Finding a Job Sucks: The Non-profit Arts and Dance Studio

This story is really hard to write because I’m still involved with this organization, yet another non-profit.

A couple of years ago in the summer and fall of 2016, I started taking regular dance classes again at a place called Arts Together.  Arts Together is a non-profit with a year-round arts education program, including the visual arts, dance, drama and music for children and adults.

I’ll go more into detail about my dance history in another post.

I took an intermediate dance class for a year, and then in 2017 I moved up to the intermediate/advanced class and joined the Rainbow Dance Company, a multi-generational modern dance group.

Towards the end of 2017, I realized my freelancing was not going to pay the bills, so I began applying for jobs in the areas of marketing, communications, and design.

Up to that point, I had been applying to so many different kinds of jobs. None of seemed to be the right fit. I had already lost out on the opportunity with Catherine Pooler Designs, which was one job that truly seemed like a good fit for me and one I thought I would actually enjoy.

One day in February 2018, I remember asking myself what I thought would be the perfect job for me at the moment. I figured a job where I could design during the day and dance at night would be perfect.

I kid you not, the very next day when I checked my email, there was a message from Arts Together. Their development coordinator was leaving to pursue another opportunity (one with more prestige and paid more, I’m sure), and there was an opening for her position.

I immediately began drafting my cover letter for this position. I put a lot of work into that cover letter, even going over the recommended one-page rule because I didn’t want to shortchange myself.

You can see I went into great detail about my qualifications in the cover letter. Maybe more than I needed, but I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass me by. I truly thought the universe dropped this job into my lap. I really thought this was an answer to my prayer.

The Phone Interview

Shortly after I submitted my cover letter and resume, I received an invitation from the executive director to have a phone interview. It lasted maybe 20 minutes. It went well, but I seem to always do well on the phone. I spoke candidly about what I was looking for in a position, and the ED seemed to appreciate my honesty.

One thing that stood out to me during our conversation is that she asked me how I felt about being interrupted. Parents and prospective students go in and out of the office, and there are many interruptions. How did I feel about being interrupted frequently during the day or giving tours of the facility when guests stopped in?

I felt like that was a trick question, because if I say I don’t like interruptions (which would be true), then I would be deemed unfit, unfriendly, uncooperative, inflexible, etc. If I say yes, then I’m lying, but it gets me closer to my goal. So I said sure, as long as I’m not penalized for maybe not meeting a deadline exactly. Because if you’re expecting me to act as a glorified receptionist, then it stands to reason that multiple interruptions are going to compromise my productivity in other areas.

At any rate, I passed the phone interview, and she later scheduled a time for me to come into the office.

What I Wore

I wore my interview wig, black slacks I purchased from New York & Company, my black stretch v-neck top, a red and black knit cardigan from Stein Mart, and black heels. I did my usual natural makeup look. I looked good.

The In-Person Interview

It was cloudy and drizzling that day.

I parked on the street and walked up to the building.

Arts Together is housed in what looks like an old house built in the 70s from the outside. Its siding is painted gray with red shutters. A curved drive allows for cramped pick ups and drop offs.

I entered the quiet lobby, looking around, nervous. I peaked around the right corner into the ED’s office. She spotted me immediately and welcomed me in.

Her business manager joined us as well.

I sat in a chair in front of her desk with the window facing the drive and the street to my right. It was dreary and gray outside, with the rain just misting down.

Meg, the ED was very welcoming and warm towards me. She exuded an air of dignity, calm, and composure. Her business manager Steven was the opposite. He seemed nervous, fidgety, and uncomfortable for most of my interview.

There is something to be said about that second person in an interview. I always seem to do well with the main target, but that second person seems to be the one that makes or breaks your chances. It was Kelly from Catherine Pooler Designs and “the other” Dan from Rebuilding Together of the Triangle who gave me the most trouble during those interviews. In this case it was Steven.

Meg was impressed with my resume and really impressed with my cover letter. I talked about my time at Duke, my foray into freelance web and graphic design, and what I was currently looking for.

All of the interviewers in my development type of interviews asked me about any experience in making solicitations. I only have experience in stewardship, so I feel like that always counts against me, even though stewardship is vital to any organization’s fundraising efforts.

