Monday, July 21, 2008

Let's Ecology! 7: A job interview (part 2 of 3)

(Part 1 is here.)

I went back up the stairs -- to the right floor this time -- and reported to the receptionist for the interview. She sent me into a small lounge-type room where five or six other people were waiting. They were all talking among themselves. We were left there for about 10 minutes.

Some of the conversation was actually interesting. One of the people told about his experiences going to school in North Carolina, and how curious people were about him, how they'd invite him somewhere because they'd never met a Japanese person before. I was a little surprised, because I thought people around a university, even in North Carolina, would be a little more sophisticated than that.

I saw that it gave me a conversational opening too. I could say, "That's a lot like what happens to me in Japan," or something like that. I didn't take the opening, though. I was too tense to talk easily with strangers -- something I almost never enjoy anyway -- so I just listened.

After 10 minutes, the receptionist came back and said we had to take a translation test. We were to translate one paragraph from English to Japanese and one from Japanese to English. That was potentially a problem, because very, very few people can translate at a professional level from their native language to a non-native language. But I needn't have worried. Both paragraphs were right in my wheelhouse -- one was about sports and one was about politics -- and I knocked them both out of the park. I understood the Japanese clearly and knew all the vocabulary, and had no problem translating them competently.

After the test, we went upstairs for interviews with the company president, the Shacho. We all sat down in the outer office to wait. I got called in first.

The Shacho was quite arrogant, very full of himself and his own importance, but that didn't really bother me. It's the norm in Japan for people in high positions to be stuck-up like that, just as it is in America. The difference is, Japanese people in positions of power don't bother pretending to be down-to-earth, "regular guys" the way many Americans in such positions do. Japanese bosses know they're the bosses, and Japanese workers know they're the workers, and nobody tries to pretend otherwise. But there's a difference between arrogance and abuse, and what I'd heard before was abuse, so I was wary.

The interview actually went pretty well. We talked about the usual stuff: what I was doing in Japan, my education, my experience, what kind of work I would be doing if I got hired, etc., and so on. After a few minutes, the receptionist brought in my graded translation test. The Shacho looked at the paper and then looked at me. "They tell me you did very well on this test."

"Thank you."

Then he got down to business. "If we hire you, how much money do you want?"

I said I'd need about $3,000 a month.

The Shacho sneered, like I'd said something distasteful. "Listen," he said, "$3,000 is nothing. If we hire you, you'll be making about $50,000 a year. That's our salary scale. What do you think of that?"

Apparently, this man was so arrogant that he took it as a point of pride to pay his employees well. That was a kind of arrogance I could live with. "Um, well, that would be very nice," I said.

"You bet it would," he said. It was time for the interview to end. "All right, listen," he said. "We don't know you, and you don't know us. What I'd like to do is have you come in and work part-time for awhile, and if we get along well, we'll take you on as a full-time salaried employee. How's that sound?"

That was a common way of doing things in Japan. "That sounds great."

"All right then. We'll be in touch with you next week."

"All right. Thank you."

It had been a pretty strange interview, but I'd changed my mind: I wanted to work there. What happened to "there's no way I'm gonna work for a jerk like that"? Well, for starters, $50,000 was almost twice what I was making from my two part-time English gigs, and I was sick of teaching English. Plus, this wasn't merely a Real Job, it was just possibly a dream job. Sports marketing in Tokyo? Including Division I football and basketball? What could be more exciting?

The boss was still a problem, but I figured, hey, I'm pretty easygoing, I can get along with 'most anyone. I don't make a great first impression, but I do tend to make a good long-term impression. People seem to like me. Even if I don't often make deep connections with them, our superficial connections are usually pleasant. So I figured I could probably get along even with this guy. I at least had to take the chance. I could always quit if he got out of hand. Besides, the way I'd left, come back, aced the translation test, and done okay in the interview -- maybe that was all because this was "meant to be." Maybe I was meant to get the job.

The third and final part of "A job interview" will appear next Monday morning.

More "Let's Ecology!" posts are here. "Let's Ecology!" is the story of my stint with a Japanese environmental group (or sort of an environmental group -- it's "complicated"). Look for new posts every Monday. The names have been changed to protect me from lawsuits. Everything else really happened.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?