HR worked fast and stealthily. For weeks they said they had not found anyone until suddenly the resume of “the perfect candidate” appeared in my inbox.
“Please let your boss review,” they said, “We think she is the perfect fit and want to get her in right away before she goes somewhere else.”
I printed the resume (two pages!) and before my boss walked in, devoured her work history and references. If I were gunning for the same job I’d have gulped. She was, as her meticulously curated resume indicated, a professional EA, having worked at least two or three years in each of the positions listed. I was impressed.
“How old is she?”
HR looked at me as though I were stupid. And rude.
“You can’t ask me that.”
I’m no mathematician, but I can put two and two together. Her resume indicated that she’d graduated college some twelve years ago with a major she had no intention of applying in the real world. Or perhaps she did – who knows – but most of us are familiar with the fear that strikes so suddenly when we’re on the cusp of stepping into “the real world.” Aspiring filmmakers, psychologists, philosophers, dancers, and yes, writers promptly morph into accountants, tutors, administrators and restaurant hostesses, the ink on their diplomas hardly dry, in industries as far from our hearts as the college campuses we so blithely wandered upon for four years. Time flies, as they say.
I studied the woman’s resume, trying to picture her face, mannerisms and style of dress. From the paper alone I knew she would interview well – how else would she have moved from job to job with virtually no lost time between? I imagined her striding in, briefcase in hand, suit tailored to a T, vibrant red lipstick applied expertly over thin, unsmiling lips. She would shake my hand with a firm if not crushing grip as though silently communicating to me all my failings, “Go and play out your girlish dreams in the cushy meadows of grad school,” this handshake would sneer, “Leave a profession to the professionals.”
She would, as any good EA ought to be, a door closed both to herself and to her boss, an icy cool enigma rather than how I was, a foolish open book who in the beginning shared much more about my boss and his schedule than he felt comfortable.
“Your job is to keep my schedule and act as gatekeeper,” he’d once written to me, “STOP OVER SHARING!!!”
She would certainly not commit a fraction of the faux pas I so freely showered upon the poor man. The coffee! That damned coffee machine! My damned, leaky memory! Her resume still in hand, I ran through the series of unfortunate events during which I felt sorry for myself but really, when I think about it, was really subjecting my boss to the brunt of it all. I made appointments but forgot to record them, leaving poor, soft-spoken foreign gentlemen sitting alone at my boss’s various lunch clubs while he had no idea because they weren’t in his calendar. More than a few times, I’d put down the wrong address, the wrong phone number, and mailed concert tickets to the wrong people (though they didn’t complain). And the most dangerous mistakes of all involved my inviting people outside the company to internal meetings (though in my defense there are too many Asian men with the same damn names) thereby sharing internal agendas, memos and email addresses with people completely uninvolved who would politely write back, “Um, I don’t think you meant me….” or, “I think you have made a mistake I am not on the board of your Company!”)
No. The woman behind this particular resume would make none of these mistakes and if she did, would EXPECT to be fired. She would recognize the gravity of all these situations and in her utter professionalism say very gravely, “It will never happened again.” I tried this. But after the second or third time I remembered an old fable and did not say it again. You see, I could not guarantee it. But this woman, though faceless, seemed to represent some sort of Executive Assistant Messiah – she would lead my boss to the promised land where all appointments were checked. Secrets kept. The company’s leader and as a direct result its underlings would be run like clockwork. The bullets shot out at me with measured precision: “Step. Aside. Little girl. Step. Aside. This is the big leagues and your boss has decided to play with a better team.”
My boss came in and I handed the resume to him.
“HR found someone they think you’ll like,” I said, “Her resume looks pretty good.”
“Oh?” He took it, gave it a quick scan, and turned it over to read her references. Then flipped it back to the front. His expression remained unchanged. I searched his face for some indication of agreement. Finally he spoke.
“This looks good to you?”
I nodded, “Yeah. I mean, she’s got good work experience.”
He scoffed. What did I know about work experience? Boss had a point – my whole resume, with nothing omitted, was a compendium of odds and ends – a curio cabinet on paper. I’d worked several internships, all more or less writing intensive until I started at the Company which was email intensive. But sandwiched in-between each unpaid but “career-building” internship was a paying job at Rite Aid, Costco, Calvin Klein and, most briefly, a Borders calendar kiosk. Then I started here and was gainfully employed for a whole year, with a salary, benefits, the whole corporate shebang I’d heard about but had never truly experienced.
So again, my boss was partially wrong: I did know a lot about work history, not because mine was long, but it was undeniably populated.
At the very least the woman’s experiences were each longer than two years. I pictured myself staying at the Company for another year but shuddered at the image of myself ten pounds heavier and ten years older in the soul. I’ll pass.
“She hasn’t stayed anywhere longer than two years,” my boss said, “This isn’t the best work history.”
I gulped. Had he even seen my resume?
“This is the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere,” I said to him, “and it’s barely over a year.”
He looked at me over the edge of the resume, glasses perched on the bridge of his wide, fortunate nose. There was something fatherly about his look.
“You’re just a kid,” he said, leaning back into his ergonomic chair, “You can still change your ways and get away with it. I’m telling you now to knock it off. All that waffling… You say you want to write, then write. Don’t do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and not really write and then five, ten years from now try to pursue a writing career. You’ll be older with less time and less choice. You’re lucky now! You have a choice!”
He joined his elbows together and made a “Y” with his arms, “You’re at a fork in the road, you know? Pick a path and stick to it.”
It was very profound. I shuddered again. I saw the resume he held in his hand and how really, it was no different from my own resume, which he had held in the same way, with the same fingers and probably wearing that same shirt a little over a year ago, when I was on the brink of walking into his office. The only difference between her resume and mine (aside from superficial formatting) was that hers spanned more time. I had the benefit of youth – and though I was a year older I saw that the benefit was still upon me.
3 thoughts on “The Replacement”
can't wait for your future 🙂
I enjoyed reading this post Betty!
Oh, i how i have liked you and the yous of the past! i don't want anyone stuffy and uncool. i don't want someone that won't call me “dude”. I am going to miss you!!!