Transplanted Life
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Not doing so hot this past week
I kind of expected my first job interview to be a disaster, and I wasn't disappointed. It wasn't for a job I particularly wanted, which was by design; there are so many things that can go wrong trying to land a job based on what is technically someone else's experience. I can't learn from other people's mistakes because as far as I know, nobody has ever done this before; Carter got his current job based upon "my" résumé and hasn't "come out" at work yet. So it's new territory.

And then there's some stuff that doesn't really have to do with explaining who and what I am to a human resources person. Like, I didn't really have a good "interview suit". I don't even know if women have interview suits, really - my previous job interviews in this body were for receptionist, waitress, and (shudders) retail jobs, and it was more or less okay to show up in something that wasn't obviously casual. But for something where they expect a person with a college degree and some experience, I was lost. I wanted something like a traditional suit, but I don't have anything like that in my closet, and just trying to imagine myself in it didn't quite work. I also don't know what the message it would send would be - that I'm trying to dress like a man because I'm indecisive on my identity? I'm still not quite sure about the navy skirt/coat combination Jen pointed me at after our workout on Wednesday - the coat looks a little mannish, but that may just be me used to clothes that, even if they don't emphasize my breasts, allow them to emphasize themselves. And I hate wearing stockings. But, she knows more than I do about this.

Plus, there's the whole hair thing. I'm tempted to go get a short haircut, because it's gotten down below my armpits, and I'm not good at putting it up - my skill at manipulating it pretty much ends at a scrunchie or a single barette, but having it loose or in a ponytail like that looks kind of unprofessional to me, especially since I wasn't going to have time to comb it like a million times between work and the start of the interview. I wound up having Maureen go nuts with pins and clips and hairspray and stuff Thursday morning and then making a strong effort to resist fiddling with it during the day. And trying not to worry about the hairspray spontaneously combusting.

And then I started the interview. Tech position interviews are terribly intimidating if you're not absolutely current, and I have a sneaking feeling that the .NET books I had Nat pull out of storage and send here so that I could cram before interviews are already out of date. I handled most of the stuff about programing all right, but then they moved onto the other sections of the résumé. And I can almost bet that most of my interviews will follow a similar track:

HIM: "So, I see you've been out of the industry for a couple years."

ME: "Yes, though not by choice. Since most public and private institutions consider 'Martin Hartle' and 'Martina Hart' seperate entities, it's difficult to establish that the experience in question is, in fact, mine."

HIM (fidgeting a little, because the idea of me having been a man is discomfiting, but trying to appear open-minded): "I never really considered that as a problem people having that... uh... that kind of surgery had to face."

ME: "As far as I know, they don't. I'm sort of a special case, since nothing about this body, or my old one, was physically modified; the information in the brains was exchanged."

HIM: "Is that even possible?"

ME: "Yes, although it certainly hasn't been approved by the FDA, Surgeon General, AMA, or whoever does that. It's sort of something that happened to me, rather than something I did. The FBI has an open investigation..."

HIM: "Yes, I saw Agent Jones in your references. You say he'll verify your story...?"

ME: "Yes."

HIM: "Hmm... That's kind of hard to swallow."

ME: "Don't I know it!"

HIM: "Hmmm..."

ME: "If you want to make some more calls to my references, verify everything, I can come back another day."

HIM: "I may have to do that. One thing that concerns me is that you say it's just the contents of your brain that were transfered, and not the brain itself."

ME: "That's right."

HIM: "So even if you remember how to do something, how do I know you can do it? I hate to bring up stereotypes about how boys do better in math, but you did all this as Martin. How do I know you're even capable of doing this as 'Martina'?"

ME: "Well, I haven't noticed any sort of decrease in my abilities, but if you'd like to test me..."

HIM: "Oh, no, not right now. Maybe after we speak to your references..."

... but he's not going to do that, because he's looking around for hidden cameras to record this elaborate prank, or has already decided that he doesn't want someone whose very identity is so ambiguous working out of the same office as him. And even worse than the ambiguous identity is the ambiguous sexuality, which they are afraid to ask about in case someone sues, but which is pretty crucial in terms of figuring out how to interact with me on a daily basis. And given my own occasional ambivalence on whether "Marti" is actually Martin, Michelle, or one of a dozen ways you can combine bits of the two, I figure I'll just make things worse when trying to explain it.

So, as on Thursday, I'll probably leave feeling I won't get the job and depressed enough to need a drink or three.

Hopefully, each awkward interview won't be followed by a bad argument with the boyfriend during the weekend. Then again, enough of those and you can't argue with the boyfriend because you don't have one.

If you keep running into the "But can you, as you are now, do this job." stuff, you might want to think about how to fix that. For programming, you could get involved in one or more of the open source projects, so you can point to accepted contributions and say, "See, Martina Hart did this." For more sys adminy/configuration gorp, you could always volunteer with a chairty. There's always a ton of stuff that needs to be done, and again you get to say "See, current track record."

Clothing? Good luck. The attractive woman as programmer dress code seems totally random. You clearly need to look professional, so that means less cleavage, less leg, more subtle clothing. A bit of the classic camisole over bra, under blouse, slip over panties under skirt stuff helps project attractive woman, but not showing off.

Go find a good, mid range hair place and get a decent hair cut. Feel free to ask for help in how to keep it neat. You have to feel comfortable with how you look, or else you'll come across as uncomfortable, and that doesn't sell in an interview.

- Z
Can you, as you are now, do this job? Baloney. That's not what's going on. They're sublimating their unease. You could offer to work for them for two weeks for free to test you out and they'd still find some way to say "We'll call you back." I'd find whether there's some kind of female-computer-professionals group, online or off, or even just start asking around in the programmer or GLBT communities, to get the skinny on what the various companies are like.
Well, if you ever need one of us to buy you a drink or three...
Particular, is of course, probably right. It probably isn't about whether you can do the job, its probably that they don't even want to think about what you're saying. That said, while you may end up striking some blows against prejudice, your goal is to get a job. (Also, while I think all prejudice sucks, I gotta tell you improving the lot of people with brains swapped by nano-bots is only gonig to strike a very, very small blow against the world's prejudices. You're not exactly a large discriminated against group. That's the problem of course)

Looking for places that deal well with gender and sexuality issues would be smart. Even if they don't believe you, or don't buy it, or whatever, they're likely to be a lot more open minded than places who can't wrap thier heads around simple things like homosexuality and alternative lifestyles.

In the meantime, I reiterate my thinking that the other big thing you have to do is feel comfortable and confident with yourself, and how your dressed and presenting yourself when you walk in the door. If you choose an interview look, wear it more than just for interviews. Go shopping, go to dinner, suggest to your boyfriend (Assuming your still talking) that someplace where a nice outfit works would make a good date. You want to feel as if you're just dressed neatly, not that you're wearing some freaky costume when you sit down to talk about how you can deal with security issues in deploying distributed .net components.

- Z
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