Monday, September 19, 2011

First Impressions - A short story

     Laura knew that as an artist you can go back and detail clipart drawings before you add color to them.  For the first pass, you can draw a young lady with a party dress on.  On the second pass, you can add flowers to the dress and add a necklace around her neck.  Finally, to round it off, on the third pass, you can add a butterfly clip to one side of her hair.  It can take many passes and you can take your time to complete a character’s look, but in real life, there are sometimes no second chances.  Often, once you make a first impression, there’s no turning back the clock…
     These were the thoughts that were running through Laura’s mind, as she turned page after page of her personal organizer.  Then there it was, her interview with the Arts Center the following Monday.  Then, the Wednesday of that same week, she had an interview with the City Government’s Art Department.
     That day of the interview, Will Salliere was engaged in various activities as the manager at the local Arts Center and at that ‘seen-it-all’ age of 50, he could be quite discerning when it came to the ‘up-and-coming.’  However in Laura’s case, he did notice her professional demeanor right away. 
     The outline of her skirt suit as she stood, waiting to shake his hand had classic lines.  Sometimes, you just can’t get away from nervousness and it was evident, though acceptable, considering the high profile of the position that she was applying for, that Laura had butterflies in her stomach.
     This was not a ‘make-it-or-break-it’ moment for Laura, because if things didn’t pan out in this interview, there were likely to be others coming her way.  Her nervous anticipation was always due to the amount of preparation she put in before each interview.  She was always asking herself, Would there be a payoff? 
     Up to this point in her post-studies interviewing career, the answer had been a ‘no.’  Looking back that same morning, as she sat in the comfortable chair of Will’s office, the one with the padded arm rests, she tried to remember the happy ‘busy-bee-buzzing’ of the last minute things she did to get ready for this moment…
     Here was a recap of her day and her thoughts during that weekend before the interview….
     Ever since finishing her graduate studies, the ensuing weeks were usually scheduled with at least one interview.  Laura Usher was an up and coming artist.  She had been drawing recognizable shapes and entities since she was five years old and now, as a young adult she looked forward to the corporate interviewing process.
     The bubble-rounded edges to her clipart that she was known for back in college, created a small buzz in the local art community.  She looked forward to meeting with the bosses of the company representatives who made their presence known each year during career day at the university.
     Her fellow classmates had all gotten jobs right away after graduating, and she was one of the last ones to still be making the corporate interview rounds – nearly a year since graduation.  She took one last bite of her sandwich as she once again glossed over her organizer, before phoning the automated banking system on her cell phone.  She had to budget out her funds in order to look decent for her interview by checking her balances.  The park bench she was sitting on, had that day’s classifieds that somebody left behind.  She looked at the employment opportunities that it had listed before finishing up her lunch. 
     One of the first listings was for a volunteer position at a local high school for designing posters.  Being a modern artist, Laura had art software on her computer that she was adept at using, so the poster-making position at the local high school seemed like something up her alley.  She definitely would look into that, but for now, she needed to make corporate opportunities for herself.  After figuring out what her bank balance was, she set off to shop for a button-up blouse that would go with her light gray business suit.
     Her fruit smoothie completed her lunch, and she neatly left the classifieds for the next eager job seeker right where she found it, putting a small medium-weight rock on it as a paper weight.
     She waved hello to Hal from the local outdoor produce market, picked up a listing of the shows at the local playhouse and logged on to check her email at the internet cafĂ© before finally entering the sliding glass doors to  Marie’s, her favorite dress shop.
     She remembered that her light gray skirt suit had dark gray pin stripes on it, so she shopped for a blouse with suitable colors.  She settled on a light peach color that she knew would be a nice contrast to the dark gray, while at the same time, it was subdued enough to not take away any significance from the interview process itself.
