skills. So I showed up for the interview and actually did very well. The gentleman I spoke with on the phone days earlier was the same man who interviewed me. We were having a great conversation for a bit less than an hour, and then a strange thing happened. When the obvious lull came near the end of our conversation, he said, “Robert, I’m gonna be honest with you. Your background sounds good and I think you’re the best candidate I interviewed for the job. But I can’t hire you.”
I told him that didn’t make sense, but he proceeded to tell me why. (And I’m paraphrasing here.)
“Robert,” he said, “You have a good head on your shoulders and you seem like an honest guy who would do a pretty good job here. But the thing is that you’re a people person. This entire time we’ve been talking, everything you said showed that you need to be around people instead of down here in this room crunching numbers. If I hire you, you’ll probably do a good job and then leave after about a year. I need someone who’s going to stick around.”
The man was right. He knew more about what I wanted than I did. I’ve been employed in the education field my entire life. Over the years, I learned that my vocation lies in educating others. I learned that I’ve been called to teach. Looking back on my times in high school and college, I can now see that life had dropped a couple hints back then that I should teach, but perhaps I was too young to understand them.
That interview was almost 19 years ago right after I graduated from college. I don’t remember any details about that business like the company’s name or what exactly they did or even where they’re located. The few images, though, that do stick in my head are very telling.
I remember the look and feel of the room. I remember the pudgy man’s face and his white dress shirt, no tie, sleeves rolled up. I remember that the small windowless room we sat in had a door that led directly to the sidewalk outside and the interviewer kept it open to get some air flowing.
And I also remember that, throughout the interview, I kept glancing out the door and thinking about how damn bright it was outside that day. I kept thinking about the contrast between the room and the outside. Maybe the man saw it in my expression during the interview, but even though I said all the right things to get the job, I couldn’t hide the fact that I didn’t want to be there. My eyes darted outside the door, and I wanted to follow, knowing that my calling was out there somewhere in that bright daylight.