Monday, October 19, 2009

First day fabulousness

I wore 4-inch heels on my first day of work and I surprisingly didn't regret it. It might have had something to do with my adrenaline pushing at full speed for most of the day, but I'm sure it helped that I was spending my entire day working in one of the most luxurious offices in Paris for the finest luxury goods company in the world. Without going into too much detail, I will say that I really lucked out with my job search, and I could not have dreamed up a better place to kick off my career in Paris - French-style.

I'm not going to lie - my new job (assisting a team in a financial capacity) is no walk in the park, but I'm so thrilled to be back in the saddle again, with looming deadlines and major responsibilities. From the moment I walked in the door, I felt the pressure of expectation that I had been so dearly missing and longing for these past several months. My colleagues put me straight to work...in French, bien sûr, leaving me no time to stop and ponder the subjunctive or consider synonyms for my overused adjectives. Like I said: no walk in the park. But, I surprisingly soaked it all up, understood every last preposition as if my life depended on it, and came to the conclusion that I'm really going to like my new job.

I've never been so happy to be so insanely busy in my life. It feels great to be challenged; to know that even though I'm good at something now, I'm probably going to be great at it soon. Really, the only time I felt remotely inadequate was when I took a tour of the floor and had to meet (read: make small-talk) with everyone else. I'm waiting (impatiently) for my professional communication skills to improve, but I'm proud to have already made it this far.

I've still got a long way to go, I know. For the moment, though, I'm ecstatic! And, after putting in a nearly 10-hour day, I came home to a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of the most delicious champagne I've ever tasted. Then, I was treated to a three-course meal at my favorite restaurant in Paris (and the same one that we dined at after our wedding). Gui definitely knows how to celebrate new beginnings!

I will say, though, that getting into a new routine that involves early evenings and even earlier mornings is not going to be so easy for me. I've been so used to going to bed and getting up at my own leisure, that waking up before it's daylight is not such an easy transition. So, I'm off to get some rest before another exciting and busy day commences. Tomorrow I'm looking forward to digging my feet into the pile of work that I've gotten myself into, but I think I'm going to give my heels a rest and maybe sport a pair of stylish flats instead.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Funny how it all works out.

I feel like it's the first day of school tomorrow. I've been running around the apartment getting my paperwork and supplies ready, my bag packed and picking out an outfit for what will be my first day of work in nearly two years. And I am SO excited!

To backtrack a bit, I had a really successful interview with that French speaking recruiter a couple of weeks ago. She sent me on to interview with the company she was recruiting for that same week. It was a terrifying experience.

By this time, I had been sick with what was probably laryngitis or strep-throat for more than a week and my sexy-phone-operator voice and coughing fits did not make it any easier to interview in a language I'm still struggling to speak. I met with the human resources director for the company and found myself having an incredibly hard time understanding her. At one point, my focus during the interview seemed to shift from highlighting my qualifications to stifling my persistent coughs. As I sat in her corner office with a perfectly centered view of the world's most famous radio tower, I realized that this was my chance to get my foot in the door, and I was scared I was letting it get away because of a stupid cough. A few minutes into what was becoming a train wreck of an interview, she excused herself from the conversation to read through what the recruiter had sent her detailing my qualifications and requirements. I used those precious few minutes to gather my thoughts and come up with a way to get back on track with the interview.

When she returned to continue the Q&A with me, I did everything I could to assure her that I was well qualified for the job, that I was ready to continue my career, and that I would be a great fit with the company. She seemed mostly pleased with what I had to say and eventually asked me to sit down with the person whose position I was interviewing for to get more details about the job. This time it was in English, and I have to say that I felt rather confident when she said she'd be in touch, which is why it was so surprising to me when a week passed by and I hadn't heard a thing. Not a "yes" or a "no" or a "we're still thinking it over" - rien.

I thought back about what could've gone wrong; about my qualifications and French speaking skills; about my fumbled interview with the HR director. And, I convinced myself that I was just not cut out for the job.

Then, the next day, someone calls me late in the evening from the same company but from an entirely different department. She explains that her boss received my CV from HR and wanted to see me the next day for a job in their department. I was baffled about who this person was, why they wanted to see me so soon and what type of position they were recruiting for. Up until this point, I'd been dealing entirely with the recruiter and I started wondering if this phone call was even legit. Despite not having much time to prepare for the interview - especially for one that's for a mystery job in a mystery department - I got myself up the next morning, put on my suit and heels, and made my way to the fanciest street in Paris to see what was going on.

It turns out that the job is quite different from the one to which I previously applied, but it's slightly more intriguing. I met with the entire team that same day, and I was really surprised at how perfectly matched I seemed to be for the opening in their team. They must've been equally surprised because they offered me the job less than two hours after I bounced out of their office with a grin on my face.

I still don't know why my CV was passed along or what became of the other job, but I'm chocking it all up to fate. It amazes me how all of the pieces just fell into place, and I'm so astonished at how incredibly well my new job suits me (despite the fact that it's mostly in French, bien sûr). Tomorrow's my first day, and I might end up hating or loving my time there, but I've got to say that I've always put my faith in fate and it would seem that it has yet to ever steer me wrong.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I can speak French?