     Then the aroma of the coffee jarred her into focus…
     The coffee-maker had clicked on to automatic brew, two minutes after her alarm clock had gone off.  Her favorite liquid French Vanilla creamer had been poured into the piping hot cup. She usually took no sugar, because she had enough energy, without being overly hyper.  Her gray pin-striped skirt suit had just been picked up from the cleaners the day before, along with the newly bought peach blouse.  She ate her cheesey omelet quietly while sipping her coffee.  All she thought of was, Would she be able to shout “hooray!” at the end of her interview today, or not?  Of course, it would take a day or two, for them to get back to her.
     Interview day at the Arts Center was marked by all the promptness.  Laura was prompt, Will was prompt, in fact everything went like clockwork.  What made Laura confident and comfortable halfway through the interview was the topic of wizards that was brought up.  Laura is halfway between a computer newbie and a guru.  Some of the computer jargon, she can grasp the meaning of easily and well others, she might have to look up and spend some time thinking about in order to get a good understanding.  However, wizards were right up her alley.
     Most everyone who has worked with computers enjoys wizards.  At least, this is Laura’s personal feeling on the subject.  Wizards are like staging areas….Instead of immediately saving a file into a folder, a wizard will ask you a few questions about it and it will file it for you.  In fact, the more options the wizard gives you, the better.  It is like having a personal manager guide you through the filing and accessing process in a customized way.
     The wizard will usually have a default folder to tuck all your files in, or if you’re more savvy than Laura, you can specify and create your own.  The files at that point, are in virtual limbo, not having quite made it to their destination, but the wizard assures you the user, that with the proper settings they will be filed in a proper manner.
      Will Salierre greeted Laura with a hearty handshake and offered her some coffee to get things started with their interview.
     “Hello Laura….would like some flavored creamer in your coffee?” Will asked.
     “I’ll take some French Vanilla if you have it…..thank you.”
     Will was the managing supervisor at the Arts Center.  The locals displayed new artwork once a month and he needed someone to catalog everything in a neat manner.  Preferably, he wanted someone with the know-how to set up an in-house intranet where he could personally log in and visually rifle through the different artwork on file, while at the same time be able to group them by date, artist and price.
     “Laura, let’s get started shall we?” Will directed her to the seat opposite his desk.
     Then after a pause…
     “First, tell me about your strengths.  How do you see yourself as an artist amidst the other competitors in this field…?” he asked.
     Laura with a pen she happened to be holding on to, in case there was immediate application paperwork that needed tending to, started to say nervously…
     “….My biggest artistic strength stems from my ability to discern the thick or semi-thick, outline that perimeters a lot of artwork.  I can follow the flows of the boundaries from the drawings and add my specific flare to them when I re-create them,” Laura answered.
     “…However, what if there are no said boundaries to the artwork, what if the colors bleed to encompass the boundaries….what would you follow then?” Will seemed concerned.
     “I simply create an outline from scratch by tracing a fresh one, while I’m re-creating the drawing.  In this way, it would be up to me, exactly what would be outlined and how thick or thin the encompassing line would be,” she said somewhat nervously.
     “Good answer, Laura…” Will nodded approval.  “Now, let’s get to the technical requirements for this job, shall we?”
     “…I’m pretty adept at maneuvering through computer files.  How technical are the requirements?” she asked.
     “Mostly, you’ll be working with a lot of wizards…wizards to upload an image of each artwork print, a wizard to type in a description, a wizard to manage any sales of any of the artwork.  Our internet programming team is very big on wizards.  What are your experiences with dealing with these types of interfaces…mind you they’re not as scary as they sound…” he said with a grin.
     “I am actually very thankful for wizards because they are a great way of entering data.  They just make interfacing with groups of files fun and easy, because well…they’re intuitive,” Laura said.
     After a few more questions, Will wrapped up the interview with Laura….
     “I’ll leave you to fill out the rest of the paperwork.  It’s been a pleasure meeting you.  Please make sure you leave all of your contact information with our receptionist on your way out.  You can expect a call with my decision in the next day or two…” Will gave her a firm handshake and left the office to let Laura finish up.