Overall, I felt at ease during the interview, even if Steven was acting squirrely and weird. He noted from my resume that I like to study languages and asked if I studied Spanish since they are trying to appeal to the Latino community. I had to say no, because I study Korean. There’s another strike against me.

The question about interruptions came again, this time from Steven. I began to realize that this issue might have been a sticking point with the last person in this position. I repeated the same sentiments I shared with Meg during our phone interview.

Maybe the other woman left because she felt like she couldn’t be productive due to constant interruptions. Maybe she felt like a glorified receptionist rather than a development professional. Who knows? The fact that the interruptions issue was brought up again seemed like a red flag. They’re looking for someone who can multitask and juggle a lot of projects while also acting as the hospitality committee while Meg and Steven do the real work.

We talked a bit about fundraising, campaigns, and stewardship. It was pretty clear to me they didn’t have a very rigorous fundraising strategy, and it seemed like Meg was intimidated by my fundraising/stewardship activities and role at Duke. I got the feeling they thought what I did at Duke was too high-level for a small non-profit like Arts Together.  And maybe that I would have challenged their current practices.

Meg showed me some postcard they send their donors. It was the print of a crayon drawing from one of the Arts Together students. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed.

Their need for someone to do social media, maintain their (Squarespace!) website, and send out email newsletters was well within my capabilities. I also could have been a great resource for them on the fundraising side given my 10-year history at Duke.

None of that mattered.

I name dropped well-loved Arts Together alumnae. Didn’t matter.

I presented myself as accommodating and non-threatening as I could. Didn’t matter.

Steven asked me how to say “thank you” in Korean. I told him, “Annyeonghaseyo.” I corrected him a few times. I don’t think he liked that.

After the Interview

I sent both Meg and Steven a follow up thank you email. Meg never responded. Steven responded back saying it was wonderful meeting me and they looked forward to seeing me perform in the Rainbow concert. My heart sank.

During the Rainbow concert rehearsals, I got the rejection email later from Meg that I was cut. It was a nicely worded email, but cut is cut.

To this day, I don’t understand why I didn’t get hired. It seemed like the stars were aligned. I had thought on numerous occasions how nice it would be to work there. The email popped up and I jumped at the chance writing the best cover letter of my life. I was a perfect fit with my interest in the arts, dance in particular, and my extensive background in development. None of that seemed to matter, then or now.

I’ve seen the emails their hire puts out. I’m not impressed. I don’t know what she does behind the scenes, but I’m sure it was nothing beyond my skill set.

Because I didn’t get this job, I am dead broke, getting help from my parents. Getting this job and the income would have meant so much to me. It would have meant the world to me. But they rejected me, and I hate them for it.

You might ask why I still dance at Arts Together. Because there is no other dance center that caters to adults the way Arts Together does. Right now, I’m dancing on a scholarship because I’m unemployed. A situation that might not have existed if they hired me in the first place.

Perhaps they did not want a student or a company member to be an employee as well. I can see that, and I respect that. But that aside, my qualifications were more than enough.

I guess they just didn’t like me. They didn’t think I’d “fit in” to their little world. Maybe it was racism. Who knows at this point?

I also wonder if there was some sabotage behind the scenes. One of the women I danced within Rainbow is also the co-chair of their board. She started acting even funnier than usual around me during the time that I applied. She’s a busybody too and seems to have her hands in a lot of things at Arts Together, so I wonder if she saw my resume and persuaded the ED to not hire me. Because one night she made some remark about the outgoing development associate, and she had never mentioned her name during rep before. It felt like a distinct dig at me. Some women are so f*cking evil.  I wouldn’t put it passed her.

So that ends this story. It’s probably the most painful one in my job search nightmare because getting this job could have really changed my life. It could have really turned things around for me. I’ll probably never get another opportunity like it again.

The Finding a Job Sucks series chronicles my misadventures through unemployment. I explore my mountains and valleys through the process in detail as a method of catharsis and resentful pettiness.  2018 has been one of the most difficult years of my life. No sense in sugar-coating it. You will not find any uplifting stories, pithy sayings, or inspirational lessons here. Just real life and the real shit I’ve been going through. Cheers.

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