It's nearly 5 a.m. and I can't sleep. Besides the fact that I "may be coming down with something," my mind is going at full speed, churning with French adjectives while my stomach does a similar dance as it moves from queasiness to fluttering over my conflicted feelings of hunger and excited anticipation. You see, I haven't been completely open about what's been going on in my life lately mostly because what's been going on seemed so mundane, boring and depressing. Ever since I returned to Paris, I've been struggling to find my way out of a big, messy confusion over what comes next. I think I'm at one of those profound moments in my life where I need to make some big decisions about the direction I want to take, and I haven't been very successful with sorting through my thoughts adequately, nor eloquently. But, within a matter of hours, it seems, some things happened that gave me the boost I've needed towards regaining the composure and confidence I'd lost in all my messy introspection.

I didn't mention this before, mostly because I was scared of the possibility of failure and then the subsequent explanation of failure I'd have to provide, but the day after I flew back to Paris, I interviewed for a part-time office job that I had learned about through a friend while on vacation. It was for a short-term contract that started in mid-September and ended just before Christmas, and it was right up my alley both in terms of my expected career path and timeline. It also seemed like a job that would provide the perfect scenario for our situation: by the time Gui received his green card, my work contract would be expired and we'd pack up our things and make our move to the US, all the while, I'm working and we're saving a bit of money for the big move. Well...I didn't get the job. And, although the rejection had nothing to do with my qualifications (so I was explained), I was very discouraged and demoralized after receiving it.

I spent some time afterward rethinking everything - pondering my life and its meaning, my career path and its direction, and analyzing every step I'd taken that had gotten me to this point: jobless and insecure. My apathy reached the point where it was rubbing off on Gui, and for a few days I convinced myself that perhaps I was tainted goods, no longer cut-out for the real working world in which I was once a fearless contributor.

However, having amazing friends and family, as I do, my apathy was greeted more and more with reassurance and faith, and I was convinced to pick myself up, shake myself off and get back to hitting the pavement. So, I worked on my CV and for the past week or so, I checked Paris job-banks daily - sometimes twice or thrice daily - for any job that caught my interest. At first, I was a bit disappointed with my search - it seemed every job that appealed to me and matched my qualifications required a fully bilingual candidate. And, although my French skills are far beyond what they were when I did this whole job-search thing the first time around, I'm still far from fluent (oh, how naive I was way back when I thought 6 months would be enough time to master the French language). Still, I sent my CV and lettre de motivation out to the few posts I found requiring an English-speaker, and I hoped for the best. After a few days, I started getting anxious about the lack of responses, but I trudged on with my daily routine of scouring the web for anything at all enticing to my newly-determined self. Then, on Wednesday, I received a late-afternoon phone call from a company I'd submitted my profile to last week for a job I wasn't exactly head-over-heels for, but still curious about. They asked me a few questions relating to my schedule preference, my education and background and my salary requirements. Then, they asked me to come in for an interview today. I was stoked about the interview, if not equally so about the possibility of a job, but there are a few things about the position that make it less than ideal. The most notable is that it's a part-time job with no possibility of ever becoming full-time. Nonetheless, I regained a bit of lost confidence from receiving the call and went about my day. Then, just before bed on Wednesday, Gui and I were talking about how the job-hunt was going, and I decided to open up my computer to get his feedback about some postings I'd seen earlier in the day. We came across an interesting ad that I hadn't seen before for a position that really intrigued me. I was a little worried about sending in an application since the job was posted back in mid-September, but I got over it and stayed up until after 1 a.m. fine-tuning my CV and LOM before clicking the send button. To my surprise, I awoke this morning to find I had missed a call from the job's recruiter, who was contacting me not more than 10 hours after I'd submitted my application. But, as refreshing as it was to be contacted so quickly, I was less than charmed about returning a call to the very French-speaking recruiter. After replaying the message about five times to catch all the details, I jotted down a few things to say in French, took a deep breath and pressed talk.

My call was answered and after explaining who I was and why I was calling, I politely asked if it would be OK to continue the interview in English. I knew that asking to do this could jeopardize my candidacy, but I explained that although I can understand and speak quite a bit of French, I don't feel like I can adequately express myself in a professional manner. To my surprise, my request was met with the explanation that although the job would be conducted almost entirely in English, working and living in France requires that I learn the language, so it would be to my benefit to continue in French. This was followed by a reassurance that my niveau of French seemed quite impressive, so much that I shouldn't be worried about not being able to express myself. And, with that, I pulled up my theoretical boot-straps and impressed even myself with how competently I was able to articulate my qualifications and communicate my interest in the job. When it was all done, I had secured an interview and could barely recall that the whole thing had been done in a language I thought I barely knew. I was thrilled!

I'm not sure if things will go as well for me during the interview, but I've accepted the fate of both possible outcomes. I realize that this could end with another rejection and then the admittance of said rejection, but really, I'm fine with that - it's just life. More than anything, I'm taking away from this small success a renewed positive perspective about what lies ahead. I feel like I've awakened my inner businesswoman and reminded myself of my worth. Knowing that the direction I'm taking demands confidence, optimism and above all, patience should help me stay on track and endure the inevitable bumps I'll come upon while navigating down this road. Wish me luck!