Part Six | Marcom, Pathwork; Atlanta (1998-2014)

At the beginning of that summer of 1998, ready to move on from Data Transit after three years, I found an ad in the paper for a plastics company looking for a marketing communications manager who had a degree in chemistry. You don’t see that combination every day. I sent them my resume and then broke into tears when I got a FedEx envelope the next day with details for arranging an interview.

When I was hired, returning to the world of plastics and bringing my extensive experience in marketing communications (aka, advertising) with me, my inner puzzle-maker gave a sigh of relief. For the first time in ages, my resume made sense. A month or two after joining the company, I was at a large meeting of all our company-wide communications coworkers. At dinner, someone at my table asked my manager, Marla, how many people they had interviewed for my job. She looked across the table at me, thought about it a second, and then admitted, “Just one.”

If I had only known. Instead, I sat on pins and needles all summer waiting for things to unfold, assuming they were interviewing everyone and their sister. In a company that, I would discover later, struggled mightily in letting go of poor performers, they had been waiting for someone to leave on her own so they could replace her. Before I was hired then, I actually had two interviews, one at the beginning of the summer and another at the end.

For the first one, I went through an hour and a half of questions in a behavioral-style interview. The theory is, the best predictor of future performance is past performance. So it’s “tell me about a time that (fill in the blank).” This kind of question allows you to shine, but will also require you to reveal how you handled something difficult.

I don’t recall the specific question, but essentially I was asked to talk about a time when things didn’t go so well. In brief, I told them about leaving Servantis, putting the best spin on it that I could. One of the people interviewing me was Kathy, a newly hired marketing director, and she kept drilling down on my experience until she’d backed me up against a wall to name names. As a rule, I don’t burn bridges, but what the hell, I had scorched the earth on that one already.

“Jim Garrett,” I said.

“I knew it,” she responded. “He left Servantis and went to Harland where I worked. He’s the reason I’m here!”

The second interview towards the end of the summer finally materialized, and wouldn’t you know, they wanted me to come in one day before the second round of laser eye surgery. Problem is, you’re not supposed to wear eye make-up for three days prior to the surgery. Well, crud.

When I got into the chair for the surgery and the nurse looked at my eyes with her high-powered magnifying lens, she wasn’t pleased. I’d done my best to scrub off all the mascara, but apparently there were telltale signs. After I apologized and explained the situation to her she lightened up. “I’d have done the same thing,” she said. “Let’s get you cleaned up and ready for surgery.”

When I was interviewing, the company was Amoco—their high-performance plastics division—but one week before they made me an offer, they’d been bought by BP.

“What does this mean?” I asked.

“We have no idea,” they said.

I took the job anyway.

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

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