Monday, October 06, 2008

Let's Ecology! 13: The Big Interview (conclusion)

I thought it was a good time to change the subject. "What exactly would my duties be here?" I asked.

This time they had trouble answering. "Well," said Takahashi expansively, "we're not really sure yet. We've started to get pretty big, and I think we need to internationalize, to make contact with foreign countries and get out into the world. We had another foreigner here for a while, a Dane who was an environmentalist in his home country, but he couldn't speak Japanese, so things didn't really work out."

"I think we should have him work on the catalog," Soga broke in.

"I think he should work on some special projects to help us to expand overseas," Takahashi answered.

"Well, you know, he's from a completely different background, brought up in a completely different environment from everyone else here. If he was on a team with regular employees doing the same regular work as everyone else, he would bring a completely different perspective to the work, and that could be valuable." Takahashi didn't seem very receptive, so Soga quickly followed up with, "But you're the one who's going to decide."

"No, no, no, not at all."

"Well, it's your decision. You're the boss."

"No, no, no, this isn't that kind of organization."

"Well, you are the boss."

"No, no, no..."

This all took place while I was sitting across the table from them. I had been to several job interviews, both in the U.S. and in Japan, but this was the first time I'd ever seen the interviewers argue over where to use me. I supposed it was a lot better than if they were saying "You take him. No, you take him." I was also curious to see who would win. I thought that the "special projects," whatever they were, sounded more interesting than doing the same work as everyone else.

"Well," Takahashi said, to me this time, "we're not sure exactly what the best place for you is. Maybe you'll be working on the catalog, or maybe we'll have some special projects for you to work on."

"It's your decision," Soga broke in again.

"No, no, really.... Anyway, we would like you to work for us. We had that one foreigner work for us before, and it was kind of a bitter experience, so what I'd like to do is hire you to work for us part-time for about a month, and then if everything works out okay we can hire you on as a permanent employee. How does that sound?"

This was not an unusual arrangement in Japan, at least with gaijin. I accepted. "Fine. Thank you."

"Okay. Soga's in charge of personnel and payroll and such, so you can work out the details with him. I look forward to working with you."

At this Takahashi left, and in very Japanese fashion, having already agreed that I would work there, Soga and I began to talk about salary, work hours, and so on. We agreed on my work hours: 10:00 to 4:00, Monday through Friday. This would allow me to keep my job teaching English at night until I became a full-time employee, assuming I eventually did.

Pay was a problem, though. They were only willing to pay about half of what I was getting for teaching English. The total, including my night job, however, was enough to get by on, since it would only be for a month if things worked out okay. I decided to take the chance. I desperately wanted a Real Job, and this seemed like a really interesting place to work. I agreed to start working on a trial basis.

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.

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