     There was a definite skip in her step as Laura boarded the elevator to go down to the lobby.  All in all, it was a reassuring day, that she might find herself happily employed in the very near future!
     To play fair, Laura also went to the City Government’s Art Department interview as well.
     She had in her budget, to purchase a simple black business dress with a matching blazer.  She used the same purse and shoes as was in the previous interview and while the last interview could be described with the word, promtpness, this next interview attempt was very much full of apprehension.
     Laura just couldn’t get a handle on this one.  The supervisor for the city government job Mrs. Haisley, made a bad first impression on Laura.  Laura left a bad first impression impression on Mrs. Haisely.  Laura was late, because the guard at the parking area was in a bad mood and told her to park in the wrong place. 
     She offered to get a cup of coffee for Mrs. Haisely while making one for herself at the coffee bar (Mrs. Haisley had initially welcomed her into the building at the lower floor cafeteria.  That’s how immense this building was).
      It was a roller coaster ride from the very beginning and it was not likely to mesh into something good, so Laura just waited patiently until Mrs. Haisely shook her hand good-bye and they parted company with the proverbial don’t call us --- we’ll call you from Mrs. Haisely.
     After retrieving her car, Laura drove home slowly and when she reached home, she drew a straight line down the middle of a blank piece of paper.  She labeled the left side Pros and the right side Cons.  First came one for the list of pros, then to counter it, one written out for the cons.
     Pro:  I enjoyed Mr. Salliere’s countenance and professional demeanor. Con: While I enjoyed the casual atmosphere of Mrs. Haisely’s venue, I did not enjoy her aloofness.
     Pro: I was immediately put at ease with the French Vanilla liquid coffee creamer at Will Salliere’s.  Con:  While I enjoyed the coffee bar at Mrs. Haisley, she seemed more concerned with her next round of appointments.
     Pro:  The promise of working with computer wizards at Will’s is a plus. Con:  Mrs. Haisley was so distracted and in a hurry that we didn’t get a chance to discuss the technical and creative aspects of the job.
     Pro:  I felt so welcome and appreciated at Will’s and everyone was so prompt.  Con:  Mrs. Haisely didn’t make it a point to introduce me to her other team members at their offices.
     Pro:  They pay more a Will’s.  Con:  It just seemed like the job with Mrs. Haisely was wired for someone else already.
     Pro:  I got the impression that everyone liked the friendly atmosphere at the Arts Center.  Con:  Of course any new situation, will take adjusting to.
     Pro: If something should happen to my car, the Arts Center is only two bus rides away.  Con: On the other hand, the City Government offices are all the way on the other side of town.
     Pro:  Maybe they’ll teach me how to create my own computer wizards at the Arts Center.  Con:  Mrs. Haisely had been so vague as to what the computer requirements for their job position truly had been.
     Pro:  Financial stability is sure to follow after the job stability at the Arts Center.  Con:  I didn’t get the feeling that there would be any initial job stability with the City Government job, considering how frazzled Mrs. Haisely had been.
     In just a quick glance at the short list of pro’s and con’s from both interviews, Laura knew where her sympathies were and it didn’t have anything to do with how sophisticated their coffee making process was at either of the venues.  It simply came down to first impressions.
     I could draw a young lady’s dress on one pass.  The on the second pass, add sprites to the graphic of the dress.  On the third pass, I can outline it in purple. On the fourth pass, I can add a bright bow to it and on the fifth pass, I can color it in pink.
     I would have many tries to get that dress to visually look right, but if I was wearing that same party dress at a dance and someone bumped into me with some chocolate cake, complete with chocolate pudding frosting and it got on the dress, there would be no way at the point to make a pristine first impression on anyone.
     The Ats Center and Will Salliere definitely made a great first impression on Laura, while Mrs. Haisely and her job offer did not.  Laura’s first impression therefore, was to go with the Arts Center should they decide to give her an offer.
     Sure enough, they did!